Arguably the greatest advantage I’ve found to using Photoshop for comic art is in laying out perspective grids. I began using Freddie Williams’ perspective paths soon after the DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics came out, and found them very useful. Though, due to the specific format in which I work, I eventually developed my own system.
(I won’t spend too much time here explaining what perspective is, or the differences between 1, 2 and 3 point perspectives, how to utilize it when drawing, etc. Rather, I’ll focus on how I use photoshop to set up grids. If you’re interested in learning more about perspective in general, I’d refer you to David Chelsea’s wonderful Perspective! For Comic Book Artists: How to Achieve a Professional Look in Your Artwork.)
My template page includes a group of “extras”, including a set of perspective grids that I can easily manipulate to lay out 3-point perspective in a matter of a minute or two. You can download a 300dpi tiff of these grids here:
Perspective Grids (rightclick>save as)
These grids are broken down based on orientation: front on (radial), vertical (receding and flat), horizontal (receding and flat). The receding layers help me gauge depth, whereas the flat layers can help my layout a flat plane.
Basic 3-point Perspective
So here I’ve blocked out a panel shape. As you can see, the perspective grid is still visible behind it. (note: In a real comic page, you will want to make a copy of the entire perspective group and manipulate that copy, so that for later panels you still have a pristine grid to start with).
For this demonstration, I want to position the main front-on vanishing point (FVP) a bit to the left of center in the panel, so I select the entire Perspective group and, with either the move tool (v) or by transforming (edit>transform>free transform), drag to the position I want:
And I’ll resize a little bit to keep things manageable:
Since the next series of modifications I need to make include individual layers, and not the entire Perspective group, I hit [enter] to complete the current transform:
So, here we have a very flat one-point perspective grid (that is, only one set of lines converge to a single vanishing point, in this case our FVP). We could leave things like this, though we’d risk distortions the farther we move away from the FVP (if you want to use one-point perspective, try to keep the FVP as close to the center of the panel as you can place it).
Instead, I want to establish a full 3-point perspective grid (so that in addition to the radial lines that we already havereceding towards the FVP, my horizontal lines will recede to their own VP, and the vertical lines to their VP).
First, I select both of my horizontal-labeled layers:
As the FVP is slightly to the left of center, these lines are going to recede towards an (imaginary) VP off to the right side of the panel, so I will transform these layers using the perspective function (edit>transform>perspective or, while transforming, rightclick>perspective):
By pinching the right side of the selection, or expanding the left side (holding shift to keep things uniform), you can see the lines seem to converge towards a VP off to the right of the panel:
Once I’m happy, I hit [enter], then select the vertical layers:
I’ll transform them simililarly, using edit>transform>perspective. Since the FVP is low in the panel, the lines should converge towards a VP off the top of the panel:
(In a real comic page, I would next flatten all these layers to a single Perspective layer to save space.)
So there you have it, those are the basics for laying out easy 3-point perspective using grids in PS. I’ll be supplementing this post with special cases, cleanup, useful actions, etc. And as always, if there are any questions or requests, please feel free to get in touch!
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