Tutorial: Page Layouts for Comics

Hi folks, here’s a simple tutorial for all of you. I’m going to show you how to create a few Photoshop master files for comic book pages, complete with guides and page info. Follow this easy step-by-step tutorial to set up your workspace for drawing digital comics.

Getting Started

Create a New document, and select Tabloid sized paper from the Size dropdown. All the specs should automatically appear (11 x 17). For the resolution, select 300 or higher. Remember, this file will be shrunk down, so having more resolution will allow for finer details.

Setting up your Margins

Once your page has been created, click on the outside rulers and drag towards your page – a vertical guide line will follow. Place this guide line approximately 1/2 inch away from the page edge. Don’t worry – these blue lines will not print. Think of them as the digital version of non-repro lines!

Repeat this same step, but from above – set your horizontal guide exactly at the one inch mark.

Place guides on the remaining two edges to create your ‘live area.’ This live area is the visual boundary of your artwork. When your file is printed (if you eventually decide to make a print version…) this is the area that your viewers will see. Anything outside of these boundaries will not be printed.

If you check the proportions of this space, it should be scalable to 6 x 9 inches – the traditional size for floppy print issues. you can adjust this to any size you like, but in this tutorial, we’ll stick to the traditional size so you get the hang of developing the master page.

Reset the Origin

In order to figure out sizing and your location on the page, it’s best to re-set your origin to the live area bounds. To do this, simply click in the space in the corner where the two rulers meet. Click and drag from the corner, and you will see a cross-hair guide attached to your cursor. When you’ve reached the live area origin point, release the button and your rulers will reset to that particular point.

It should look something like this.

Additional Guides

Now that we’ve reset our origins and have our base guides set up, it’s now time to set up our panel divisions. For a typical 4 frame layout, divide the page into 4 equal halves. Because our live area is 10 x 15 inches, our horizontal lines should be at 7 and 1/2 inches, and our vertical line should be at 5 inches.

In order to create a safe boundary for artwork that bleeds outside of the frame, add two guides on either side of your central guides, approximately 1/8th to 1/4 of an inch on either side. This will create the guide lines for your panel borders (the nice white or black lines surrounding your panel)

For a 6 panel layout, divide your vertical area by 3. In this case, it’s very easy – 15 divided by 3 gives you 5 inches. You should have six 5 inch square panels set up for your page. Easy math!

Page Labels

At the top of your page, you’ll want to have some identifying information – the important details like the project name, the artist name, the date, your file name and the page numbers.

Set up your text layers in Photoshop and add your lines. Merge your text layers and lines together on one layer, and label it Page info.

Then key in the details for your page information on separate layers.

Create a new folder for your page info. Click on the folder icon at the bottom of your Layers palette.

Select all your layers (Click and hold the Shift key down) and drag them on to the folder layer – you will see a border around the layer if you’re dragging them properly.

Now that they’ve been dragged into your folder, it cleans up your layer palette. Make sure you label the folder so you know what the contents are.

After you have finished setting up all your important label info, lock the layer folder so it doesn’t get modified. As you create new pages based off this Master, just unlock the page, edit your text, and lock it up again.

The Final Master Page Layout

The finished 11 x 17 inch file, ready for you to create your masterpiece. If you are going to reduce the size for print, the image size should be reduced 60%.


Alternative Layout Page

If you prefer to render your page at a manageable size for regular home printers and still want to maintain the 6×9 inch aspect, when you create a new page, base it on the above settings. Increase your resolution to 600 dpi for more pixel depth.

Follow the same steps as the 11 x 17 inch tutorial, except your starting margins will begin at 1 and 1/4 inches on the left, and 7 and 3/4 inches on the right (1 1/4 inch margins) and 1 inch on the bottom and top. This will create a 6 x 9 live area for you to work from. Add your panel divisions, guides for artwork bleeds, and your page info – and you have a working master page for drawing digital comics at standard paper size.

There you have it. A completed Photoshop master page for drawing your digital comics (in 2 sizes!). Use this handy file any time you want to make your own creations. Feel free to modify the guides for panel divisions as you see fit. The ones shown in this tutorial are merely examples for the traditional 4 and 6 panel layouts.

We’ll see you next week for more digital comics tutorials from idrawdigital.

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