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How can I make dy­namic page lay­outs easy to fol­low?

Nathan Shan­non, Canada


Tom replies

Page lay­outs have a lot of in­flu­ence over how a reader fol­lows a story, so making them seem nat­u­ral and easy to fol­low is vi­tal. For this ar­ti­cle, I’ve laid out a page de­tail­ing an es­ca­lat­ing con­flict. In the first two pan­els, there’s only mild con­flict and so I’ve used straight­for­ward an­gles and panel place­ment. But as things be­come more heated, I be­gin to drop or break panel bor­ders, stag­ger panel place­ment and in­cor­po­rate more dy­namic an­gles and per­spec­tive. I use DAZ 3D to plan my panel com­po­si­tions; ma­nip­u­lat­ing the cam­era place­ment and fo­cal length can cre­ate some dra­matic ef­fects that would be dif­fi­cult to achieve us­ing tra­di­tional meth­ods.

Then I use Pho­to­shop to or­gan­ise my DAZ ren­ders. All the ma­jor com­po­si­tional el­e­ments in each panel are placed to sub­con­sciously guide the reader from one panel to the next in se­quence. The fig­ures in panel three are shot from such an an­gle as to cre­ate an invisible, di­ag­o­nal line that leads from the up­per fig­ure, through the lower fig­ure, through the left fist of the char­ac­ter in panel four, right to the fo­cal point of panel four: the face of the charg­ing char­ac­ter. I then guide the reader through the fo­cal points of the fol­low­ing two pan­els in a sim­i­lar way, us­ing one, con­tin­u­ous, zig-zag­ging line of ac­tion. This way the ac­tion can be dy­nam­i­cally staged, yet be clear and in­tu­itive for the reader.

An in­creas­ingly var­ied page lay­out can help es­ca­late tension and drama in a scene, but the ac­tion should still be clearly de­lin­eated.

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