pencils and page design

I wanted to make a quick post to talk about my page design when I was penciling. I remember back when I was a kid reading comics that page design – especially Image Comics page design –  was sort of all over the place. There were tons of full page images (splash pages) and stuff breaking out of the frames and very little conventional comics grids. And I loved it. Something like Watchmen with is very strict grid system was totally boring to me.

Skip forwards however many years and now I look at this differently. The actual design of the pages is something that I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out for On the Verge. My main concern was that I didn’t want to spend hours trying to figure out a “new cool design” for each page. I think that would take away from the actual artwork and drawing as well as the actual storytelling. I also wanted to draw on my experience as a designer has actually made me think about page design in a way that I didn’t understand when I was younger. Establishing stricter rules for panel layouts meant I had to be slightly more creative in drawing scenes and how I told the story which is probably a good thing. Like any rules though, these aren’t written in stone. If a scene would work better as something outside of whatever I came up with, then I’m free to break the rules and that will actually help make that more dramatic.

So my approach has been to use a 3 x 3 panel grid (so there’s a possibility that I can have up to nine panels on a page). So this is a HUGE break from the type of page layouts that I grew up on.

So why the change?

Basically I want to utilize the elements of design – so contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity – to help tell a story in a better way. Comic page layout really is all about contrast and repetition for me and these help to tell a better story. An example would be the scene where Hannah is sitting at her desk working. To help visually explain the monotony of that, I’ve repeated the six panels all shot from the front while she changes facial expressions and how she’s sitting. It’s a simple way of using the visuals but it’s not something that would have occurred to me when I was younger. Another scene that I really like is when Hannah walks home. I’ve used three stacked frames on the page and she gradually moves from left-to-right and is framed virtually the same way in each panel. What changes is the backgrounds to create interest. Both Hannah’s change in position and the backgrounds creates movement and demonstrates that time has elapsed.

My other hope is that by sticking to the grid for the start of the story, it will help later when I start to break things.

About jason

Illustrator and graphic designer. When not working full time as a Senior Graphic Designer, I am usually working on the graphic novel On the Verge: the Arrow of Time. Artist on Andrew Jackson in Space and The Sisters.

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