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Hey guys, I'm an artist struggling to start a manga/comic project. Seeing the amazing stuff all around the internet, I feel intimidated and when I try to start, it seems like a very daunting task.

The main issue I struggle with is storyboards and page planning. Concepts and Story naturally comes to everyone, but storyboards and page planning seem to require certain skills that I really lack. So, any tips for someone totally new to the manga/comic field?

btw, here's my gallery if my style is relevant to the subject: http://CatMD.deviantART.com

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That would depend on whether it's a serious, for-publication comic, or if it's just for fun, on your free-time. I'm doing the latter, for example, so all I do is a sort of IM-looking script. I make sure I have the details I have in my head in the script, but most of my ideas come from the actual drawing stage. And this works for me. You can also try an actual script format. There's a template for it on MS Word, plus examples all over the place.

In terms of storyboard, those help in limiting yourself to a set amount of pages, like in an actual manga magazine. It's also your rough-rough draft for camera angles. There's also a rough draft stage where you add more detail and take a closer look at your angles, page flow, etc.

There are plenty of good books on this subject, as well as tutorials all over the web. learn-manga on deviantart has some good ones.
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I have problems with that too. Every time I go to start a manga or comic or whatever I seem to forget everything and my story goes to hell. I tried storyboards quite a few times but it never worked. Now I'm writing it in a script format as if it were a movie, which really helps visualize what's going on, and then I have everything laid out how I want it which allows me to figure out how the panels will be based on cinematic importance. If that makes sense...
Example:
*tick tick tick*
-A far shot- Kanaka (young) sits in a chair at the end of a long hallway. Jail cells lining the walls.
She is constantly reliving her mother’s death, killed by the authorities;
these memories are mixed in with the good memories of her mother.
The shot gets closer and closer and closer with each memory and each passing tick.
FATHER (POLITICIAN)

Come on sweetie. It’s time to go.


I'm not a very good writer, but it gives me an idea of what the panels are going to look like.
Hope this helps!
TheNightOut's avatar

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Torana-chan
That would depend on whether it's a serious, for-publication comic, or if it's just for fun, on your free-time. I'm doing the latter, for example, so all I do is a sort of IM-looking script. I make sure I have the details I have in my head in the script, but most of my ideas come from the actual drawing stage. And this works for me. You can also try an actual script format. There's a template for it on MS Word, plus examples all over the place.

In terms of storyboard, those help in limiting yourself to a set amount of pages, like in an actual manga magazine. It's also your rough-rough draft for camera angles. There's also a rough draft stage where you add more detail and take a closer look at your angles, page flow, etc.

There are plenty of good books on this subject, as well as tutorials all over the web. learn-manga on deviantart has some good ones.


do you mean the #learnmanga group from dA? I'm checking that out right now, every useful tutorials on the art itself, but nothing much on the page layouts. I really want to get started on a serious for-publication comic, but I'm not even going to unrealistically be anywhere near there until I get some experience drawing amateur comics first. What's an IM-looking script? >_<
TheNightOut's avatar

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MitsukiTachiba
I have problems with that too. Every time I go to start a manga or comic or whatever I seem to forget everything and my story goes to hell. I tried storyboards quite a few times but it never worked. Now I'm writing it in a script format as if it were a movie, which really helps visualize what's going on, and then I have everything laid out how I want it which allows me to figure out how the panels will be based on cinematic importance. If that makes sense...
Example:
*tick tick tick*
-A far shot- Kanaka (young) sits in a chair at the end of a long hallway. Jail cells lining the walls.
She is constantly reliving her mother’s death, killed by the authorities;
these memories are mixed in with the good memories of her mother.
The shot gets closer and closer and closer with each memory and each passing tick.
FATHER (POLITICIAN)

Come on sweetie. It’s time to go.


I'm not a very good writer, but it gives me an idea of what the panels are going to look like.
Hope this helps!


so you draw the pages out straight from the script? no storyboards/page planning?
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I helped a friend with their comic some years back and I know for me it really helped to flat write out the story first and then kind of imagine what it would look like as a movie. Then I would take that idea and break it down into a comic style.
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TheNightOut
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That would depend on whether it's a serious, for-publication comic, or if it's just for fun, on your free-time. I'm doing the latter, for example, so all I do is a sort of IM-looking script. I make sure I have the details I have in my head in the script, but most of my ideas come from the actual drawing stage. And this works for me. You can also try an actual script format. There's a template for it on MS Word, plus examples all over the place.

In terms of storyboard, those help in limiting yourself to a set amount of pages, like in an actual manga magazine. It's also your rough-rough draft for camera angles. There's also a rough draft stage where you add more detail and take a closer look at your angles, page flow, etc.

There are plenty of good books on this subject, as well as tutorials all over the web. learn-manga on deviantart has some good ones.


do you mean the #learnmanga group from dA? I'm checking that out right now, every useful tutorials on the art itself, but nothing much on the page layouts. I really want to get started on a serious for-publication comic, but I'm not even going to unrealistically be anywhere near there until I get some experience drawing amateur comics first. What's an IM-looking script? >_<


character name: character dialogue *character action*

Like that. For me, the writing aspect is really boring, so I try to make it as simplistic as possible for myself. Again, it's all up to you.

Even though they're for films, these tutorials will help you lots. After all, you want the dynamics of movies in manga form.

Script-writing: here and here

Storyboarding: here and here
Kyousouka's avatar

Shadowy Phantom

I work from an outline, and write the details/dialogue while I thumbnail. This way, I can keep my focus on the visuals, and don't end up with bloated scenes. My thumbnails look like this:
User Image - Blocked by "Display Image" Settings. Click to show.
(This is for a terrible comic I ended up not taking beyond the thumbnail stage, but hopefully it'll give a good idea of how I work.)


The thought process is generally like this:
- What is the goal/point of this scene? What represents that visually? This becomes the most important panel or sequence of panels in the scene, and often gets its own page or close to it.
- Do I need to establish a location? How important is it? What should I highlight about it? How can I use the location to show the state of the characters? This is how I form my establishing shots.
- What has to be said? How much of that can be said non-verbally? I try to minimise the amount of dialogue in a comic (unless a character is supposed to be a chatterbox, of course), and convey as much as possible with "camera" angles, and facial/body language.
- How quickly does the action move? If it's very slow, I use larger panels with less panel size variation, more reaction shots, a greater emphasis on the details, etc. The compositions tend to be meandering S-curves. If it's quick (such as a fight), I use more dynamic layouts with a greater variation of panel size, that way the small panels/actions get glossed over quickly, and the larger ones have even more impact. In "quick" scenes, I also have less detail and more direct page compositions (C-curves or even and >shapes), so that the eye moves quickly through the page.

There's probably more, but it's such an organic process that I have a hard time analysing it. It comes through practice, through reading and analysing a boatload of other comics (good and bad), and a lot of suffering when it comes to visualising scenes.
I've come a long way since I started, but I still have a lot to learn, especially for more action-oriented scenes. I still think too storyboard-like, too boxed in, and need to be more open/fluid with my page composition.


One thing important to keep in mind is time. Time passes within a panel, and between panels/pages. If you're not familiar with how time flow within and between panels, read Understanding Comics, it covers it better than I could.
However, I do want to emphasise the importance of the gutters between panels and page separation.
No gutter - no time passes, actions are almost simultaneous (I avoid this one, as it doesn't feel natural, and the pages look crowded and icky).
Overlapping panels - actions occur with some time overlap, or one leads directly into the other (I use this very sparingly, when I really want to call attention to the flow; usually "normal" non-overlapping panels do the job just as well).
A small gutter - small amount of time passes.
Large gutter - slightly longer time.
End of one row of panels to beginning of the next row - longer time.
Page break - even longer time.
Blank page or a huge blank space - super-long.
Chapter break - usually even longer.
"Time" doesn't have to be literal, though. It's the illusion of time. Half a page spent on changing seasons: several months pass in half a page. Chapter break, and the action resumes an hour later - well, only an hour passed! But it feels like a longer time, because there's more disconnect in the action (or at least there should be! If there isn't, why is there a chapter break to begin with?).
Use these to your advantage, don't fight against them! If your script doesn't work with the comic format, it's your script that needs to be rewritten.

Also, one last thing: The human eye is drawn to text, because it tends to have high contrast, and the symbols are very ingrained in our minds. Use this to your advantage by using speech bubbles to lead the eye around the page.

Apologies for the length. I have a lot to say on this subject ._.
TheNightOut's avatar

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Kyousouka
I work from an outline, and write the details/dialogue while I thumbnail. This way, I can keep my focus on the visuals, and don't end up with bloated scenes. My thumbnails look like this:
User Image - Blocked by "Display Image" Settings. Click to show.
(This is for a terrible comic I ended up not taking beyond the thumbnail stage, but hopefully it'll give a good idea of how I work.)


The thought process is generally like this:
- What is the goal/point of this scene? What represents that visually? This becomes the most important panel or sequence of panels in the scene, and often gets its own page or close to it.
- Do I need to establish a location? How important is it? What should I highlight about it? How can I use the location to show the state of the characters? This is how I form my establishing shots.
- What has to be said? How much of that can be said non-verbally? I try to minimise the amount of dialogue in a comic (unless a character is supposed to be a chatterbox, of course), and convey as much as possible with "camera" angles, and facial/body language.
- How quickly does the action move? If it's very slow, I use larger panels with less panel size variation, more reaction shots, a greater emphasis on the details, etc. The compositions tend to be meandering S-curves. If it's quick (such as a fight), I use more dynamic layouts with a greater variation of panel size, that way the small panels/actions get glossed over quickly, and the larger ones have even more impact. In "quick" scenes, I also have less detail and more direct page compositions (C-curves or even and >shapes), so that the eye moves quickly through the page.

There's probably more, but it's such an organic process that I have a hard time analysing it. It comes through practice, through reading and analysing a boatload of other comics (good and bad), and a lot of suffering when it comes to visualising scenes.
I've come a long way since I started, but I still have a lot to learn, especially for more action-oriented scenes. I still think too storyboard-like, too boxed in, and need to be more open/fluid with my page composition.


One thing important to keep in mind is time. Time passes within a panel, and between panels/pages. If you're not familiar with how time flow within and between panels, read Understanding Comics, it covers it better than I could.
However, I do want to emphasise the importance of the gutters between panels and page separation.
No gutter - no time passes, actions are almost simultaneous (I avoid this one, as it doesn't feel natural, and the pages look crowded and icky).
Overlapping panels - actions occur with some time overlap, or one leads directly into the other (I use this very sparingly, when I really want to call attention to the flow; usually "normal" non-overlapping panels do the job just as well).
A small gutter - small amount of time passes.
Large gutter - slightly longer time.
End of one row of panels to beginning of the next row - longer time.
Page break - even longer time.
Blank page or a huge blank space - super-long.
Chapter break - usually even longer.
"Time" doesn't have to be literal, though. It's the illusion of time. Half a page spent on changing seasons: several months pass in half a page. Chapter break, and the action resumes an hour later - well, only an hour passed! But it feels like a longer time, because there's more disconnect in the action (or at least there should be! If there isn't, why is there a chapter break to begin with?).
Use these to your advantage, don't fight against them! If your script doesn't work with the comic format, it's your script that needs to be rewritten.

Also, one last thing: The human eye is drawn to text, because it tends to have high contrast, and the symbols are very ingrained in our minds. Use this to your advantage by using speech bubbles to lead the eye around the page.

Apologies for the length. I have a lot to say on this subject ._.


wow, thank you very much cat_3nodding you have very professional insight on the subject. After reading your methods, I think my problem might be the timing. Never really know the proper time-lapse of scenes.

hm question about the page breaks. How do we convey timelapse with the pagebreak that'll set it apart from a normal "this page is now filled so onto the next page"?
Kyousouka's avatar

Shadowy Phantom

TheNightOut
hm question about the page breaks. How do we convey timelapse with the pagebreak that'll set it apart from a normal "this page is now filled so onto the next page"?

There shouldn't be such a thing as a "this page is filled" page break. Make use of the page breaks. Structure your scenes so that every page is its own "unit," let every page break be a logical break or transition in the action as well.

Using the thumbnails I showed as an example, here is how I utilised the page breaks on the first few pages:
(The page numbering starts with the brownish page, that's page 1.)
The last panel on page 2 has a character asking a question. *page break* We have to wait for the answer. In the first panel of page 3, the character still doesn't answer, we have to wait until panel 2 before he answers. This wait would seem much shorter had this sequence been on a single page.
The last panel on page 3 has the character reacting to the previous panel, and the fact that it's an open panel (no box around it) and the fact that there's not only a page break after it, but a page-spread break (meaning, in a physical book, the reader would have to physically turn the page at this point, not just move their eyes), makes that moment linger much longer, even though the panel itself is quite small.
The page break between pages 4 and 5 is a scene change, nice and simple.
After page 5, there's another page-spread break where the reader has to turn the page, and suddenly there's a large establishing shot of a new location, implying some time passed. (The page-turn break can be used to set up mini-cliffhangers, which make the reader really want to turn the page and keep going; in webcomics viewed one page at a time, any page can have these.)

See how none of the page breaks was just me running out of space on the page? Each page break had some significance. Some are used better than others, but I didn't let any of them fight against my scenes. Instead, I did my best to make those extra breaks work for my story by enhancing suspense or showing the passage of time / change in location/mood.

Some comics do take page breaks for granted and just put down panels until the page runs out, but those comics also tend to have terrible pacing and are dull to read!


Also, panel sizes are a mix of in-story time flow and importance/impact, so don't feel like you have to make a "long" scene have a big panel, or have an "instant" be a small panel. Go with your gut feeling. Does a panel deserve to be big? Make it big. Is it just a minor reaction/transition? Make it small.
Read lots of comics, and you'll develop a sense for it, I think. More importantly, read lots of different kinds of comics, not just the kind you're most interested in. The more you learn about, the greater your tool set will be!


Also, if all of this feels overwhelming: Don't worry, and just read a lot of comics and think about how and why they're laid out the way they are. Play with layouts for stories of your own. With time, most of this stuff will become like instinct for you. When I thumbnail my pages, I don't consciously think about page breaks and such, my brain goes straight to "this bunch of actions would make a good page, but this bunch should be two opposite pages, this thing should be a big panel" and so on xP
MitsukiTachiba's avatar

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TheNightOut
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Well I divide the scene descriptions into panels and then depending on importantance or action-y-ness of the panel I know it's approximate size, and then I can mark the page divides in the script. Then I roughly sketch how I want the panels to fit together. So I do make a bit of a storyboard, but it only includes the panel outlines. But I do have experience in video production and i find it easier to visualize like that, so this might be a process that only really works for me...
Saturno Alpha's avatar

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Kyousouka
I work from an outline, and write the details/dialogue while I thumbnail. This way, I can keep my focus on the visuals, and don't end up with bloated scenes. My thumbnails look like this:
User Image - Blocked by "Display Image" Settings. Click to show.
(This is for a terrible comic I ended up not taking beyond the thumbnail stage, but hopefully it'll give a good idea of how I work.)

.


Wow I really like the work put into those thumb nails. It looked like it was well on it's way to becoming a finished piece. I don't know how much detail you put in your finished work.


I tend to work from a written script, but since it's a comic, I try to cut the dialogue/talking as much as I can.

My thumbnails are only really 2 to 3 inches high on scrap paper. Some times even napkins.
Piperita's avatar

Fashionable Explorer

I highly recommend Scott McCloud's "Making Comics" (Also, "Drawing Words and Writing Pictures" by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden). Those two books will give you the basic run-down on how to make a comic, and what psychological effects to anticipate and watch out for.

They won't necessarily TELL you how to plan your pages, but they will give you the background information. From there, it's just practice.

Me, personally, I like to have a flow-chart of events (on paper or in my head), and from there it really varies. Last script I wrote for a hand-in assignment, I just plowed through the script while visualizing the pages in my head, and then afterwards scribbled some of world's ugliest thumbnail pages to go along with it. I had a rough idea that I wanted no more than 10 pages - the assignment was to avoid all words/text/dialogue, so I had to include more motion-to-motion transitions than usual for a comic (but that actually made me really happy, because I like them).
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Regarding page planning I can recommend you to think of the story you want to put in a chapter as a one single unit. How many pages has it? How many pages do you think you will use for certain scenes? If you break your chapter down to certain situations you can break them down into scenes. How many panels do you need to tell a thing? Some can be summed up with others, some need space because of mood reasons. That will give you a feeling for the number of panels you have to draw. And as you have to think about reading flow, the importance hierarchy and cliff hangers you will develop a feeling for paneling after a while. Good page planning comes with experience of doing a lot of page planning. XD I know lots of good illustrators that have big problems with drawing comics.


Personally, I like starting with the first and last scene and after that draw the scenes in between. That way I know exacly where I come from and where I go.

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