[[quoteright:78:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/map_1217.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:78:Zoomed-out version of Creator/ScottMcCloud's ''[[http://scottmccloud.com/1-webcomics/porphyria/porphyria.html Porphyria's Lover]]''.]]

->''"Why did I frame cut instead of thumbnailing? Because I couldn't upload it for thumbnailing because it was ''36 inches tall.'' Fucking infinite canvas."''
-->--'''Eric Burns-White''', ''Blog/{{Websnark}}''

In principle, a WebComic has several advantages over the print equivalent, due to the greater flexibility of the medium. One such advantage which enthusiasts of the genre often mention is the "infinite canvas": the ability to create pages of nearly-unlimited width and height, with the viewer scrolling around the page. A related idea is that webcomics can have far more pages than would be possible in print, potentially connected non-linearly by hyperlinks.

In practice, both of these forms of expansive "canvas" have proved very difficult to use effectively. Scrolling (especially horizontal scrolling) rapidly becomes tedious, and scrolling in two independent dimensions can cause the reader to rapidly get lost on the page. Similar issues exist with non-linear or multi-linear storylines: they require an exponential amount of writing work for the number of possible paths, something which most webcomic artists (the majority of whom only work on their series part-time) are unable or unwilling to commit to. Deviating from a print format also makes it much more difficult to create a print version.

What's more, there are technical issues as well; many browsers have trouble loading large numbers of images at once (or one extremely large image). Many readers aren't willing to wait several minutes to read a single comic strip, regardless of its quality. This also cuts off some of the accessibility of the comic, since bandwidth access in places like libraries and Internet cafes is usually limited. Using hyperlinks to simulate a non-linear or branching story adds page loading to the technical problems.

The third aspect, unlimited extension, has had a major impact on the genre, but [[StripArchive not in the expected way]].

Few series have (intentionally) applied the infinite canvas principles, and fewer still do so successfully; most of the comics which managed it either were one-shot strips, or were bonus material added to an otherwise conventional series. However, finite-yet-larger-than-usual canvas has often been useful in comics that stretch beyond a traditional page's length. And it's all better than the space in the weekday [[NewspaperComics newspapers]]...

The idea was introduced in Creator/ScottMcCloud's ''highly'' influential book about the comics medium (in comics medium) ''[[ComicBook/UnderstandingComics Reinventing Comics]]''.

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!!Examples

* Comics in ''AMomentOfPeace'' tend to sprawl vertically. Sometimes this is an intentional effect that creates a sense of [[http://www.amomentofpeace.net/comic.php?num=98 descending]] or [[http://www.amomentofpeace.net/comic.php?num=117 ascending]].
* ''Delta Thrives'' -- a fairly effective use of a (horizontal only) scrollable screen.
* ''DresdenCodak'': [[http://dresdencodak.com/cartoons/dc_029.htm Several]] [[http://dresdencodak.com/cartoons/dc_031.htm comics]] [[http://dresdencodak.com/cartoons/dc_027.htm are]] of a length that would be at best impractical for a print comic. Note that the linked comics are not apt to be split into smaller sized comics either.
** This has continued into his later strips. [[http://dresdencodak.com/2009/12/16/lantern-season Lantern Season]], arguably the largest one to date[[note]]5,195 pixels tall[[/note]], is, according to the author, "the exact height of Dustin Hoffman".
* ''SluggyFreelance'' used the extra space to {{Anvilicious}}ly [[http://www.sluggy.com/daily.php?date=010715 drive home a stock-footage joke]] in its HumongousMecha''/''AnotherDimension''/''Stuff Like That parody arc.
** Also, on the strip's anniversaries (and a few other occasions) the strip will feature a flash image to make the characters actually move around in the panels.
* ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'' has an excellent [[http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0443.html example]] (spoiler warning) of infinite canvas, though there are more original ways the principle could be applied. Using a really long strip to depict lots of falling is considered the ur-example of this trope, but it is also a very intuitive example. (In print, the strip is broken into several page-high panels.)
** Almost certainly influenced by [[http://www.scottmccloud.com/1-webcomics/zot/zot-03/zot-03.html this]] episode of Creator/ScottMcCloud's ''ComicBook/{{Zot}}'' webcomic.
** Also one where Haley is knocked back so much by an attack she [[http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0518.html breaks through the side of the panel]].
** It was also used to [[http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0750.html show multiple events unfolding simultaneously]].
* ''[[http://www.machall.com/ Mac Hall]]'' used an [[http://www.machall.com/woc.html enormous vertical comic]] for an elaborate ShoutOut to the music video of Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice".
* [[http://www.eegra.com/show/sub/do/browse/cat/comics/id/62 This]] Eegra comic is a particularly weird example.
* NinePlanetsWithoutIntelligentLife: every single strip is a '''long''' line of panels. But the story is so good that you get over the scrolling.
* ''{{Narbonic}}'' occasionally experimented with this, usually at the high point of a plot arc or during one of Dave's New-Year's-Eve dream sequences.
** In particular, the second comic [[http://www.webcomicsnation.com/shaenongarrity/narbonic/series.php?view=archive&chapter=10257 here]] specifically [[ShoutOut name-checks]] Eric Burns-White.
** And later on, [[spoiler: in one of those dream sequences... [[http://www.webcomicsnation.com/shaenongarrity/narbonic/series.php?view=archive&chapter=10316 right here.]] ]] Useful probably because it does use the 'endless falling' bit previously mentioned.
* ''{{Fans}}!'' had a couple of MindScrew arcs take place within the infinite canvas. Despite the technically poor quality of art, the way it was presented was so good it actually ''worked''.
* The Webcomic MassiveMultiplayerCrossover ''CrossoverWars'' features the nonlinear variation; partly as a function of the sheer number of webcomics involved, there were many intertwined threads -- each having their own names, usually something like "Fantasy Wars", "Super Wars", or "Squirrel Wars" (!) -- which converged at the conclusion.
* ''[[http://cwcomics.comicgenesis.com/alt/thisis/index.html This is]]'' another non-linear one, a comic presented as a series of profiles for people, places and things, with links beneath explaining their connection.
* CryHavoc did this [[http://cryhavoc.comicgenesis.com/d/20091208.html here]]. which just appears to cover three fights at once, but comes of muddled and hard to see.
* ''[[http://www.drewweing.com/pup/13pup.html Pup Ponders the Heat Death of the Universe]]''. It's very big, but not nearly as big as the concepts it embodies.
* ''[[http://eastmostpeninsula.com/index.php Killer Robots From Space]]'' has strips one frame tall but sometimes dozens of frames wide (it varies).
* ''Webcomic/{{xkcd}}'' makes perhaps the grandest use of the infinite canvas, to present [[http://xkcd.com/482/ a logarithmic-scale depiction of the entire observable universe]].
** And three strips later, [[http://xkcd.com/485/ they go in the other direction]].
** Strip 1110 "Click and Drag." [[http://xkcd.com/1110 Words fail.]] According to some calculations, this strip would be ''43 meters wide'' if printed in full resolution.
** Strip 1190 "Time" is possibly an inversion of the infinite canvas, taking a series of panels or moments in a very slow animation and presenting them one at a time in a single panel space, updating by one every hour or so since the strip was first posted. A collection of the images (so far) can be seen [[http://imgur.com/a/Edyi1#0 here]] as individual clickable images or [[http://xkcd.aubronwood.com/ here]] as a looping gif.
* ''[[http://web.archive.org/web/20070602151344/http://www.e-sheep.com/spiders/ The Spiders]]'' is one of the best illustrated use.
* ''[[http://www.demian5.com/king/wiak.htm When I Am King]]'' (Warning: probably {{NSFW}}).
* This appropiately-named "[[http://www.supermegatopia.com/booty/gallery/gallery.php?thisLink=cliffhanger.jpg Cliffhanger]]" in ''By Way of Booty Bay''.
* Creator/ScottMcCloud himself has a [[http://www.scottmccloud.com/1-webcomics/index.html few on his website]], and some of them continue the thematic series that began with ''ComicBook/UnderstandingComics'' and ''Reinventing Comics''.
* [[http://hiimdaisy.livejournal.com/24362.html#cutid1 This girl]] has comics that go on for about ten screens' worth, at least. And they're but-gustingly hilarious, to boot.
* The day that old ''StarslipCrisis'' ended and the newly rebooted and renamed {{Starslip}} began, [[http://www.starslip.com/archive/20090109.shtml this]] was the entire front page. Extra credit: the site navigation buttons are part of it, the "end" button is shattered, and the "back" and "beginning" buttons were functional.
* ''CheckerboardNightmare'' parodied InfiniteCanvas on at least one occasion.
* [[http://www.schlockmercenary.com/d/20051031.html This]] ''Webcomic/SchlockMercenary'' strip.
* ''UnwindersTallComics'' is named after the unconstrained height of its comics. Unwinder's conceit is that a taller comic is a better comic.
* [[http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1558#comic This]] ''SaturdayMorningBreakfastCereal'' strip.
* ''NatureOfNaturesArt'' ''loves'' using infinite canvas, both [[http://www.nofna.com/?T=1-1-12-146 vertical]] and [[http://www.nofna.com/?T=1-1-12-205 horizontal]].
* [[http://www.flyingmanandfriends.com Flying Man and Friends]] lampshaded the infinite canvas in [[http://www.flyingmanandfriends.com/?p=242 this strip]].
* Of course, ''@/DMMaus'' has [[http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/1455.html had a stab at this]].
* ''TheWayOfTheMetagamer:'' Although the comics are all approximately the same size (except for double-length specials), characters, speech bubbles, and shoes often breach the borders of the panels. And then there's [[http://wayofthemetagamer.thecomicseries.com/comics/pl/18679 this]] comic, in which [[NoFourthWall the characters climb behind the panels.]]
** [[http://wayofthemetagamer.thecomicseries.com/comics/pl/32150 This comic]] is an even better example.
* The ''{{MS Paint Adventures}}'' uses this concept in a couple of ways:
** The second adventure, ''[[http://www.mspaintadventures.com/?s=2 Bard Quest]]'', has multiple paths. However, due to the complexity of the story, it was dropped fairly early.
** ''{{Homestuck}}'' uses flash as a way for viewers to explore the environment, scrolling both horizontally and vertically. More to the point, Homestuck also makes use of animated and interactive adventure game segments, which would obviously be impossible in print.
*** Not so impossible that you can't purchase books of the series though!
** Also of note, the Midnight Crew intermission in Homestuck has a [[http://www.mspaintadventures.com/?s=6&p=003188 ''time loop'']].
** The End of Act Five flash has an unexpectedly-expanding screen during a vital moment - making the event particularly effective, and also breaking the bounds of the traditional limits of a panel.
** ''Homestuck'' also has an incredibly complex storyline, the like of which would probably be impossible in pure print media.
** At one point in Act 5, the Homestuck disc was scratched, forcing the audience to go to one of the characters (a certain Doc Scratch) to salvage it. In the meantime he took over the comic, changing the scheme of the website to white text on dark green, and introduced a banner at the top of the page. For each panel, the banner changed as well, telling a story in tandem and often mirroring the events of the panels. Not only that, but when [[AuthorAvatar Andrew Hussie]] appeared in the setting of the banner, AltText was introduced to display what he's saying at that point. Later, when the BigBad appears, instead of normal text there is a ''huge'' hover-over image of his text saying something threatening. If there's one comic that is determined to explore what the internet can do for storytelling, it's ''Homestuck''.
** Right after the above format change, the reader is presented a scrapbook with clickable pictures from which to explore a series of smaller events in more or less any order.
** In Act 6, there are occasionally character select screens where readers can choose to follow one or another character's path before the other. Of course, he mostly writes the routes one at a time and posts them as they go along, so for people who've caught up with the story, there isn't really any difference to if the comic was in print.
** Also in Act 6 there was a long stretch with two parallel sets of panels, showing events that happenned simultaneously in nearly identical locations. There were two forward buttons, one under each set of panels. The forward under the first set led to the top of the second set, then one under the second set led to the next page.
** And, of course, most commonly and yet less obviously, the simple fact that the number of panels and amount of text can vary wildly between pages - one page might have a single, simple image without any text, while another might have three complicated pictures and pages of conversation. Andrew has said that he's become so used to the flexibility this style provides that it would feel extremely difficult to write a comic involving panels now.
* ''DemonPlanet'' has one of the last strips before the reboot oriented diagonally so that you can't just use one scrollbar.
* ''CityOfReality'' employs this trope on many pages. It also sometimes makes use of Flash to alter the story, which makes the comic unprintable.
* ''Webcomic/CyanideAndHappiness'' uses it [[http://www.explosm.net/comics/2030/ here]], and highlights the above-mentioned problem of horizontal scrolling.
* ''ParallelDementia'' uses this a lot, most awesomely [[http://pd.milkinthepantry.com/?strip_id=545 here.]]
* [[http://www.webcomicsnation.com/hammock/estancia/series.php?view=archive&chapter=6545 Estancia]] won awards for Best Use Of The Infinite Canvas - it had amounts of material roughly the size of half an issue of a normal comic book each presented in a one-panel-wide column. The dialogue and action still flow smoothly, but when it was made into print books, the artist had to get pretty creative...
* The bonus strip for [[http://www.darthsanddroids.net/episodes/0344.html Episode 344]] of ''Webcomic/DarthsAndDroids'' shows a very expanded version of the grapple system rolls and counter-rolls during the five seconds or so of screentime Padme was struggling with a Geonosian.
* [[http://www.wormworldsaga.com/ The Wormworld Saga]] is made up of huge chapters - the first is over '''25,000 pixels long'''.
* [[http://www.thepale.net/ The Pale]] uses this throughout, each page a scrolling horizontal canvas with the 'panels' blending into each other.
* [[http://www.damonk.com Framed!!!]] used this a great deal, having significant parts of the story on infinite canvases that the reader needs to scroll in a loop to follow or presented in an out of order series of frames that only makes sense when you click on each frame to get to the next one in order (with some bonus frames that aren't linked to stuck in the middle). Damonk did a lot of experimenting with what the infinite canvas made possible.
* [[http://scottmccloud.com/1-webcomics/chess/chess.html My Obsession With Chess]], by Scott [=McCloud=] himself, chronicles [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin his obsession with chess]]. It's about 16 feet long, done in alternating black-on-white to white-on-black panels.
* DovecoteCrest makes use of this. Most notable is the series of pages for the letter Charlie reads, from a Union soldier to his Confederate brother.
* [[http://www.nettserier.no/jellyvampire/1304892000/ This]] Jellyvampire strip, which is about pushing boundaries.
* ''FaceAllRed'' uses this to horrifying effect.
* ''Webcomic/{{Subnormality}}'' does this with reckless abandon. Constantly. And they're amazing.
* ''Webcomic/PennyArcade'' uses a minor version [[http://penny-arcade.com/comic/2001/06/22 Here]], while taking Creator/ScottMcCloud to task for his position on Micropayments. Gabe and Tycho were outspoken critics of both concepts when they came up in the late 90s and early 00's.
* [[http://smaaaash.net SMAAAASH!!]] (which for some reason refuses all attempts at linking to the TVTropes page) uses these all the time.
* ''Webcomic/{{Sunstone}}'' takes full advantage of sprawling downwards, panels can flow into each other and often great space is used to show characters head to toe. WordOfGod has stated the only real problem with getting the work published is the huge amount of reformatting that would have to take place to fit the comic into a book.
* ''Webcomic/TheWhiteboard'' is usually done as a three to four panel strip in a horizontal alignment, but [[http://www.the-whiteboard.com/autotwb1206.html this strip]] is made in a vertical alignment, and goes far beyond the three panels of a regular strip.
* ''{{Webcomic/Drowtales}}'' introduces this after chapter 39, resulting in longer pages and things [[http://www.drowtales.com/mainarchive.php?sid=8939 spilling over out of the page]].
* ''Webcomic/DarkLegacyComics'' [[http://www.darklegacycomics.com/370.html #370]] is four images stacked together, collectively 38,814 pixels high. It extends from outer space to underground and then delves into the past.
* ''{{Webcomic/Prequel}}'' has dream sequences involving this, including some that are animated as you scroll down them.
* ''HarkAVagrant'' uses the infinite canvas for a ridiculously long joke about JanetJackson [[http://www.harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=347 here.]]
* Every page of Sigeel's web comic, ''Webcomic/BloodStain'', is a linear strip of panels. Each page approximates to about 4,000 pixels wide.
* ''[[http://hobolobo.net/ Hobo Lobo]]'' features horizontal scrolling, parallax viewing, background changes, and in some cases sound effects and animations.
* [[http://keithcom.com/atoms/scale.php This]] scale model of a Hydrogen atom. The proton is 1,000 pixels across, the electron orbiting it is 1 pixel across and '''''50 million''''' pixels to the right (which according to the author, on an average screen resolution of 72dpi, is approximately 11 miles of scrolling!)
* In a similar vein, [[http://joshworth.com/dev/pixelspace/pixelspace_solarsystem.html "If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel: A Tediously Accurate Scale Model of the Solar System"]].
* ''Webcomic/TouhouNekokayou'' has this to say on the subject in [[http://dizzy.pestermom.com/?p=thcomic12 Strip #12]]
-->"While Scott [=McCloud=]'s wild predictions on the Infinite Canvas were kind of cool, they were pretty much dashed by things like 'useibility' and 'load times'."
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