Comic Paneling and Composition | Holly Brown | Skillshare

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Comic Paneling and Composition

teacher avatar Holly Brown, Comicbook Artist

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (12m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. 22 Panels that Always work

    • 3. Open and Closed panels

    • 4. Grid Paneling

    • 5. Z Paneling

    • 6. Widescreen Paneling

    • 7. Word Ballon Tips

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About This Class

About the Class:

You'll learn 3 of the most basic panel arrangements that will help build the foundation of potentially more complex comic projects later.

Explain some do's and do-not's for speech bubbles.

Provide many example's on different ways comics can "flow" and how to control the readers pacing.

If you're curious about what kind of comics I make you can here:

Meet Your Teacher

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Holly Brown

Comicbook Artist


I'm Holly Brown, comic creator, I live in Texas, looking after my 2 cats, Casper and Espresso.

Read my Comics? Purgatory:

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1. Intro: Hey guys. So I thought I would make a video talking about different types of panel arrangements and how to get to different types of panels because sometimes when you're starting off with comics, it can be kind of hard to figure out how to make simple panels like how toe make them read properly. So that's what this is going to cover. 2. 22 Panels that Always work: when you first make comics, that's kind of hard to figure out what types of compositions there are out there. I remember when I first made comics, I kind of stuck to the same composition over and over again. So one thing that you need to avoid is doing a shot and then a reverse shot, basically, where you cut and paste the same images and flip them back and forth. That's not a very good system of making comics because it can make your comic seemed very flat and boring. So what I like to refer to is Wally Wood's 22 panels that always work while he would was a comic book artist pretty famous. And these are general tips that he's made that he finds that always work in comics. I refer to this a lot when I don't know what kind of panel I want to use for a certain emotion or expression. It can also had a lot of depth to your comic because it's not just a simple draw. Your character sitting down draw your character sitting up. It's it's more of a guide to show you how to make nice narratives. For example, he says Big head. So have a big head in a panel. Have an extreme close up. So have the Onley, like one body part showing in a panel like the eyes have the back of the head in the front of the head. So, like a self reflection, um, have a profile shot. You can also do some black like black shadows in the foreground and then only have an outline of somebody in the background. You can have an open panel and I'm gonna talk about that a little later. With just one object, you can have all black, but only the whites are showing. You can have one big object and one small object. Ah, full figure in an open panel or you could do the reverse. But with, like a black panel with a white foreground, you can have a small figure in a big panel. You can have different types of depths that you want to show. So try toe, put your characters and different and different planes. I guess you could do a down shot with cash shadows you could do an L shape kind of silhouette can show different I levels. You can show some side, lighter top light. You could do some reflections. You could have the character being a frame. You can have, Ah, white background, and then the characters begin Cilic silhouette in the front. You can have the classic three stage panel, where it has a foreground middle ground in background, all having different characters in it. Or you could do the classic newspaper thing. I would actually recommend to do this with a computer screen nowadays, because that's more common computer, screen, phone, same thing. And also, he notes that you should add some more contrast to each panel. 3. Open and Closed panels: now the two big things that you need to be aware of when making a panel is, is the panel going to be open or is it going to be closed? These are the things that I think about the most in terms of pacing. Because an open panel is basically a panel without any borders because it doesn't have any borders. It makes the overall experience much more airy, and it can also lead to characters feel more grounded in reality. However, if you're going to do this, you need to be really aware of it because doing nothing but open panels can be very, very confusing for the reader. The reason we have closed panels is so that people can easily go from one scene to another without being disoriented. So a closed panel is basically what you usually think of. When you think of comics, it's it's usually a character in a box, so that's what a closed panel is. When I do open panels, I usually try to have it. So there's one open panel in a sea of closed panels because again, as I mentioned, you can't just have nothing but open panels or it will get visually confusing. There are ways to naturally combat this. If you like a more open panel, look, but you're gonna have to be a little more creative with what you constitute as a panel. It doesn't necessarily have to be a box around the character, but you can also do like flowy lines, some graphic design kind of stuff to make it so that it reads easier. But I find that opened and closed. It's the easiest way to figure out how your page is gonna be laid out. You kind of have to mix things up when you make comics. So what I like to do sometimes is when I make a bunch of clothes panels and then I'm later editing it. I will go back and actually get rid of the panel around the character and make it bleed out because having closed panel after closed panel after close panel can be pretty boring, and it can actually take the life out of a lot of panels, so try to mix it up. If you notice you're doing a lot of open open panels or you're doing a lot of clothes panels, then then try to combat that with the reverse 4. Grid Paneling: I've done a couple comic pages now to show different types of panel arrangements. All of them have the same scripts, except I just change the panel arrangement and the backgrounds to suit the comic that I made. So the 1st 1 is used pretty much always with Western comics. A lot of superhero comics use this, and it's called the grid. The grid is basically either six or nine panels arranged in different rows. I usually use a row of three, and in that row I usually put two panels in each. This is something that's done in Scott Pilgrim a lot. So if you're kind of familiar with Scott Pilgrim, that's kind of how Brian Lee O Malley does it in more superhero panels. Because the books are actually longer than longest size, they add one more row. So instead of three roads, there's four, so it gives you more more room toe. Add different panels. Also, you can remember that grid panels don't have to be centered. You can pretty much make the grid anyway you want, as long as the word balloons don't overlap in the wrong areas. So here's an example of a bad grid because the balloons mislead the I. You don't really know which panel comes first, and it makes it really hard to read. So when you're making these types of panels, remember to have the word balloons not leak into other panels unless they are on the same row. You also got to remember that comics read left her right. So when you're reading left to right, the I naturally goes in a zigzag pattern. So remember when it does go in this zigzag pattern on, the smaller panels are going to be read much faster, and the bigger panels are red, much slower, so you can kind of control this in any way that you want. So if you want a reader to really sit on a panel at a lot of background elements and add a lot of detail if you want them to breeze past it, make it very simple. The grid method is usually pretty common for dialogue. I use it for commonplace dialogue, nothing super dramatic because the grid panel, though it is very reliable. It is very predictable and not really creative and a lot of ways, so I don't like to use it for dramatic dialogue. I pretty much exclusively use it for just common dialogue 5. Z Paneling: next is easy paneling. Z paneling is something that's used most often in Monga. A lot of manga artists use this because it doesn't require a lot of detail in the backgrounds. Ze and XE panel refers to the way that the person reads the comic because horizontal panels air right next to two vertical panels. It makes Z shaped when you read it. These panels can't get a lot of detail because there's so many panels per page. So that means you can pretty much just not draw backgrounds with this type of panel arrangement because it would actually be pretty distracting when you add backgrounds to this type of panel arrangement. So because there's no background and it's mostly centered on dialogue, I usually save this for comedy moments or very fast paced dialogue, like people trying to get a lot out and a really short amount of time 6. Widescreen Paneling: the last type of my favorite type is the wide screen panels. It's basically long panels that reach the edge to a full page bleed, much like old widescreen movies. Since it is so cinematic and you're gonna have so much space toe work with this type of composition, it really lends itself to background work. So if you really want to make something feel overall very soft and get a really good sense of location, a good thing to do is add a a widescreen panel. Just know that when you do widescreen panels, large amounts of dialogue don't work with wide screen panels because it can distract from the scale off the widescreen panel, so try to reserve widescreen panels for quiet moments. 7. Word Ballon Tips: Lastly, I want to talk about balloon placement. Balloons can be pretty hard to figure out where to put them. I usually put my balloons in a very predictable manner because I do comics traditionally and also digitally. But when I do it traditionally, you have to be very careful about where you put the balloons, because later you're going to have to fix it. If it's wrong. If you do it digitally, it's a lot easier to panel a range because I'm going to show you this trick. So if you do your comics digitally, one thing that you can do is letter the page before you put down the balloons. So you know where all the dialogue goes, and you know if it's gonna be crowded or not, so you can change your composition to fit the the dialogue. Also, when you're thinking you can pretty much just think it over it instead of doing the reverse with traditional lettering. So one thing a lot of people do when they make comics is actually draw out the entire panel with all the details and then later put the text and balloons over it. I have a huge problem with this because it can make your composition very busy because you didn't expect to have the word balloons there. But it also means that you're doing a lot more work that you don't have to do. You don't have to draw everything out and then cover it up with words and dialogue. That doesn't make sense. Plus, again, the composition is going to be wrecked because you didn't plan for the balloons to be there . Remember Graphic novel. It has two words. Graphic and novel. You can't just avoid the balloons and lettering because it's boring to you. You need to make an active effort to incorporate those into the book because graphic novel comics, whatever you want to call it, it incorporates pictures and words. So when you're creating it from the start, you need to think about where the words are going to go in combination with the pictures. Now, one thing people have a lot of trouble with when making comics is having the speech balloons go every which way. When you have multiple characters talking, for example, this image, because you have so many characters, it's hard to know who's talking first, so I usually When I write the dialogue, I usually make it so only two characters talk at once. However, here's some ways of combating. So here's some ways to combat the issue of having multiple characters talk at once while also making the speech balloons readable. I usually do a closed balloon and an open balloon. Now have one character. Be the closed balloon and have one character be the open balloon. As a result, you don't have the tales going back and forth, and it makes it flow in a nice, solid line. This pretty much only scratches the surface of comics. But I hope that kind of explains some things in a more linear way for you guys. And I hope this helps. So you guys bye.