Ques­tion

Help! I don’t know where to start with my comic pan­elling! Any ad­vice? Mary Hasty, US

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An­swer Koh replies

For comic pan­elling, I try to try and keep a cer­tain flow in between sub­jects. I pre­fer to use di­ag­o­nals and curves and try to lead the viewer’s eye from one panel to the next, us­ing the place­ment of char­ac­ters and other ob­jects so as to do this com­fort­ably.

Though it may be tempt­ing to not stick to plain or sim­ple square pan­elling, the most im­por­tant thing to keep in mind is that when you read your own comics, your eyes don’t end up dart­ing all over the page.

A com­mon trick I like to do is to use the di­rec­tion of where my char­ac­ters are look­ing, to main­tain a vis­ual flow. If my char­ac­ter is on the left side of the first panel and the sec­ond panel has an­other char­ac­ter on the right, I’ll draw the first char­ac­ter ei­ther look­ing to­wards the right, or make use of their hair or clothes to “point” to­wards the right. I also tend to not put char­ac­ters on the same side of con­sec­u­tive pan­els un­less it con­trib­utes to the story.

Use lots of ref­er­ences when learn­ing about com­po­si­tion be­cause it’s a big topic and the best way to learn is through what oth­ers have al­ready done. Keep things sim­ple! Draw­ing de­tails may be cool but it can also make things very messy. Less is more.

An­other im­por­tant thing is to avoid tan­gents. Tan­gents are when two edges are very close to­gether and they cre­ate un­nec­es­sary and un­wanted ten­sion in the im­age. This is es­pe­cially so when plac­ing speech bub­bles as these bub­bles can cre­ate tan­gents with your draw­ings. Do make a habit of check­ing your sketches and re­work­ing con­stantly. I tend to use over­lap­ping pan­els a lot so tan­gents are al­ways one thing that I check for.

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