How To Panel Comics For WEBTOON And Print

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mannygart

A Comprehensive Guide by Manny Guevarra

Introduction

Hello, friends! My name is Manny and I am a webcomic artist with 5 published comic series on WEBTOON CANVAS! In this tutorial, I will be walking you through some comic paneling tips I’ve learned over the years making my series in Clip Studio Paint! I’ll mostly be referencing my main comic, “The Mind’s Eye,” as well as my newest comic, “Multo!”

 

 

WEBTOONS

Formatting Tips

There are a few things we can do before we even get started drawing to make paneling our comics easier throughout the comic-making process! For starters, we need to determine the format we’re going to be working in. There are several different approaches we can take here, and each has their own benefits!

 

 

WEBTOON Format

WEBTOON format refers to a continuous vertical-scroll format that is meant to read as a “cinematic experience” on the web. In this format, you can control the pacing of your readers using gutter space and panel placement.

When making comics solely for reading on the web, you don’t have to worry as much about things such as the DPI of your canvas, as this primarily affects physical printing quality. Additionally, you have more freedom to explore things such as fun panel shapes and “impact panels” that take up the entirety of the screen!

When creating a new canvas (Ctrl+N), Clip Studio has several canvas options under [Project] > [Webtoon] that include some handy WEBTOON presets:

The maximum dimensions for file uploads on WEBTOON are 800 x 1280 px. As such, the [Webtoon 3] and [Webtoon 4] presets are good options for your canvas size when starting out.

 

Personally, I typically have my canvas set to 1600 x 25,600 px at 300 DPI. I do this because it is always a good idea to make your canvas a little bigger than your final image will be; you never want to have to scale your image up when exporting, as it will lose quality. So keeping in mind that the final file width will need to be 800 px when uploaded to WEBTOON, I aim to make the width twice the required amount to ensure higher quality.

 

Additionally, because the final file sizes will be 1280 px long, I also try to keep the length of my files at multiples of 1,280 or 2,560 so that I can gauge how many files I am going to end up with.

This is a good format to panel your comic in if you do not plan on doing print runs of your series. But keep in mind that it is, in my opinion, significantly more difficult to reformat a vertical-scroll comic for print than it is to do the reverse!

 

 

Print Format

Paneling and formatting your comic for print from the beginning is best if you are considering doing print runs of your comic at any point in the future. When formatting for print, there are a few extra variables you have to keep in mind.

 

First is the obvious fact that you are going to be limited to the quantity and shape of panels that will fit on each physical page when printed. One drawback is that it will be a little harder to control the pacing of your readers, as all panels in a spread are visible at once.

In general, there are three “zones” to consider when laying out your panels within your page spreads:

 

1️⃣ The Live Area or “safezone” wherein all elements (i.e. characters, dialogue, backgrounds, etc.) will be visible if drawn inside.

 

2️⃣ The Trim Line which, as the name suggests, marks where the spread will be trimmed during print production.

 

3️⃣ The Bleed Line which can be used for Bleeds (images that you want to stretch out beyond the borders of the page upon printing).

Most panels and dialogue boxes should be drawn within the Live Area to ensure they will be visible and easily readable upon printing. Open panels should be drawn at least to the Bleed Line to ensure that they will reach beyond the edge of the page when being trimmed:

When creating a new document (Ctrl+N), Clip Studio Paint has a lot of helpful print-ready presets with built-in guidelines for things such as bleed under the [Comic] Project Type, as shown below:

Different printing companies will operate under various different formatting guidelines, and it is extremely important to determine what those are before you start formatting your comic for print!

 

In addition to the helpful presets offered in Clip Studio Paint, if you do have a particular printer in mind, they will oftentimes have resources such as templates available for download on their website. For example, I created the above spreads per the guidelines laid out in the following templates:

 

 

"Hybrid" Format

So, which is “better?” WEBTOON Format or Print Format? The answer, of course, depends on how you plan on distributing your comic!

If you are primarily focused on quickly creating comics for reading on web-based platforms such as WEBTOON, and you do not intend on doing print-runs any time in the near future, it may be beneficial to try out creating in the WEBTOON format!

 

This can allow you to utilize and experiment with a virtually-unlimited scrolling space for things such as speech bubbles, marginalia, or massive impact panels. It will also allow you to create that “cinematic experience” we talked about earlier, wherein you can more readily control the dramatic pacing of your comic.

If you are primarily prepping for a print run of your comic and do not plan on sharing a vertical-scroll version on web platforms such as WEBTOON, I would of course suggest utilizing the Print Format option. This will allow you to expedite your comic printing production pipeline and is also perfect if you do plan on sharing your comic online, but in a page format rather than a vertical-scroll capacity:

However, if you are planning on potentially doing both of the above, I recommend a third “Hybrid” option of comic formatting. I call this a “Hybrid” option because it utilizes the benefits of both the WEBTOON and Print Format options while mitigating most cons of each:

 

The idea here is to draw your comic in Print Format, but approach asset creation with the WEBTOON Format in mind!

As mentioned earlier, it is much harder to reformat a vertical-scroll comic for print than it is to do the reverse. As such, I recommend starting with the Print Format first on a canvas with a resolution of at least 300 DPI, but taking the following steps to ensure that your illustrations and other assets can be optimized for reading on WEBTOON:

1️⃣ Draw using the full [RGB color] spectrum and use Clip Studio Paint’s export settings to export in [CMYK color]. I recommend doing this rather than drawing in CMYK from the start in order to take advantage of the full RGB color gamut when publishing your comic on the web, which includes many vivid colors that can only be seen on the screen.

 

Printers cannot physically reproduce all the same colors that backlit screens can, which is why we need to export using the [CMYK color] Expression color in our export settings to ensure that colors will be accurate for printing.

 

2️⃣ Use Clip Studio Paint’s Frame Border tool for easy layer management and panel border manipulation. The [Sub Tool: Frame Border] can be accessed by clicking (U) on your keyboard. We will discuss this tool in detail in the section below!

 

3️⃣ Fill in the entire area of each panel within your Frame Borders, including behind speech bubbles and other elements that may be moved in the reformatting process. More than likely when reformatting your comic for WEBTOON, you will have to redo the majority of your speech bubble and tail placement, and you do not want to create any gaps in your illustrations!

 

4️⃣ Similarly, most panels will need to be moved in the reformatting process, and certain panels may need to be reshaped, trimmed, or even expanded to create a better reading experience in vertical-scroll format. As such, be sure to preserve assets such as backgrounds on a separate layer from your mid- and foreground elements, and I would honestly recommend drawing a bit beyond the panel border in case the panel does need to be sized-up!

The Frame Border Tool

Now for the fun part! Let’s start Paneling!

 

 

Creating Frame Borders

Clip Studio Paint has many great tools for Paneling your comic, but I mainly use the [Sub Tool: Frame Border]. I suggest using this tool because it facilitates a seamless workflow wherein layers are easier to manage and panel borders can be easily edited.

 

The [Sub Tool: Frame Border] can be found near the bottom of your toolbar, demarcated by the icon below, or by clicking (U) on your keyboard!

Once you've selected the [Sub Tool: Frame Border], you can simply click and drag your cursor across the screen to instantly create self-contained panels!

This will automatically generate a Folder for each Frame that acts as a layer mask of sorts. Inside each folder, you can create individual Layers, but everything you draw on them will be contained within the Frame!

Editing Frame Borders

To quickly toggle between Frames, switch to [Sub Tool: Operation] by clicking (O) on your keyboard and select your desired frame. You can also use [Sub Tool: Operation] to resize and transform your Frame by selecting its border.

 

You can also adjust your Frame by using Control Points, which appear as hollow red squares at the corners of your Frame when deselected, and green red squares when selected. To manipulate Control Points, simply select one and move it using the arrow keys on your keyboard or by dragging them with your mouse.

To add a Control Point to your Frame with the [Sub Tool: Operation], simply right click on the Frame and select [Add control point]. You can also delete Control Points in this way.

To split your Frame, use the [Cut frame] option within the [Sub Tool: Border Frame] menu. To use this splicing tool, simply drag it across your frame in your desired direction.

 

The [Divide frame folder] option will split the current Frame's Folder into two, whereas the [Divide frame border] will maintain the current Folders and simply change the border shape.

Bleeds

To draw bleeds or open panels outside of the established Frame Borders, simply draw in a separate Layer or Layer Folder.

Drawing a bleed on a Layer below your other panels can create a sweeping sense of drama that ties the rest of the page together and is especially useful for establishing shots or other scenic shots:

Drawing elements on a Layer above your other panels can also tie your page together, and can additionally help establish motifs of things that “break the mold”/break away from other scenic elements to transcend the confines of the panels.

 

For example, in this scene from my comic “Multo,” a gust of wind sends leaves into the air that traverse the page over panels and gutter spaces to imply that nature is overtaking this human exchange:

Similarly, the blue spirit here has been drawn in a Layer above the panels to tie her in with the other natural elements that exist on a plane (literally and figuratively) “above” the human characters that are confined within the Frame Borders.

Paneling Workflow Tips

Thumbnail Sketches

Before attempting detailed sketches of your panels, I recommend Thumbnailing the layout of your page on a smaller scale. Thumbnails are loose sketches that can help you establish the flow of your panels on your future page. These are typically small drawings with minimal details, drawn in quick succession so you can churn out several different iterations to see which one works the best for your story:

I like to do smaller Thumbnail sketches on a separate document to get a grasp on overall flow. Then, once I’ve selected a set of Thumbnails that work best for my vision of the scene at hand, I move onto the Storyboarding and Sketching phases on my final canvas. It is in these phases that I do the following:

 

1️⃣ Configure panels on the final canvas,

 

2️⃣ Map out my characters’ blocking, poses, and basic expressions, and

 

3️⃣ Place speech bubbles.

Speech Bubbles

I would highly recommend planning out where you will be placing your speech bubbles in the early stages of sketching so that you do not have to struggle to cram them in later or cover up any of your beautiful artwork! This will help ensure a smooth Paneling process.

 

To avoid crowding your panels with too many speech bubbles, thought bubbles, or narration boxes, WEBTOON recommends limiting them to three (3) or less per panel.

 

If you are going down the “Hybrid” formatting route mentioned above, you will typically have more panel space on either side of your characters in Print Format to place dialogue. Then, when reformatting for WEBTOON, you will have more gutter space above and below your panels for dialogue placement. Spacing dialogue out in this way can also help pace your readers, as well as highlight impactful lines.

Panel Size, Shape, and Flow

If your panels are feeling a little static, try varying the height, width, shape, and positioning of your panels! To get started, Clip Studio Paint has many different panel templates available under [Manga material] > [Framing template], as shown below:

However, if you are trying to convey a sense of orderliness, calm, or even monotony, sometimes using simple, uniform shapes can help achieve your goal. For example, compare the panel shapes of the two pages below.

 

The first uses uniformly-spaced rectangular panels to convey the slow and simple feel of a scenic walk through the countryside:

Conversely, skewing the shapes of panels to create jarringly sharp edges conveys a sense of sudden action, such as when our character above goes from walking to sprinting after the spirit below:

You can also use the size of panels to indicate the importance of certain shots! Generally speaking, the larger the panel, the more significant the subject being illustrated.

 

If you want to up your Paneling game even more, try playing around with open/borderless panels to highlight critical moments in a scene such as an introduction of a new character.

If you really want to push this concept, you can create a spread with full Bleed, wherein your illustration extends to the Bleed Line on both pages of your double-page spread!

This is not only an excellent dramatic tool, but a larger illustration such as this can be broken up and used for smaller WEBTOON panels during reformatting. Just remember to keep in mind that the center of the Bleed will be obscured when the comic is bound, so important elements such as characters and dialogue should be kept on either side of the fold.

 

 

Gutter Space

Both spreads above provide examples of utilizing Gutter Space. As mentioned earlier, Gutter Space can be utilized in tons of unique ways and is an excellent place to put things such as:

 

1️⃣ Weather indicators such as leaves and snow,

 

2️⃣ Manga patterns such as sparkles, bubbles, and stars,

 

3️⃣ Important motifs to your narrative, and

 

4️⃣ Impactful dialogue that you want to stand on its own.

Bonus Tips!

Reformatting For WEBTOON

Here are some quick Bonus Tips for formatting and/or reformatting your comics for publication on WEBTOON!

1️⃣ Remember that WEBTOON aims to create “a cinematic experience” with their vertical-scroll format, wherein comics are meant to be read one panel at a time. Based on a canvas size of 800px wide, WEBTOON recommends having at least 200px of vertical space between panels.

 

2️⃣ For transitions involving location and scene changes, WEBTOON recommends having at least 600px to 1,000px of vertical space between panels. This Gutter Space can be used to convey a sense of passing time or long distance, and unlike traditional print format, WEBTOON’s vertical-scroll format allows for practically infinite space - so take advantage of it!

 

3️⃣ Because you do not have to fit your panels into the limited space of a traditional comic page, the vertical-scroll format opens up a new realm of possibilities to play with the shapes of your panels. Make sure to vary the height, width, shape, and positioning of your panels, using size to indicate the importance of certain shots as mentioned earlier.

 

 

WEBTOON Resources

Below are some downloadable WEBTOON resources from the Creators 101 section of WEBTOON CANVAS!

 

 

Conclusion

The above Bonus Tips are taken from my other Clip Studio Paint tutorial, “How To Make A WEBTOON: The Ultimate Guide.” For more tips on how to optimize your comic for WEBTOON, feel free to check out the full tutorial or video version below!

 

 

And there you have it! Thank you so much for reading and please feel free let me know if you have any questions about any of the topics we discussed. Cheers and happy drawing! 🙌

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