Panel Size

An artist can elect to use a consistent panel size all the same throughout a project or utilize a variety of sizes to impact pacing and tone. This is the second part of a four-part series discussing a comic page’s panel layout.

Small Panel Size

The size of a panel can influence pacing and rhythm. A smaller panel requires less time for a reader to take in information, it has a tighter focus on its subject, and the story pace is faster. Having a succession of several small panels can have a reader feel as if the action is occurring quickly. Smaller panels are useful in dramatic scenes filled with action. They can also build a moment of tension.

In the following center panel, the speed is increased with the smaller panels. The last panel is longer, requiring a reader to pause and reflect on the action that just transpired.

Phantoms' Trail 4.24
A crazy gorilla attack. A page from Phantoms’ Trail.

An artist can embed a smaller panel within a panel to focus on a specific detail. Using this technique slows down time for a reader to look at first the larger panel then the smaller panel within it. An example of this is below in the first panel, which draws the reader to focus on the book.

Panel within panel
Example of a panel within a panel

Large Panel Size

A larger panel size requires more time for a reader to process all the picture’s information, slowing down a reader’s pace. A great example of a large panel is referred to as a splash page. A splash page takes up an entire page or two. Splash pages are useful for establishing shots, allowing the reader to be enveloped in an artist’s story environment and spend some time exploring that world. They are also useful when an artist wants to emphasize an action or wrap up a scene. An artist should limit the number of splash pages used in one 24 page book. When overused, they lose their strength and significance.

Phantoms' Trail 2.10
The Mindorian captain gets hit by the invading army’s leader. A page from Phantoms’ Trail.

A large panel size full of empty space can also slow the pace of the story down, allowing the reader to breathe and relax.

This concludes part two of the panel layout series. Next time I will discuss panel shapes and how they can be used to create a variety of visual impacts.

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