Drawing Manga - Page Layout
By Jean Tsai
I am assuming you are familiar with Japanese manga, and need a little help on starting out. Certain terminologies will be briefly explained, however, the focus of this article is not on the technical skills of handling mediums (inking, screentones, etc), nor does it provide stylistic pointers to drawing Japanese anime/manga characters. This article is meant to provide insight to compositional aspects for effectively illustrating comics and manga.
Note: Firstly, I am not a professional; I am a relatively new amateur to illustrating manga, and what I have to offer is only what I've picked up mostly on my own thru studying other artists' work over the summer 2000. Please keep in mind that all examples are my own artwork, as I have no intention of violating the copyrights of other artists. If you like my artwork, please visit my online manga (Dark Pride)
An understanding of layout is essential to drawing manga. It is the way the boxes are laid out on the page. Layout is a complicated process and difficult to teach. There is no real "key" to successful layout; it comes from experience, exposure to a variety of work, a strong feeling of your objective, and your own intuition. It is more than simply drawing a bunch of boxes. It is the skill that combines all the skills into one and IS the presentation of your work.
Composition is all about the way a piece reads. Some aspects involve the use of lights and darks (positive and negative spacing) on the page, the positioning of images, how it flows in terms of the way a viewer would perceive it. It also helps determine the mood and feeling of the story. A story with large boxes and loose images may portray mental drama. Smaller and larger numbers of boxes have a more sequential feel. Also, certain images and overlapping of images can help direct the eye from one location to another, or bring an aspect into hightlight.
Positive space refers to areas that are white on a picture; negative space refers to areas that are black. The best compositions strike a balance in positive and negative space. Balance does not strictly refer to symmetry. Balance can usually be achieved by following the rule of thirds: dividing an image into three parts. You can also achieve balance by adding blacks to areas with too much white, and white areas to those that are predominantly black
Any piece of artwork, including a comic page has a flow to it; that is, how the eye travels across the page. Most readers of Western languages read from right to left; Asian languages and Hebrew read from left to right. Depending on your audience, your page design will accommodate the direction you wish people to view it. I read mostly Japanese comics, but the ones I illustrate are in English. Text and imagery are very important to how the reader eye's will travel on the page.
The size, shape, and position of boxes can help determine the function, it’s importance, and what it serves to portray the action. Bigger boxes will generally hold the attention longer and are good for establishing background, or a key action. Smaller boxes are for minute details that can bring out more of a character’s personality (i.e. twiddling fingers, pulling out a cigarette, etc.).
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Here are examples from my own work with analysis to help clarify the above points. I am analyzing my work to point out the THOUGHT PROCESS behind the layout of the pages. A successful layout will guide the viewer in a way that they need not focuse upon HOW to read manga, and lets them concentrate upon what you try to communicate in your story. It is more effective to see how these technique are put to use. The red marks were added on the image to show how the path the eye would travel along the page. Click on the image to view the original.
|| These first two examples are from the time I did not have any screen tones. They are shaded in with pantone markers. This panel is about anticipation and SUSPENSE. The first "box" starts on the upper left hand corner. The BLACK AREAS here (the figure standing in a waiting poise, the bush next to the figure) serve to catch the attention of the viewer from the top left. Notice that the page as a whole is predominantly white, but the areas of black serve as paths for the viewer's vision. The foreground figure at the bottom of the diagonal box is toned out to provide suspence as well as put the focus upon the figure in silhoutte. The next box is the one in the upper right jutting out. Because it OVERLAPS the first box, it is a visual cue for the reader to view it next. The black bush also acts as a GRAPHIC VECTOR to point the viewer towards the box on the right. The thought speech box below is read next because it LINES UP with the one above it. The girl's face with an expression of surpise makes it quite clear it was her thought speech. The mystery boy's face at the bottom of the page is a technique called SHOT REVERSE SHOT in which we see what she sees as it is revealed to the audience as well as to the character. Note that the use of shot reverse shot here has pointed both her face and his towards the viewer, which in real life does not happen. How it is used has let the reader interpret it as thus.
|| Note the layout in this second panel. This one has no speech, yet you can see the action clearly. The upper left has been toned, to cause the eye to start there. The image of the hallway (in rotten perspective...I still have some trouble with it) is an establishing shot, giving a setting. Fading right into it is the sick girl's face--implying that she is in the room. Our eyes dart quickly to the panel where the curtains are pulled aside. This square catches attention because of the rich black against the white, and because of the curtain which is drawn aside to give the sense of revealing. All the characters' eyes are looking towards the sick girls' face; yet another form of graphic vector. The two boxes which make up the scene with the girl's arm not only fore-shadows what is to happen, but the arm itself is an arrow that points downward to the face in the lower right hand corner. We can imply from the direction the face is looking that the character is advancing towards the girl.
|| This page, unlike the others, has no toning. It also reads from RIGHT TO LEFT, the original intended for a Chinese audience. The tree is a graphic vector; the branch points us up to the top left of the page. The trees in the background are black, which foregrounds the sleeping figure in front of the tombstones. Notice that the upper third is predominantly black, while the other two thirds are left white; this provides a sense of balance to positive and negative space. Some of the black on the candle holder at the bottom left prevents the corner from feeling too bleached out. The overlapping of the speech bubble indicates that it is read next, and the boy's face draws attention. From following where his eyes go, we focus upon the tip of the candle's flame. It is also overstepping the boundary of the box, causing it to be a center for focus. Looking at the bottom square IS looking out from the boy's point of view. Here is yet another shot reverse shot. Because the boy and the viewer both see the candle first...the eyes will gradually move to the gravestone further back. This was intended to be viewed in such a way to cause the reader to feel the character's emotions which cannot be expressed in words.
|| Here is yet another page from Dark Pride, but illustrated very recently. I began to use screentones (the little dot patterns) after acquiring them instead of markers. The caption is placed on the upper left as it is meant to be read first. Following the caption down, the bridge with it's perspective lines serve as a path for the eyes to travel down the page. The background is rendered mostly black and white to prevent the page from feeling too light, and to also lessent the use of tones. The bottom right square is seen next because it juts up higher than the other squares. The tone in the middle box is used to screen out the crowd of people and bring the character into focus. Following his ponytail, we are drawn to the speech bubble which calls out his name. The last square uses a floaty tone because I did not wish to reveal the speaker until the next page.
I hope the analysis helped you gain a better understanding of the techniques used in designing page layout for comics. If you have any questions on the above, or even questions regarding inking, screentones, manga supplies or the like, feel free to leave a note on the message board below. If you really liked the samples and are interested in viewing my manga, be sure to visit Dark Pride. That is all, and thank you for reading this article. Good luck to you when you illustrate your comic!
FARP Article Guestbook
|16 Jun 2012|| Anon.|
Yuki Rose -
Dude u must draw the boxes first its kinnda of a safe zone so your photos wont be cut out!!
|16 Jun 2012|| Anon.|
btw u can check the net for one cool book =]
Its called Manga For Dummies
Its free on some sites
and u can find anything about manga ..
or you could just ask me ..
Good luck man !!
|18 Aug 2012|| Hello|
I am a rookie at manga, I just started out and I am bad at shading etc., this was too complicated, I’m sorry it didn’t help at all.
|4 Nov 2012|| Anon.|
|4 Nov 2012|| Emma|
|4 Nov 2012|| Emma|
Hello, i am a 15 year old girl and have been writing my own manga for a couple of years now. I cannot believe how much my drawings have improved so i decided to take a shot at writing a proper manga. The longest manga i have ever written in the past was 40 pages but i am going to attempt a proper one a little longer. I have characters, a title and also a basic plot. So, if anyone has any tips or advice they could give me, i would be very greatful, especially on page layout... i seem to struggle with that! Thanks
|4 Nov 2012|| Emma|
Ah, sorry it is me again...how do you reckon i should make a cover and attach the pages inside??? in the past i have just laminated my cover and glued in the pages...(hard work!) Any ideas...???
|27 Feb 2013|| Naru|
thank you for this thing! it helps me to be better
i am drawing so lot, but some of my pages was not what i wanted
|31 Jul 2013|| Lily|
Hi im a 12 year old girl who has been writing and drawing manga for a couple of years now and i need advice. how can i stay on the manga im working on instead of stoping in the middle of the manga and then start a new manga? i mean like i am writing a manga but then in the middle of drawing it, i get another idea and i think "This manga is too hard."and then i start another manga.Help??
|7 Oct 2013|| Victor Johnson|
Hi m an 18yrs old boy I have been writing out a great story for a couple of months nw nd they seems nd am also good at drawing manga characters...pls I need help on how to create my own manga book...and m really stagnant on making cool layout nd effects like explosions flip etc...pls I need help
|Page:  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 |
Back to the FARP main page.
The collection of art and writing tutorials in the Elfwood Fantasy Art Resource (F.A.R.P.) is a part of Elfwood.
The FARP logo was created by Miguel Krippahl (The muscular guy in the FARP-logo) and Thomas F Abrahamsson (The text and general graphic design). Those sections written by volunteers are copyrighted to Thomas Abrahamsson and the respective writer. Elfwood is a project once founded by Thomas Abrahamsson.
All rights reserved. Unauthorized Reproduction of the graphics, writings, and materials on these pages is absolutely prohibited! You may consider all material on these pages protected and copyrighted, unless otherwise noted. You may NOT use the images found at the FARP or Elfwood pages on your home pages! All of these images are copyright protected! Everything you see here represent the collaborative effort of the Elfwood community and Thomas Abrahamsson. Please read the Legal Disclaimer for more info on warranties/etc for these pages!