Ah geeze, my page layouts are all pretty standard, actually. Most of what I know I picked up from comics I’ve read, and advice from friends.
I like to follow the KISS rule: Keep It Simple, Stupid. 95% of my Fritz pages look like this:
Things I think are important:
- Big panels feel like they have more time passing in them, while smaller panels feel very quick. Open panels can create a great scene of lingering or slowed time (don’t put them too close together, it can get confusing when they’re touching.)
- Establishing shots to open new scenes, so the reader knows where the fuck we are and what characters are there. If you’re going back to an already established location, you can fudge it and rely on ‘land marks’ of the location.
- Gutters, they separate your panels and give them room to breath, and clarity. I like to avoid black gutters for this reason.
- Breaking the panel should be used sparingly, but is a great way to make the action really ‘pop’.
- Every page should have at least one background, to ground the characters and setting.
- Word bubbles from different panels shouldn’t be too close or touching. Most people read the words on a page first, and this can mess up you panel order by leading their eye wrong.
- Keep dialog short and sweet, don’t cover your characters in words. Save large amounts of text for large panels.
- Show don’t tell. Comics are a visual medium, have fun with your art.
Now, all rules can be broken. I wing pages a lot, and go with my gut when it comes to a lot of my decisions in layout. Comics are visual art first, so if something doesn’t follow the ‘rules’ but feels right/looks good, I’d say go for it. Experiment and have fun! The more comics you draw, the better they get.
Read lots of comic, from different artists, and think about what you like about their work. Movies are great, too, for figuring out tricks for visual transitions and scene layouts. I have a habit of imagining how I would draw some transitions/scenes to get the same feeling in still, black and white pictures.
I hope this helps!