Standard Size Requirements

Comic strips tend to fit into a very regimented shape. Inside that shape, many variations are possible, but the outer dimensions remain the same. This standardization of size makes it easy for newspapers to format their comics pages easily and make substitutions seamlessly.

If you're trying to break into newspaper comics, designing your strip as an evenly spaced four-panel comic could increase your chances. Doing so enables an editor to stack the first two panels on top of the last two. This way, your comic can be placed into a space that would otherwise demand a single-panel comic.

Outer Dimensions

Since most cartoonists work about twice the size their art will appear in print, most comic strip artists work along the following dimensions (all dimensions will be given in width times height):

  • 13″ × 4″ for the entire image.

  • Each panel of a four-panel strip will be about 3″ × 4″.

  • Each panel of a three-panel strip will be about 4″ × 4″.

  • The gutters between the panels will be about ¼″.

  • In print, the strip will be 6″ × 1.84″, with each panel being 1.4″ wide for a four-panel comic (1.84″ wide for a three-panel comic). Gutters are about 3/16″.

    Measuring Four Panels

    Since the 13″ width is easily divided into quarters, measuring the panels of a four-panel strip is simple:

  • Draw a rectangle, 13″ × 4″.

  • Make three hash marks across the width, one every 3.25″.

  • Line up the 1/8″ mark of your ruler with the first hash mark.

    Preliminary measurements for a four-panel and a three-panel strip

  • Place a dot at 0 and one at ¼″.

  • Repeat for the next two hash marks.

  • Draw vertical lines from the dots, dividing the rectangle into quarters.

  • Measuring Three Panels

    Preparing a three-panel strip is slightly more difficult. Since thirteen is not easily divided into three, use the pica side of your ruler instead:

  • 13″ is 78 picas.

  • Make two hash marks across the width, one every 26 picas.

  • Flip your ruler back to the side that measures inches.

  • Line up the ⅛″ mark of your ruler with the first hash mark.

  • Place a dot at 0 and one at ¼″.

  • Repeat for the next hash marks.

  • Draw vertical lines from the dots, dividing the rectangle into thirds.

  • Other Panel Configurations

    There are even more ways to divide a comic strip into panels. For instance, you can create a two-panel strip. Sometimes this is done with a short panel followed by a long panel. The first panel acts as an introduction, and the second panel, in effect, becomes a single-panel comic. Still others skip the intro panel and design single-panel comics to fit a comic strip's outer dimensions.

    Of course, there's no rule that says that all of your panels have to be evenly measured. You can choose to have as many panels as can legibly fit into the space. If you want to size each panel independently — and size them differently from day to day — that's your prerogative.

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