Page layout design consisted of two experiments:
- Pacing and rhythm
- Layout refinement
The objective was to develop one section of the Oli storyboard (the mezcal sequence), and turn this into a design mock-up to demonstrate and test what the finished comic could look like.
Experiment 1 – Pacing and rhythm
After attending the WIP Creating Comics Online – Time: Tension, pacing & rhythm (Meetup, 2022) and through book research I have a theoretical understanding of how pacing and rhythm can be applied to a comic layout.
The problem is that I haven’t applied the theory in practice.
I will be able to apply a 3/4 rhythm to the mezcal storyboard sequence using the script and storyboard (7 x pages), as starting points.
Thumbnailing will be a good way to test and validate layouts before committing to artwork. This includes testing: reading order, rhythm, pacing and content.
I will be able to successfully apply rhythm and pacing to the mezcal sequence and test/validate this by sharing with my collaborator and OCA tutors and students at an open tutorial session.
A PDF of the 58-page storyboard is here:
I selected the mezcal sequence because it is self-contained and a reasonable length to test the hypothesis.
The action in the sequence is evenly paced and mostly based around a dialogue between two characters.
At the end of the sequence the pace speeds up and action is compressed with the main character falling backwards, unconscious to the floor.
The theory I applied to designing the sequence came from three sources:
- Understanding Comics – The invisible art
(McCloud, S 1993)
- Drawing words and writing pictures (Abel, J and Madden, M, 2008)
- WIP Creating Comics Online – Time: Tension, pacing & rhythm (Meetup, 2022)
The WIP workshop was particularly interesting because it included practical exercises and the chance to share and learn with other practitioners.
Notes made at the workshop are here:
I applied what I’d learned about rhythm and pacing using a predefined ruleset, and thumbnailed out the sequence.
The series of dashes and crosses at the top of the thumbnails follow a 3/4 rhythm; the crosses indicating a beat with more emphasis. In the layout this is achieved in a number of ways such as using a larger/wider panel and using full bleed to slow down the reading experience.
What I learned
- The process of moving from storyboard to rough thumbnail is an effective and rapid way to test layout and make design decisions.
- I can apply rule based rhythm to support the narrative and readability.
- Even at a thumbnail scale, interactions between panels, use of camera angles, placement of speech bubbles, lettering, sound effects and reading order can all be effectively tested.
What I’ll do next
Test refining the layout by scaling up a single page.
Experiment 2 – Layout refinement
I don’t know if the thumbnail layouts will translate and scale-up into finished pages.
- Successfully scale a thumbnail from Experiment 1.
- Reuse some of the content from the storyboard as reference.
- Work successfully with US comic format page dimensions.
- Create/compile reference artwork in Photoshop.
- Discover an optimal scale to ink at: either 1:1 or 2:1.
The hypotheses will be proven/disproven and I will learn about my production process for this comic.
I chose page 2 of the mezcal sequence and used the following workflow to create a rough version of the finished page.
- Create a single page in Photoshop using a US comic book dimensions at 300dpi, colour setting at sRGB (advised for short run print on demand printing) as the basis, but scaling this up as much as possible to work within an A3 paper dimension (the largest size I can print and scan at).
- Set-up a 3 x 3 grid including margins, guttering and an allowance for bleed.
- Layout rectangular panels based on the thumbnails.
- Print out the page of empty panels at A3 and use this on a lightbox to create rough visuals.
- Refine the rough visuals on a lightbox to create pencil reference artwork.
- Scan back in pencil artwork to the Photoshop template.
- Add speech bubbles.
What I learned
- Scaling from thumbnail to line art worked well.
- Pay attention to getting the reference information accurate and complete. Going back to research part way through drawing cuases unnecessary context switching that wastes time.
- Compiling a single layered file of all reference, layout (panels) and speech bubbles, makes dropping in pencil reference and then inked line art quick and easy.
- Working at a larger scale (approx. 2:1) means a good level of detail is taken into the final artwork.
What I’ll do next
Use the pencil reference as a basis to experiment with different visual styles.
Able, J and Madden, M (2008) Drawing Words & Writing Pictures (2nd Ed.) New York: First Second
MsCloud, S (1993) Understanding Comics, The Invisible Art New York: Harper Collins
Schmidt, Palle (2013) How to layout your comic book pages – Comics For Beginners episode 3 (Video) At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0BrCv2Kz2Q (Accessed: 28/08/22)
WIP (2022) WIP Creating Comics Online – Time: Tension, pacing & rhythm [Meetup] At: https://www.meetup.com/wipcomics/ (Accessed: 26/09/22)
List of illustrations
Figure 1 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Mezcal sequence from original Miro storyboard [Digital Miro Board] In possession of: The author
Figure 2 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Mezcal sequence layout using 3/4 rhythm [Pencil drawing] In possession of: The author
Figure 3 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Pencil reference artwork [Pencil drawing] In possession of: The author