Friday, June 06, 2014

Making Pages more Dynamic and Illustrating Dialog

Illustrators need some help, too. Let's look at the Rule of 180 and The Rule of Thirds.

The Rule of Thirds is simple: Draw three lines that divide the screen into thirds horizontally. Now draw three lines that do the same vertically. Note the points of intersection: Anything interesting should happen at or through these points. Skylines, for example, should either cover the top two spots or the bottom two points. A building placed so that it intersects two such points will seem longer or higher. A character jumping or flying should start at one point and end at another. For talking head strips, the heads should reach no further up than the bottom two points; this allows plenty of room for dialog.

For comics the rule is slightly modified. For a strip, each panel should have its own points. If the panels are big enough (such as a 3x3 grid on a standard piece of paper) each one should have its own points of interest. If the panels are smaller, then you need to use your own judgement as to what looks best.

Obviously this rule is not set in stone, and some variety is a good thing. A table that stretches from just below one of the bottom points to just above the other bottom point is going to look more dynamic than one that stretches from one point to another. Play around with it, and see how it works for you. In general, this is a great rule of thumb for most panels, and will make your art cleaner and make it easier for someone to track the the action.

The Rule of 180 is great for parsing dialog, especially if the characters are in different locations, such as one in a library and one in a forest. The idea is simple: Two characters that are in different locations should be placed so that they are looking at point that is between them but roughly 45 degrees off the plane towards the artist. If you really want to see the rule in action, study some movies and see how they do dialog. In comics the same result is obtained from characters in the same location facing each other but turned to a three-quarters pose.

This can be used to add some extra depth to your comic. A more intense feeling can be created by eliminating the angle; the closer to looking straight at each other the more intense the emotion. Conversely, shifting the point to behind the page can make the characters conspirators. You can also create a more hostile feeling by facing the two characters away from each other, or enhance a feeling of miscommunication. Of course, you can also have one character chasing the other by simply facing one away, or add emphasis to a pleading character the same way. Again, experiment with it to see what works best for you.

These two rules of composition should help you out a lot when it comes to making better comics. If nothing else, you have something new to play with.

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