Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Webcomic Design: Layout Considerations

I was strongly influenced by the Carl Barks approach to laying out a page for Uncle Scrooge (which I'm sure has been used by many other artists, but which I first learned of through the good duck man) of laying out each page as half-page sections. You consider each page as two units, with an even break exactly halfway down the page.

For the last few months, that has been my approach to the webcomic. Since I have envisioned this as appearing predominantly on a computer screen, this has made sense, seeing as the page appeared pretty clean in a standard browser. In the long term, this translated well to the printed page, since it allowed me to place two webcomic releases on a single page when I ultimately put this into a collection later on.

However, recent attempts to increase my reach into other formats (facebook, flickr, direct posting to the blog) have not translated as well. I struggled with how to re-format, and I was thinking about how the 'standard' four-panel daily strip format is ideal: you can easily re-format the image by taking the last two panels and layering them beneath the first two to square it off, or you can leave it with a longer panoramic view. However, the weakness of this approach is the way it limits your storytelling in terms of layout and design. You cannot really use the page itself to help tell the story.

I think I've arrived at something of a compromise. Starting in a few weeks, I'm going to tinker with a hybrid of this, where the layout is (effectively) a square, with an upper and lower tier. Each tier is a complete design unit (it can be a single panoramic frame, a pair of frames, a series of 4-5 narrow frames, whatever) and this stacks on top of another tier. In this way, each webcomic represents 2/3 of a printed page (whereas my current format represents 1/2 of a printed page). Every other webcomic would be spliced over two printed pages at the back end, but it will be easy to make that transition down the line.

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