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Print Picks: Framed Ink

by Taylor Slattery | November 22, 2020

Framed Ink is a book by Marcos Mateu-Mestre and published via Design Studio Press, the publishers of one of my favorite series, How to Draw and How to Render. Where How to Draw and How to Render were concerned primarily with technical skills, Framed Ink explores another equally important aspect of image-making, the emotional aspect. Marcos Mateu-Mestre does so by drawing attention to the role composition plays in establishing the mood of an image and giving the viewer the emotional information they need to quickly understand its context.

Mateu-Mestre calls upon his over 20 years of experience in animation and print to deliver a succinct overview of the various aspects at play within the compositions of films and graphic novels. Although the book’s focus is not on the technical aspects of composition, things like perspective, scale, value, and camera angles are all explored as design elements. With the overall goal still being to create emotionally impactful compositions, the technical aspects serve as vehicles for doing so, and although touched upon, they are not covered in depth.

This book assumes the reader to already possess a basic grasp of fundamentals and focuses its efforts on shining a light on the way design is used to elicit an emotional response from the viewer. Although Mateu-Mestre has a background in feature animation and graphic novels, the principles outlined in this book are applicable to any form of image-making, whether you’re an illustrator, 3D artist, or photographer.

The meat of the book focuses on intent and how we can use lighting, staging, and framing to subtly communicate information to our viewers. In tandem, these ques not only make the composition easy to read by telling our viewers where to look, but also how to feel. Changing only one of these variables can entirely alter the mood of a scene. One such example from the book demonstrates how a simple shot of 2 people sitting at a table can take on drastically different atmospheres by changing the lighting and staging. A simple switch of lighting can transform a simple meal into a tense conversation with uneasy undertones. Tricks such as these as well as common types of shots and angles used in film are covered in great depth, with each offering some explanation as to why this choice might be made and how it would serve the story.

Although some of these insights are unique to film or other sequential mediums like graphic novels, they can still help to impart a better understanding of why certain creative decisions are made within a production. This kind of knowledge adds another dimension to the viewing experience and heightens your eye for composition, turning movies from mere entertainment to opportunities for study. The emotional aspect of image-making can be hard to grasp but putting in the effort will make you a more thoughtful creator.


Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.


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