Layout Templates

It used to be that whenever I tried to figure out a page directly onto the big sheet of paper, there was so much erasing and so much daunting, expensive white space that I would get psyched out. But then I figured out this system of using these 8.5x11 copy-paper templates, and then there was less pressure to get it right the first time. It was easier to dive and do the "shitty first draft." 

This is one of the page templates I use to figure out a page of comics. I draw most of my comics -- the "Ganges" stories, especially -- with 4 rows. When I'm starting a new story I usually print a few of these out on copy paper and sketch on them. Sometimes I figure out a page pretty much exactly right the first time, but often it takes a few tries. Or I'll just sketch scenes and characters in the boxes and not worry about where each panel is going to go until later. For a few years now I've worked this way and it's become second nature.

****  This link will take you to a .pdf of the file, ready to print out and get started.  ****
(You can make your own 3 row, or whatever, templates for yourself, obviously.)

Here are some older examples of this:

I have tons of these. Here's some from the "Jeepers" era:

But this created a NEW PROBLEM, which was the tedium of translating the thumbnails* onto the large piece of paper to do the final drawing. Then only about a year ago I figured out a trick:

Scan these layout pages back into the computer, and then enlarge them to the right size (for me, a row is 10cm tall, 30cm wide). Print them out again. You can only fit 1/4 of the page on an 8.5x11 sheet of paper, so you have to use 4 sheets of paper. 

So you get something like:

Then you use that to lightly trace the big, basic shapes and placement of elements on the large sheet of paper. And then I ink in the panel borders and lettering, and now all that's left is getting the drawings right.

Now, I realize that this seems like more work than just looking at the thumbnails and sketching in the shapes! Maybe that works for you. But for me it's somehow less daunting to do all this, and do the tracing. Because all of the computer stuff is so easy for me at this point, it takes less brainpower than eye-balling it. There's less erasing and mistake-making, and thus fewer chances to get frustrated.

(Looking back, I'm embarrassed that I didn't figure this out more quickly.)

There's still a lot of erasing and re-drawing and fixing to do before I have pencils that are ready to be inked, but this trick gets me quickly through stages of layout that use to give me a lot of trouble. 

You may not have the same troubles.

*I call these 8.5x11 copy paper layouts "thumbnails" even though they're obviously bigger than the thumbnails of any known mammal.


  1. Awesome, thanks for sharing your process and that file! I especially like how you use gaps, rather than lines, to show how to divide your horizontal panels in thirds, fourths, and halves. I'm going to try this out.

  2. Nice one! Any chance of some finished pencils/inking process stuff please?

  3. I do a version of this too but I go to the copyshop to scale up my thumbnails. It's a nice to get out of the house isn't it?

  4. There's a fairly inexpensive ink jet all-in-one that can print and scan up to 11x17 pages. That would save you some steps and fuss in bringing your drafts up to the final drawing page size. I got a model similar to this because a lot of old sheet music is oversized.


  5. After you are finished inking what is next?

  6. Ever consider scanning and printing your thumbnails in non-photo blue? Me and a ton of other artists use that method and it's great (my Epson printer is 5 years old, cost $200 and prints 11x17). I also draw with blue-lead pencil so there is no erasing required! PS - Curses is one of my favorite books ever.

  7. Hi,
    Thank you for your nice article on new construction blog spot.
    I like for your good writing.


  8. MMMMM thank you for this great process piece!

  9. Really nice of you to share those pdfs with us!! Am just learning to draw and have been struggling with visualizing whole pages on paper.. this technique should be awesome !!

  10. James-
    Thanks, I will check that out.
    After inking, it gets scanned and fixed up in the computer.
    For various reasons, that doesn't work with other parts of my process. Good idea, though.