Sunday, October 13, 2013

Webcomic Design - Thinking 'Out Loud'

I'd gotten away from using this blog to actually discuss my design process and working through my creative options, and I'd like to get back to that. Let's talk today about webcomic page designs...

As I've been posting comics for the last several weeks, I have been working through my backlog of pages and doing some design work behind the scenes for the next phase of the webcomic going forward. Throughout, I've alternated some different layouts and page configurations, as well as some different scanning steps, to see how things go, and to work out a process I want to use going forward.

I've come to think that posting what are effectively 'half pages', formatted effectively as a 4.5" tall by 6" wide image, gives me the best way to build the strip going forward. I first heard about this idea, looking at each page as units of half of a page, through the 'Duck Man' Carl Barks, who approached his pages this way. I played with this way back during the time I was creating issues 6-7 of Army Ants, but soon dropped it so that I had more freedom to design on each page. However, I like it for the webcomic for a variety of reasons:

1. The format fits nicely on a computer screen. I don't like traditional page format as much (a traditional 9" tall by 6" wide image) when read on a computer. You have to scroll to see it all, and you may end up losing part of an image depending on how the page is set up.
2. I like the idea of disciplining myself to make sure that each half page is a 'unit' of story... it progresses the plot in some meaningful way, develops a character in some meaningful way, or delivers a joke. Ideally, it does 2 of the 3 (and in a perfect world all 3, but let's keep out goals manageable, shall we?).
3. Victory beats. I want to continuously give myself a sense of getting something done. I can 'finish' a page that is half as much as a page used to be. One evening is not really a long enough time to complete an entire page formatted at 15" tall and 10" wide. However, at half that size, I can turn out a page (script, layout, pencils, letting and inking it) between putting my daughter to bed and going to be myself. That's a win.
4. Most important of all, it's easiest to scan! I can create original art at a scale of 7.5" tall and 10" wide, and the art is easy to scan. For the last several weeks, I've been running into problems where my original pages have images that are larger than the bed of my scanner, meaning that I have to scan them in chunks and then cut and paste them together on the computer screen. It's been relatively labor-intensive, and the last thing I want to do with a page that is 'done' is spend another half hour re-formatting it so I can publish it.
5. Ultimately, when I go to compile these pages for print, I can put them together 2 to a page to create print pages. It's an easy transition from the web to print for these pages.