Thursday, October 10, 2013

Panel Order

When I'm making a comic, I always try to make sure that each page is readable--the audience is able to follow exactly what is going on and in what order the things on the page should be read.

One little trick I've found helpful is this:

Stagger your panels.

The basic idea is to never have your gutters (or panel borders) form a "+"
Instead, offset it a little. I do it all the time.
There's a big and a small off-set on this page.
This helps the reader keep on track left to right rather than fall down the page.

Exception: When you have material that can (should?) be read in any order.

This is an old example of mine in which, as long as A is first and D is last, the panels will still make sense. However, there are much better examples of this in comics where the creator uses this effect to show events occurring simultaneously (such as multiple character reactions to a shocking event).

Doing this one simple thing and playing with it will help your readers know how to read your comic without thinking about it! Then they can get caught up in the characters and story.

Now go make some comics!

EDIT: There is one other exception that I neglected to mention: if you make your pages all with the same layout consistently through the comic, it can be okay to just establish reading order as a matter of habit. However, I still think that can be unnatural and jarring for a reader if they aren't used to your comic pages yet.

Also, comic strips combined into a book don't count because there is a much larger horizontal space above and/or below each strip. In the above suggestions, I'm referring to (1) entire pages (2) with similar gutter width between all the panels.

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