BalkanMagazin :: How comics are made (7): Plans, interiors and exteriors

The whole comic can be roughly reduced to three types of scenes: atmospheric scenes, movement scenes and action scenes. Each of these types has its own rhythm and dynamics that will be suggested through the editing of the frames.

Atmospheric scenes, which include some scenes with dialogues, have no action or the action is very small, while the rhythm is slow. It is possible to show them through wide plans in larger frames, leading the reader to stay longer on each of the drawings and on the details in the frames. Thus, a slow journey, the silence of a landscape, moments of rest, leisure or anticipation will be shown.

Atmospheric scenes, in larger scene-fields, lead the reader to dwell on the details in the frame (Dejan Nenadov, “Rose Castle on Mitlah Hill”)

Scenes of movement dynamize the action, so a variety of plans and angles is necessary. The movements and actions of the protagonists are shown in more detail. The action scenes have an accelerated rhythm that is expressed through a combination of different plans, while the dialogues are kept to a minimum. Often several frames of smaller dimensions and one or two wider plans are used.


The action scenes have a fast rhythm of different plans, while the dialogues are reduced to a minimum or absent (Zoran Smiljanić, “1945”)

Dynamics of plans

At the core of every comic, similar to cinematography, there are plans that show the course of action in different ways and from different angles. When a scene-field or vignette shows a large number of people, objects and decor, the draftsman must make a difference between the plans of events, the distance between people and objects and thus enable the readability of the drawing.

If the plans are different enough, they make the comic more dynamic visually. However, changes in plans carry a psychological approach to the event. The plans emphasize the dramatic charge of each scene, give plasticity to the actions, and point out the feelings of the protagonists. So, the plans are not placed without order, but follow the internal logic and dynamics of the narration.

A panoramic plan is used as a descriptive element. Its goal is to present a landscape, the interior of a room, a group of people or objects. In that way, the reader can easily see the schedule in the space where the action will take place. Sometimes, due to the complexity of the decor, it is necessary to put more wide plans from different angles before the action begins. Many times it is necessary to resort to broad plans every time the action changes the place of the event.


The panoramic plan is used as a descriptive element and it helps the reader to see the schedule in the space where the action will take place (Željko Pahek, “The Rabbit’s Paw”)

The general plan shows the scene from a certain distance, but the reader’s attention is already attracted by the main protagonists shown as a whole and separated from the decor. The goal of this plan is to put it into action.

The middle plan indicates the beginning of the action or plot, so it is necessary to get closer to the protagonists and single out one, more or less, important group of participants in the action. They are shown in the foreground, in their entirety or at least up to the knees, while less important characters and unimportant decor will be found in the background.

Close-up, detail and “sliced”

The close-up frames the protagonists from close range, thus introducing the reader to the core of the event. He is usually in the middle of the action and he expresses the feelings of the protagonist with the greatest strength and expressiveness. The drama is emphasized through a great approach, most often to the face of the actor. The close-up also draws the reader’s attention to some movement, sound or part of the decor that participates in raising the dramatic tension.

A detail is necessary to indicate certain peculiarities, subtleties or drama: a hand that reaches for something, a bulging eye, a grimace… A detail can characterize a person in a very effective way: strong diopter glasses, a way of holding a cigarette, strange jewelry…

A “sliced” display of some detail in close-up has the task of enhancing the drama of the scene and enhancing the current atmosphere. By highlighting a detail that can be part of the decor, of a person or an animal, the cartoonist does not cover the scene, but gives it relief and depth.


“Sliced” close-up performance enhances the drama of the scene and the current atmosphere (Danijel Žeželj, “Congo Bill”)


The interior decor not only represents the space in which part of the action takes place, but very often, it indicates the personality of the people who live or work there. That is why it is necessary to avoid banality, and imagine an apartment, house or work premises in accordance with the characterization of the characters and dramaturgical needs. Then you should make sure that every detail is in its place, which will give the interior of the room credibility. In principle, it is necessary, in a way, to overcome reality and point out one’s own view of events through the arrangement of things, and then point it all out through an expressive foreground and an interesting angle.

Avoiding a poster representation of the interior requires a good analysis of the angle of view and the layout of the plans. The protagonist does not always have to be in the foreground, but he can also be found in the distance, which emphasizes the impression of perspective and gives relief to the scene-field. In the technical part, the most important is the perspective, because the beauty and functionality of the vignette depends on it. Certain exaggerations and illogicalities are allowed if they have a basis in dramaturgy.


Interiors help to understand the psycho-emotional state of the protagonist (Nikola Vitković, “Photophobia”) or to gain in authenticity (Gradimir Smuđa, “Vincent et Van Gogh”)

Sometimes it is possible to omit some parts of the decor if the dramaturgy requires something like that. “For example, if you draw people discussing in the kitchen, you show the whole room once, and then in the next shots you draw only parts of the decor that remind the reader of the whole – says the legendary Belgian comic book author Raymond Mashero.

The expressionist approach in presenting the interior decor increases the degree of the reader’s participation and helps him to better understand the mental and emotional state of the protagonist. However, this technique requires great skill and additional explanations through drawings or text, otherwise the reader may remain confused.


The main role of the exterior is to indicate the place where the action takes place. However, the forest landscape, the impassable jungle or the noisy streets of the city, never remain just a spatial element. Unlike interiors that explain personality, exteriors are the perfect way to emphasize the atmosphere. The night signifies worry and deceit, the fog suggests concealment and hypocrisy, the heat is heavy and exhausting, and the storm arrives suddenly, blind and relentless, worse than an evil rival.

The harmonization of exterior graphics and protagonists is also important for comics. Excessively refined architecture or detailed landscape can be at odds with poorly drawn or oversimplified characters. At the same time, such an exterior distracts attention from the protagonist and, due to excessive detailing, tires the reader, and makes the comic boring.


Exteriors indicate the place of the event, but they also emphasize the atmosphere by pointing to fear, tension, calm … (Tomaž Lavrič, “Worm on the run”; RM Gera, “Aftermath”)

Sometimes, due to dramaturgical needs, it is possible to simplify the exteriors in certain shots or even omit them altogether, which also applies to interiors.

“If an element is shown in the previous scene-field and if the angle allows us to save something and find it again later, then we can omit it,” says Belgian comic master Erman Ipen. Relying on the previously shown exterior, as well as on the intelligence of the reader, the cartoonist reduces the content of the frame only to the basic event. By omitting such a landscape, street or architecture, the significance and tension of the depicted event is enhanced.

To create good and expressive exteriors, it is necessary to have extensive documentation or experience that can serve as a model or as an inspiration. In the case of realistic interiors, it can be done on the spot and done through photographs from the necessary angles.

Source: Balkan Magazin – Aktuelnosti by

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