Last week, errrrrrrrr… the week before that, I talked about frames, the magical use of frames, the emotion you can give them, the shapes, sizes, how that can all add to the story you’re telling.
Kind of like how music can really be important in movies, it just gives that extra boost of feels that is -Chef’s kiss- juicy.
So now, let’s talk about layouts. I should have talked about layouts first then frames, but.. I’m more experienced in frames than I am in layouts so I’ve been stalling, to be honest.
Layouts, why are layouts important? The layout of your comic will help guide the reader through the scenes. And just like frames, it’s important to have a layout work with the scene you want to represent; an important scene would get a bigger frame right? Or maybe just have an entire page to itself! You want to make sure your layout works with what you’re doing.
As much as I hate to say it and hear it, comics do rely on visuals to a point, because they’re comics and not a book. Your art doesn’t have to be pretty and not every frame needs to be some sort of intricate architectural map, but you do want a good and clear indication of how the story is flowing, no fancy stuff necessary; with books, there’s only one way to read: Left to Right (mostly, I think) but with comics, you can switch that up, and because you can switch that up, it can be VERY confusing to readers. You want to make sure there is a clear pathway for your readers.
Thumbnail, sketch, play around, make sure you have a decent image of what you have in mind with the scenes you want to play out and make sure that the script of your characters has space to flow, your layout can also be heavily dependent on your little text bubbles. Why? Because there’s a huge chance your audience reads left to right, and having your layout be a crazy mix, can… well, it make the audience confused.
In one page of mine(TW: violence), I had purposely listed in the footnote of the comic to read the page clockwise because I had the layout of my comic/my frame placement be in an almost circular position, and I wanted to make sure the readers knew where to start, however, if my comic were physical, there are no footnotes for the readers, it’s up to them to figure out how to read that page, and honestly, that’s not the best thing to do.
Readers can get annoyed, and if it’s a continuous cycle, they might actually the book down because they can’t read along or they’re struggling to.
Layouts are super crucial. They’re forging the pathway for our story in our comic and they’re forging the path for the reader to join us in this adventure. A bumpy journey that you have to keep taking two steps back to figure out what is going on is not that fun, but being part of a smooth ride filled with fantasy or no, that’s fun.
So, how do you figure out a clear layout?
Creating thumbnails/sketching is the best way to start. Look at your script, lay it down on the page, figure out the imagery you’re conveying or wish to convey here. Follow the script and visuals you have in mind to create your layout.
Example: Frame #1 and Frame #2 are just friends going back and forth talking about recent events but then all of a sudden in Frame #3 some madman (or woman, I don’t judge) bursts in and causes a scene? Make Frame #1 and Frame #2 be the top two frames of the page and make Frame #3 be the splash frame, it is the biggest frame of the page, why? Because it has an impact on that page, it’s going to lead us down the road to future events, it should be larger because it is meaningful. I hope, I mean, I really don’t think you’d draw a mad person bursting into the scenery out of nowhere for no reason, right? Now, what if it’s not something crazy? What if the friends of Frame #1 and Frame #2 are still talking? Well depending on how the conversation goes, the frames could remain simple and the layout could be simple too, maybe you can even fit Frame #3 into the top line with Frame 1 and Frame #2. This all might sound mundane, but these basic and simple steps will lead you to finding a decent layout.
The script makes up the frames and the frames make up the layout.
When you figure out how you want to do the first two, then the layout should actually be fairly easy.
A layout really is about showing off the full potential of your story-telling with an easy ride for the readers. Frame work? That can make the page look fancy, but having your readers know where to look? That’s really the key to your page.
I’m not going to lie, there were a few comics (only one, really) that I read where the layout was kind of crazy and the speech bubbles had no indication of where to look and how to follow, now I stood around with this story because it seemed promising, but it got very tiring to have to figure out where I have to look first.
Not every reader is guaranteed to ghost your comic because the layout wasn’t clear, but it will get annoying and tiring trying to figure things out. And even though at the end of the day, our creations are really just for ourselves, we wouldn’t want to be stuck in a situation where we wouldn’t be able to comprehend which way to look in a comic that we’re into.
Just remember, think of the page, think of the events you want to display and how you want to display them, make sure you’ve got room for your script and go play around with the layout, just make sure it makes sense.
Now, as I said previously, I don’t have much to share on layouts, so I would absolutely love to hear your opinions and thoughts. How do you go about planning your layouts and have you ever encountered a comic where you just had no idea where to look? Let me know.
Just a reminder that my articles aren’t a concrete way to define webcomics or even tell you how to make them, it’s really just an opinion and I am always willing to learn from you. :)
damehelsing at 12:00AM, June 20, 2021
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