Friday, 7 March 2014

Making Ribbons

I was asked in the comments on an earlier entry how I go about putting together the very long pages you see on this comic! Here's a quick break-down of the process.

1) It starts with "thumbnails", very sketchy roughs of the finished pages. I compose two at a time, side-by-side, and whilst I'm doing so, I think about how they'll fit together top-to-bottom.


2) Once that's done, I break them into individual pages and draw slightly more detailed roughs, focussing on the layout of the individual page. I have a set of rules for myself that I try never to break in order to keep the reading flow smooth:
  • Keep the panels-per-page to a minimum (less than 6 is ideal).

  • Keep the reading direction always going top-to-bottom and left-to-right (with as little left-to-right as possible).

  • When placing speech bubbles, I never place my next speech bubble higher than my last.

  • Once all the speech bubbles are placed, drawing a line through them in the intended reading order should produce a simple and easy-to-follow shape, starting at the top-left and ending at the bottom-right.

  • I use speech bubbles to bridge gaps between panels that should be read one after the other, to guide the eye from one to the next.

  • I never bridge gaps between panels that aren't intended to be read one after the other.
  • I try to use the shape of the art and the direction of motion of the characters to guide the reader's eye onwards.

3) When drawing a finished page, I extend the top and bottom of the page, and create a natural finish for the panels or drawings.


4) Then, once the pages that make up a ribbon are done, it's a very simple matter to drop all of the pages into one very long canvas and position them so that it reads, without apparent breaks, from top to bottom.


5) The only thing I haven't mentioned is the trick of picking "beats" in the story (moments where there's a natural rest or a scene change that causes anticipation) to form the ends of each ribbon. There are actually an irregular number of pages making up each ribbon (between 5 and 8) because of this, and I can adjust the length and flow of the ribbon by adding larger or smaller extensions above or below certain pages. The overall story is composed in chapters of around 30 pages, meaning that each chapter falls into about 4 ribbons.

And there we have it! I hope that's an insightful overview of how I make The Firelight Isle work for both web and print.