HOW-TO :: Use Illustrator To Grid Out Panel Borders
This is a thing I've recently been doing, gridding my comics on the computer. Because of the sort of person I am, I slow myself down a lot by trying to work out some METHOD for a lot of these things. In this case, it worked well enough for me that I thought I'd share it.
Gridding out comics is one of the few parts of comics-making that I really enjoy--but doing it actually on the bristol board is enormously time-expensive--as soon as you figure out "hmm maybe that bottom tier should be bigger, maybe two panels instead of three," you have to go back and change everything. It's a mess. So lately, since I bought a mid-grade color inkjet printer that allows me to print "bluelines" (light blue lines that are easy to tune out later in the computer aftering inking the strip), I've been doing it this way.
Keep in mind that this is very VERY specific to me and my own working style. For instance, it's useful to me because I almost always work at a specific page size, with specific tools, and with a specific distance between panels. As with EVERY SINGLE tool an artist uses, the tool is secondary--even tertiary--to what is accomplished with it. So feel free to fiddle with this as you see fit. At the end I'll stick the actual .pdf of my guide template, which you are free to use or alter however you like.
Okay! Here are the things I use:
--Adobe Illustrator, in this case CS3. Any old Illustrator will do though, we won't be using any fancy functionality.
--Canon PIXMA MG5220 Wireless Inkjet, or any inkjet that can print cardstock. I listened my specific one, because on the off-chance that you buy it through that link, I'll get.. something. Those things never work for me, the little make-money-by-advertising-Amazon links. Anyway. Any color printer that will allow you to print on stiffish paper will work. You can even use a b&w printer, just when you print make everything SUPER light.
--Strathmore 500 bristol. This is what I use because I'm fancy and when bristol bleeds it makes me want to kill myself. Although occasionally 500 will bleed anyway. Again, whatever works for you.
Here's a screengrab of my template thingie (all these images can be clicked on to view much larger versions):
This is setup at my working size, which is 8.5" x 10.375", with half-inch margins all around, and 3/16" gutters between panels. That size is around 125% of print for most of the comics I make.
Each of the groups of lines is on a separate layer, grouped by color. It's set up so you can mix and match as you need, turning layers on and off. For instance, if you wanted to do a 9-panel grid, just use the red lines. If you want to do 6-panel or 8-panel pages, or some combination thereof, you can just add and subtract where you see fit. For this example, I used all the lines in different ways, subdividing 1/3 width columns in halves, etc. Pretty fun.
So for this example, a 2-page comic I'm working on, I thumbed everything out in my sketchbook very roughly, just to get an idea of proportions and page layout. Then I started fooling around in Illustrator:
Notice that the page is divided into two equal pieces, then the bottom half is subdivided. Also I've used the 1/4 lines to divide the top right 1/3 panel in half. It's not that important to have things so exact, but it IS very pleasant for me. Also, I wanted those two panels (essentially panels 2 and 3) to have equal "beats" in terms of the reading flow. So being able to calculate that size without diddling around with rulers and calculators for half an hour was a time-saver.
Once I got everything the way I wanted it, I turned off everything I didn't need, then turned all the lines to the CMYK formula 10/0/0/0--essentially just 10% Cyan, no other ink. Not only does that make it nice and light, making sure I'm not using any other ink just preserves that super expensive stuff a little longer. Then I stick a piece of 8.5" x 11" Strathmore 500 in my printer, and print it up! Perfecto!
Then I repeated everything for the second page:
Again mixing and matching as needed! Computers, am I right?? Fancy!
Okay, if you want to try this yourself, feel free to download this high-res .pdf and fiddle with it on your computer. I'm not sure how editable it will be outside of Illustrator--but I know if you open it in Illustrator the layers will be preserved. Even if you can't use it, I encourage you to copy it or the idea or whatever if you like, if it'll help you make comics! Now get out there and get to comicsing! *slaps fanny*