Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

Which comes first, art or layout?
irrevenant at 8:13PM, July 7, 2012
posts: 658
joined: 1-13-2007
Okay, pretty sure I've given away my noviceness with that question alone. xD
But I'm interested: people who've been doing this a while, which do you do?
Decide on a panel layout and its rough contents first, then do the detailed art?
Compose the art you want then structure the panels around it?
Something else?
ozoneocean at 7:29AM, July 8, 2012
posts: 26,050
joined: 1-2-2004
Interesting topic.
For me the layout depends on the action/story focus of each particular page. But the art/story (same thing in a comic) dictates how the panels should take shape, are laid out and how many are needed on a page for me.
That might mean a single panel, or even somewhere up past 13 panels.
In practice layout and panelling for me happens after the thumbnail stage these days: I will sketch out all the action/story that I think should go in a single page and then work out the best way to lay it out that will tell the story best in the way I want to tell it on that particular page.
Hawk at 1:06AM, July 9, 2012
posts: 2,775
joined: 1-2-2006
I always do the layout first, no exceptions.
El Cid at 6:37AM, July 9, 2012
posts: 1,047
joined: 5-4-2009
It depends. If the page primarily focuses around a single important or powerful image, then I'll make that first and build the panel layout around that. Otherwise, I have to do the panels first because those dictate to me at what size I should render my artwork (I work in 3D so I have to the art and layout separately).
Tantz Aerine at 9:33AM, July 11, 2012
posts: 1,621
joined: 10-11-2006
Mine follow the old style european comics' layout, which is pretty much three or four rows of windows. I do pre-allocate all my panels, so I know if a page is going to have 7 or 12 panels or more, if necessary, to convey the focus I want in the story. Some (very rare) times, I break with that tradition solely for the enhancement of a single turning point, or key, or tremendous event that completely directs and controls the course of the story. 

For BR, it's Pit Face that does all the layouts, initial pencils and inks, and from what I know of her work process, she makes full layouts and thumbs of each page based on the script before going into detailed art. :) 
last edited on July 11, 2012 9:35AM
Evil Ink at 2:57PM, Sept. 17, 2012
posts: 6
joined: 9-17-2012
Layout. I'm the kind of person who works in phases. I have my full script for all of my chapters, then I do the whole layout process. My layout phase isn't complicated, it's just a bunch of thumbnail pages to depict the action for the page. 
Then I take the thumbnails (I work digitally for the most part) and blow them up on a full page and start working on individual panel composition. Proceed to clean up the art, print it out and do the inking, upload then colour.

Evil Ink: Taking over the World One Project at a Time!
This month's featured interview is James Ninness the creator and writer for the comic Mythoi -
Genejoke at 11:32PM, Sept. 17, 2012
posts: 3,487
joined: 4-9-2010
With traditional art it's definitely layouts first.  With 3D art I tend to have a rough plan/idea of the layout before I start the renders but it isn't set in stone.
the_beav at 7:55PM, Sept. 20, 2012
posts: 15
joined: 9-30-2011
If I was a super responsible cartoonist I would decide most everything in a storyboard first and then labor over the details, but as it stands I'm tending towards a simple, traditional panel layout so I don't have to think about it.
Ultimately, I draw the art as I see it in my mind's eye and it can always be resized or reconfigured to fit into whatever layout is necessary.
Related article:
El Cid at 8:30AM, Sept. 23, 2012
posts: 1,047
joined: 5-4-2009
That is a terrible article. The first two of those five tips were pretty good, but the last three, saying that every comic should use precisely the same constrained three-tier panel structure, that was just pedantic to the point of being asinine.
the_beav at 2:37PM, Sept. 23, 2012
posts: 15
joined: 9-30-2011
It's solid advice, especially for someone writing webcomics - we're fighting for attention here and the more orderly you present your art and text the more likely you are to maintain the reader's attention.
He's not an artist, he's an editor and they have good reason to hold these opinions. I don't find it to be pedantic and I hardly think Andy Schmidt is asinine.
SLK8ne at 3:33PM, Sept. 26, 2012
posts: 29
joined: 3-5-2011
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I'm not an old hand, but, here's my thoughts for what they're worth.
I always do layout first now.
I've been fiddling with comic art for a year or two. (though I just posted my first comic online recently) And I've tried to do pages by creating separate panels then pasting them together. and trying to design the page around the panels. It never didn't seem to work for me.
I've come to think of the whole page as one piece of artwork. So layout is part of the sketching process for me. My proofreader says that since I've started doing layout first my pages are much more readable. And she's not a comic geek. So, my experience is that layout really helps.
cdmalcolm1 at 11:13AM, March 28, 2013
posts: 247
joined: 8-21-2012
I know I'm all kinds of late but I do feel that this needs to be said.

After the script is written, I look over the writers view first and try to figure out what vivid vision they see. I study the entire script and visualize the entire story. It's a way I get a feel of what the writer wants in a story. It gives me ideas and angles and layout design before I begin to render a page layout.

This sometimes takes me time to even begin drawing the over all page. If the writer or editor tells me to stick to the script, I tend to keep my panel layout simple. However, if giving the freedom to see what fits, I will be loose with the layout.

Layout is like the directors eye for sequential art. A captured moment In time .
Neilsama at 2:57PM, April 20, 2013
posts: 431
joined: 1-2-2006
I generally let the art dictate the layout.  If I need five panels to convey a sequence, then I need five panels.  I don't worry about the aesthetics of the paneling.  Nobody's ever commented on my panels.  Only the art.
LIFELINE COMICS at 7:30PM, Jan. 19, 2014
posts: 7
joined: 11-14-2013
personally i do lay outs first then i draw on top of my layout and build around them.
irrevenant at 2:10AM, Jan. 22, 2014
posts: 658
joined: 1-13-2007
If anyone cares, I am now actually drawing this comic, and here's how I do it:

1. First write a list of 12 things that will be happening in this issue of the comic (I stole this one from Tyler James)
2. Break those things up into roughly 5-7 scenes.
3. Estimate how many pages each scene will take.
4. Write each scene out.
5. Break the scene up into panels (still in writing).  This gives a pretty good idea of how big the panels need to be.
6. Draw the panel borders on the page (in my case, on the computer in GIMP).
7. Roughly sketch the foundations of the artwork.
8. Personally I do an iteration or two of increasingly refined roughs before the final, but I'm still getting stuff like basic proportions down.  I suspect this is unnecessary for more experienced and confident artists.
9. Draw the final artwork on a new layer.

There's sometimes some back and forth: I lay down the rough artwork in step 7 and realise I need to go back to step 6 and adjust the layout.  The script got tweaked several times as I realised what would and wouldn't work in artwork too.  I'm guessing there'll be a lot less of that with experience too.
So, in short: I asked the wrong question.  The correct one was: “What groundwork do I need to lay in order for the layout and art to work well together?”.  The layout does indeed come first, but *that* doesn't come until you've got the concept solidly nailed down.

So there ya go. xD
last edited on Jan. 22, 2014 2:11AM
Rachel87 at 11:39AM, Jan. 28, 2014
posts: 13
joined: 1-20-2014
Layout is just a part of the art making process. So it doesn't really come before the art as much as it's a piece of it. It's also good to know where you're going with something before you start. I'd say doing the art before the layout is like taking a hike without the map.

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