Thursday, May 3, 2012


How to Become a Comic Strip, Comic Book and Graphic Novel Artist

The Grid

Good designers use a grid. Great designers know when to break the grid.

A grid helps you to provide patterns and rhythms with your panels, thus creating pacing and manipulating time.

What is a grid? For our purposes it's a system for organizing your panels on the page. You've seen it all your life and you may not even have known it. It's used in newspapers, magazines and web sites. And also comics!  Let's look at the history briefly.

Illustrated manuscripts were first produced by monks during the dawn of the Middle Ages to transcribe sacred text. The grids used here are a combination of vertical and horizontal lines as seen in these examples.

As you can see the grid was flexible and showed variety back then, even as it does now. It is not restrictive, it is liberating. It can allow your visual design sense and storytelling to be very dynamic by allowing you think about content, time and space within a framework. It's easy to be creative when you're free. It's more challenging when you create a cage for yourself.

The grid can be used to control time as well as for psychological and aesthetic effect. It gives you a systematic way to layout your pages and give it consistency and unity.

Jim Steranko's Chandler (1976) was one of the early graphic novels. The others released that year were adaptions or compilations. Chandler was an original work. The cover calls itself a visual novel, while inside it's called a graphic novel. It's not the first graphic novel*, but it is indeed the first illustrated novel to combine comic book panels and text in this way. 

Steranko made a creative decision ahead of time to use this grid.

It would seem to be he painted himself in a corner, however he was very creative with his use of this grid. 

Chandler copyright Jim Steranko

*Gil Kane's Blackmark published in January 1971 is the first graphic novel. The term graphic novel was not in wide use then. Europe had what they called "albums" and manga were in Japan.

to be continued...

read next - 4 Panel Grid
previous - Comic Book and Graphic Novel Panels

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Remember… Just Create!

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