Blurb Magazine Template for Manga Studio

One of the neat things about Magna Studio EX (Clip Paint Studio EX if you buy the downloadable version) is it’s book making abilities. It shouldn’t be a surprise since the whole app revolves around making comics and comic books. The panel-based nature of comics also makes for a pretty neat layout tool for image heavy books or magazines.

In my case, it’s also a substitute for Adobe InDesign. For the occasional layout jobs I have, it’s not worth another subscription on top of Lightroom+Photoshop. So after fighting with Lightroom’s crippled book module1 I decided to build a template in Manga Studio that would work with Blurb’s magazine-sized books.

Manga Studio is an odd combination of Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign that focused on creating Japanese comics (manga). It’s surprisingly good, but it has it’s downsides. It’s developed in Japan, and the US distributor does the interface translation to English. Which means that it takes a minute to get your head around how it works. It’s not difficult, but it is different. Also it doesn’t use the native interface style of either Windows or Mac, making it just look off.

But what it does, it does very well.

Blurb Magazine Template

The trick to getting everything to work together is understanding the measurements. For this template we’ll be using points a typography measurement that divides an inch into 72 units. It’s more precise than inches because most design software (Manga Studio included) won’t do thousandths of an inch without rounding. So if you need a bleed with of 0.125” it’ll be rounded to either 0.12” or 0.13”. It’s not critical to get that last thousandth in there, but it can leave a 1 pixel white space on the page. Also, it’s a rare case when you’ll need to split a point. Whole numbers prevent mistakes.

First we need to check Blurb’s Book Size Calculator to get our page sizes for a magazine layout. It uses U.S. standard letter sized paper (8.5”x11”) and selecting 12 pages of premium magazine stock gives us the following measurements.

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Blurb.com PDF calculator.

We can punch these numbers into Manga Studio directly with one exception. Don’t use the bleed setting. It adds the extra space to all four edges. Due to the way the magazine is stapled (saddle stitched to be precise) we only need bleed on the three outside edges. By setting the canvas size to the pre-trim measurement we can fool Manga Studio into doing the right thing. Also make sure the cover is a single spread so it exports like Blurb wants.

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New file settings for Blurb’s magazine format.

Once Manga Studio creates the new file, there’s one more change we have to make to get everything to line up. For some reason it doesn’t add the cover spine width to the cover spread layout. To fix that we’ll have to add that to the cover width.

Look at the Blurb measurement above for Gutter/Spine. It’s 4×810. We on care about the width of 4. Click on the cover thumbnail so we’re only editing that page.

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Template file opend in Manga Studio, and the cover layout selected.

Then choose Story > Change Basic Page Settings so we can edit the cover width.

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The Story menu is where the action is at.
We need to add half of our spine width to the page, because Manga Studio is still thinking in single pages. So each page gets half and together it’ll add up to page width + page width + spine width. Our original page size was 621, so the final cover page width should be 623.

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Adjust the canvas width as shown.

If you want to have more than 12 pages, you should recheck the Blurb calculator to see if the spine width is any thicker and adjust accordingly.

Once that’s done all that’s left is to layout the magazine!

Oh yeah, so how do we get this into a PDF for Blurb?

Export

There’s actually two ways. The first is (on a Mac) to use the PDF export from the print dialog box.

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Print to PDF option for MacOS.

But this also involve setting up custom pages size in the dimensions for the cover and also the interior pages. Remember, that’s US Letter + bleed. Also the built-in printing system doesn’t do points, so we’ll also have a minuscule amount of rounding error.

The easiest way is to export each page as a PNG file using Manga Studio’s built-in export system. Then use either Lightroom, Photoshop, or (MacOS) Preview to combine the pages into a PDF.

In either case, Blurb wants the cover in a separate file. This also means that the interior covers will remain blank, so don’t add any art to the pages Manga Studio calls Cover page (back) and Back cover page. So this “12 page” magazine will have eight content pages. Make sure to plan for that.

If you don’t want to do all this setup yourself, you can download the zip file I used to make this tutorial that has all the pages ready to edit.

Also don’t forget that by using Manga Studio EX, you can also export directly to Kindle and ePub formats!


  1. Adobe is very much tied up with Blurb.com and won’t let you choose other page sizes or any other formats like trade paperback or magazine. I guess there’s some sort of agreement to keep funneling business to Blurb, in addition to Adobe’s desire to protect InDesign’s marketshare.