Friday, 12 May 2017

Controlling the Flow in Comics

Here's a little self-indulgent post about helping your readers to navigate their way round your comic page. A little something known as flow.

Now, I'm no expert at art but I've read a lot of books about comic crafting and have a good understanding of THE RULES when it comes to creating comics. I've also read, edited and lettered plenty of comics, so if I can use my experience to help others become better at making comics then I must.

Comic flow is the use of art and lettering to guide the reader's eyes around the page in order to make sure they don't get lost or skip to the wrong panel. We've all had this happen to us while reading a comic and it's an unpleasant experience that pulls you out of the story.  Pro comic artists and letterers are able to draw your eyes in the right direction using subtle hints within the images on the page and the position and shape of the speech bubbles.

To demonstrate this, I've placed some guide lines over a page from one of the more recent stories I've drawn Peril in the Park. Take a look below...




From the picture above you can see how the lines within the art have been used to create a path through the page. I'm shit at drawing but I can assure you that these lines are not unintentional. If I can do this, just imagine what a pro comic book artist can do. Go grab a proper comic and you'll see the artist using the lines of buildings or the shape of character's bodies to drive your eyes around the page. It's all very clever.

You can also see how the 'tails' from the speech bubbles have been placed to give visual clues as to which direction the reader's eyes should travel next. The idea is to do this 'under the radar' so the reader doesn't really catch on to the manipulation at work. Like special effects in movies, the magic is spoilt is the viewer sees Peter Pan is flying because he's held up by wires.

There's an old psychological trick used in graphic design/advertising that can also be applied to your art. In Panel 1 (above) I've used the Inspector's line of sight to guide the reader in the direction I want them to go. According to people much wiser than me, human beings are drawn towards faces and in particular eyes. Many adverts make use the positioning of people and their faces to push their target's eyes towards significant areas of interest within an advert. This also works well in comics.

Try and incorporate these simple tricks in to your art and lettering and you'll end up with a more satisfied reader.