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Manga paneling tutorial 1

mayshing at 1:59PM, Jan. 17, 2009

Sharing the concept of how to create paneling in comics with a good, easy read flow.

(5 star average out of 19 votes)

The lesson:
Introduction to the different styles of layout commonly seen:
Basic, Dynamic, Storyboard

Introduction to the common problems seen in layout:
1. Cluster problem
2. Out of order close ups
3. Repetitive shots

How to design eye-leading layout:
1. The use of sizes of the panels
2. The use of icons
3. The use of word balloons

Variety and Decoration- panels, and balloons

Basic Layout:
Simple, straight forward boxes on characters, nothing goes out of the boundary of the panels, it creates a clean, neat look.
If the panel proportion is chosen correctly, this kind of layout is especially pleasant for the eyes when there's complicated illustration content.

Dynamic layout, it is also called Butterfly layout, because the layout itself moves with the characters.
It dances around on the pages looking like butterfly, thus was described as butterfly layout.
normally for people doing this layout, they draw the characters first without panels, then move in to add the panel boxes that goes around the characters and background.

??? So how many different ways can you do the layout with the same content with dynamic?
The answer is as many as you can figure out. That's one of the reason why I like dynamic layout so much.

TV Storyboard type:

The type of layout I would generally avoid when doing manga, but it's a layout very suitable for TV show productions,
animators use it all the time to storyboard, but for manga and comics, it is the simplest layout that can get boring at times.

Problems in action sequence:

1. Cluster!

As I have tried very hard to show you in this example (it was not easy for me to cluster my layout…)
Too many panels on one page, creates a chaotic flow for reading, no good.
Too many crops (a lot of beginners do that) and close ups confuses the readers on what action you are portraying, often times the question they will ask in their minds is: Which action comes first?

The most common problem for even some of the pros who tried to fit too much into 1-2 pages.

This cluster is slightly better, but the action is disturbed by crops that does not work in order

This page… despite the use of close ups, actually works in sequence because the order of the crops make sense leading the viewer to the next action.

A good rule of thumb is no more than 10 panels on a page, but I personally now do about 5 or less per page. Sometimes 6. :P

Lots of beginners have more than enough panels on one page, because they are not used to drawing big, but as a professional, you have to think: “What happens if they shrink your image into 1/2 of the original size after they print it?!”

If you have a lot of small crops of characters expressions surrounding one major panel, more than 10 panels might work.


Last note: Content comes first, try not be overly creative with your panels.

Panels' job is to support the content, not to be an abstract piece by itself.

Example of overly fancy panels:

Fancy shapes are not required to tell a good story, keeping it simple and have effective flow is the key. With a lot of fancy experimental shapes, it is hard to tell where to start reading by just looking at it, if it has any drawing and word balloons in there, it will get worse.

Be modest with paneling, usually beginners will either restricts too much or overdo it too much, its a part of the process, just be aware if your panels get too fancy, it might disturb the reading flow instead. If you don't know what to do yet, stick with the basic paneling, box everything, keep the panels around 5 per page, and learn slowly.

Put your most important panels to be the biggest!

I have illustrated how different sizes of the panels and content helps to create the flow of reading…

You shall read the way I want you to~~ Mwahaha~ (ok… jokes aside…)

While the East and West has different direction of reading, one direction of reading is universal, that's top to bottom.

First one is an example of a typical layout I would probably do when the plot requires a discussion of some kind. You will probably look at the top panel first, because that one claims most of the space. And I want you to look at it first.

The same layout, with the exact same image, still does the trick.

A completely different layout, but the content sizes are different, you probably will be reading exactly as the character get from big to small.

Finally… only the panel sizes vary, the character is practically the same in every panel, but you know where to look first, because one panel is larger than the other. (unless you are not going by your instinct.)

Therefore, when you design your panel, keep in mind that the biggest panel tend to be read first, and the panels near the top will tend to be read first unless the bottom one is way too big.

So what's the message?

Put your most important panels to be the biggest! Spread it across two pages or a whole page if you would like. Sizes matter!

How Icons play into the layout:

How I used this in my layout to storytelling:

On this page, where the girl (Angel) calls up to the guy (Lien) for a check up, I used the common heart shape icon for a panel.

That heart shape and size over powers the page and become a suitable first panel.

Then you will quickly read into Lien's shock expression because of the color and the element I used to link up to the second panel. Then the follow up with a large enough white negative space to allow a change of shot and angle.

Example 2:

In this one, it's actually not the best use of icons.
The close up on the face is on the second panel, but the reader's eyes will definitively go there first due to the power of the close up shot.
That's why I made the second panel that much smaller compare to the first, and the second panel does not have text, text is also a powerful iconic feature on the page, but the face is still more powerful.

Sometimes a face is such a powerful icon, even if it's in a small panel, it might still overwhelm other elements on the page; so use close up with good planning and caution even though we love using it.

At times where the story requires a close up where's its not best to use them, I tone it down with other elements like sizes and colors, or a lower contrast. At times, you simply have to depend on the reader's knowledge of reading directions to get through the page, but try to minimize that as much as you can.

As a page layout designer, your job is to make the readers flow through the content of the page effortlessly, if they have to struggle to read or feel confused, you need to do a better job.

Text and Balloons, how they direct the reading flow:



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