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Lettering - making it fit

One thing that regularly strikes me when I look at web comics is how often the lettering lets it down, not because the lettering is bad if taken on its own, but that it often jars with the artwork style.

Many strips have a beautiful, organic, hand-drawn look to them, but then the lettering looks way too formal because it's a font like Ariel or something similar. My feeling is that lettering should be done in a style which fits the style of the artwork and this often means that the artist has to resort to hand-lettering in order to acheive this.

OR...
Actually, I hate hand-lettering. So I decided that I would search for a font (or fonts) that complemented my art style. After a few experimentations and visits to various sites I found a great site which has a number of fonts that look like hand-lettering - www.blambot.com

One of the advantages of looking hard at your lettering in relation to the whole look of the strip is that it forces you to evaluate the style anyway and can often draw your attention to other areas you might want to change - line weight, panel proportion, timing, etc.

Anything that forces you to evaluate your work from time to time is a good thing in my view.

Aaron Tanner's picture

[quote:70805a370a="Ronson"]There was a place that was allowing people to create their own fonts just by printing a template, filling in all the letters and then scanning that in and resubmitting it to their fontmaker. But I can't for the life of me find the link now.

fontifer.com I am pretty sure that it was posted hereon Comixpedia a couple of months ago
ubi

I am a professional diver. I work in the Gulf of Mexico fixing the Nation's oil supply. I usually work on a boat off the coast of Louisiana. My job may seem cooler than yours, but it is not.

Lettering - making it fit

Steve Ince's picture

One thing that regularly strikes me when I look at web comics is how often the lettering lets it down, not because the lettering is bad if taken on its own, but that it often jars with the artwork style.

Many strips have a beautiful, organic, hand-drawn look to them, but then the lettering looks way too formal because it's a font like Ariel or something similar. My feeling is that lettering should be done in a style which fits the style of the artwork and this often means that the artist has to resort to hand-lettering in order to acheive this.

OR...
Actually, I hate hand-lettering. So I decided that I would search for a font (or fonts) that complemented my art style. After a few experimentations and visits to various sites I found a great site which has a number of fonts that look like hand-lettering - www.blambot.com

One of the advantages of looking hard at your lettering in relation to the whole look of the strip is that it forces you to evaluate the style anyway and can often draw your attention to other areas you might want to change - line weight, panel proportion, timing, etc.

Anything that forces you to evaluate your work from time to time is a good thing in my view.

Steve Ince's picture

I used to use Comic Sans, but it wasn't really working with my art style. For all three of my strips I use a font called LetterOMatic.

Steve Ince's picture

As I always write my scripts out in Word before drawing them up, to do the lettering I simply have to copy and paste into Photoshop and arange them correctly. Pretty speedy.

Steve Ince's picture

Some handwriting fonts have lowercase too.

About 90% of my fonts are Blambot handouts. Pretty much all of my dialogue is "Digital Strip", though I use italicized "Action Man" for exposition and Stan Lee style editorial notes. Then various SFX fonts based on context -- generally you don't want the same font for a megaton explosion as you do for a drowning man's gurgle.

One thing to note about bubble white space, many programs don't offer inbetween sizes (you have to choose either pt size 7 or 8, not 7.7). But I work on my comic at 300 dpi (four times its screen size) which gives some wiggle-room, since pt size 31 is about 7.75 when it gets reduced to screen size. It's a nice way to give yourself a bit more white space while only making the font subtly smaller.

When I started (a hundred years ago), I used Technical, then switched to MS Comic Sans, then went back to hand lettering, then went to Blambot's Digital Strip. If everyone in the world wasn't using Digital Strip, I'd be pretty darn happy with it. Although it's all caps, the "I", when not capitalized, prints without the line on the top and bottom, so it saves me space, which is nice.

I'm thinking I might change the font in my next series, to get something a little different. But it'll have to be pretty darn good to give up Digital Strip. I'll probably have to buy it. ;)

That was it! You typoed it though:

http://www.fontifier.com/

Thanks!

Between Blambot.com and Larabiefonts.com I have way more than I can keep up with. A big plus with those two is that I can understand their licensing.

edit: I use WebLettererBB from Blambot for my dialogue. I started with DigitalStrip, but this is more organic.

I handletter but I would be grateful if I could take the further step of making a font from my lettering. I'd probably still handletter but a font would enable me to easily change old strips or to produce artwork with varying dialogue.

I agree entirely, Steve. Lots of comics are rather hurt by a poor choice in font. I use one called "comix". Not to be confused with "Comic sans" it's a True Type font. It has no capitals or lower case and it has an old-school Marvel comics style lettering thats legible, while looking somewhat frantic. Perfect for my somewhat frantic slashes. I agree on analysing your style. Best thing I ever did was to start outlining the characters in a darker boreder. And yeah, the font was responsible for that. It worked better with it.

I use lots of fonts, usually from Blambot. DigitalStrip is my font du jour for dialogue. I scan my art in and open it in Illustrator and create my balloons over the art, then past them in separate layers in Photoshop. It's easier for me that way because if I have a typo, I just have to edit the Illustrator file.

There was a place that was allowing people to create their own fonts just by printing a template, filling in all the letters and then scanning that in and resubmitting it to their fontmaker. But I can't for the life of me find the link now.

I thought I read it on Scott McCloud's blog, but it might have been someone else's because I can't find the link now...

[EDIT: D'oh! I didn't realize I already responded in this thread...oh well, I didn't repeat myself too much. ;)]

My handwritting is so bad I can't letter my own comic. Photoshop is the best thing in the world, man.

The letter spacing thing can be an issue, but some graphics programs can space the letters further apart and make them easier to read. Check your personal favorite and see if it does.

As for conveying emotion, I've never had a problem with limitations like italics and bold. Text size can also help. About the only other font I use besides comix is called manga temple and I use it for sound effects. Then again, that just me. . .

I do all my lettering by hand. It seems easier to work with that way, plus it's faster because I don't have lots and lots of free time. LOL

-Seth

Also a nice way to do it! (My work is unscripted and thus drawn "live." Heh heh...)

-Seth

I mulled over which font to use for a while when developing my comic. While it would have been easy to just use the ones put out by Blambot, those are so common than sometimes it seems like everyone uses 'em. So instead I opted for Comic Book Commando, which I feel fits the cartoony nature of StarStrikers quite well.

Lettering is always tricky, but Photoshop can make life at least a little easier. The 'Character' window has settings for text width and height, leading, kerning and tracking. Of course, if you have a comic that's heavily dialogue-driven (like mine very often is), sometimes all the tinkering in the world won't get the text to sit well on the page. At that point, it's probably best to go back and re-edit the dialogue.

And yeah, place the text on the page first, and have the bubbles work around that (not the other way round!) Lettering can be fiddly and a pain to get right, but I find it can also make the difference between a professional-looking comic and a sloppy one, so it's worth putting that extra bit of effort in. :)

I've been using Comic Sans MS, I also have some other fonts, but those are typically used for dramatic effect or sound effects.

Well, I end up editing a lot of mine while I do it in Photoshop. And my handwriting is considered pretty damn illegible. Plus, I reduce the comics from their original size so they fit into the web format, and thus the lettering can lose its legibility.

So far I've just used Arial and comic sans. . . maybe I should reconsider that strategy though. I haven't really thought about lettering much. The problem is I tend to be excessively wordy and most of my dialogue won't fit in a reasonable space if I use a handwriting type font.

My thoughts on lettering:

I also use Comic Sans MS, which seems to fit my style of cartooning OK. I started out lettering by hand, but not only did it take FOREVER, but it didn't look very good.

My only problem with this font is that most of the time, the letters are too close to each other, and I have to use the arrow keys to "space" them apart, which gets annoying during long stretches of dialogue.

As for conveying different emotions, I'll usually hand-draw it if someone is yelling (one character in my comic has a habit of screaming "Hey, Baby!" at any woman he encounters). For quieter moments, adjusting the size of the letters has had a good effect, just as long as it's not overdone.

Speaking of which, try not to go overboard with fonts, such as having each character speak with a different font or something. That's more of a distraction than anything else. There are much better ways to get across a sense of character.

And from Cartooning 101: If your characters are speaking in word balloons, don't forget to leave plenty of open space between the words and the edge of the balloon. This "breathing room" makes the comic much easier to read.

www.newintowncomics.com

We used comic sans for about a year and a half until we designed out own font. We call it Digital Haggis Pro :)

Here's a exp.

http://www.alpha-shade.com/www/ASpages/AS070.jpg

CB
Alpha Shade
http://www.alpha-shade.com

I've always been a Mighty Zeo 2.0 partisan. Comicish, but with the nuance of lower case letters, which reflects the subtle shading and the bottomless angst pit of the writing. ;) Occasionally I lapse into hand (well, Wacom) lettering, when it seems funny.

Normal sans-serif fonts look really classy on smoothly inked, computer colored comics like pointless, though.

There are limitations to handwritten-style fonts. I have yet to find one that is more flexible than plain/bold/italic. What if I want to convey anger through the lettering? Or a whisper? Or fear? Fonts really can't provide that.

I have often had an inkling to use a font creation program to create a family of handwritten-style fonts that all work together to give myself and the bad letterers out there a larger repitoire of expression in the word bubble. Maybe I shall. Just need that that Font Creation Program. Any suggestions?

Do you, by any chance, know some (free) font-creation programs?
I know they exist, but they target audience is a lot more especific than, let's say PSX emulators (o^.^)o, so I haven't seen any.

I think that's a good solution for the ones that are bad hand-writers (as me), but likes a personalized font, or can't afford employing UJ's Stan Sakai (U^=^)

Any suggestions?

Shareware (more or less) means: you try it for free, and if you like it, you are a big guy enough to pay.
It depends on oneself ethics, but I must recognize I'm more on the "leecher" end (o^.-)o

Although, if I'm going to download a program for free, I'd prefer to get a pro program rather than a shareware one, if only because big company can afford the "losses" or "lack of gainings" better than Mr. shareware creator friendly guy

Oh, and btw, whoever you were, posting as guest doesn't hide your IP in case it's needed, you know... (o^.-)o

I'm a font junky, I love a well made font, and there are tons of them out there that can convey anything your evil heart desires. Even the names are fun- why letter in comic sans when you can use funny pages, or CroMangnum, or Komica slim, or Action Man!

some links-
http://hans.presto.tripod.com/links004.html
http://www.iconian.com
http://www.apostrophiclab.com/
http://www.fontasy.org/

I think one or two of the links I included above have links themselves to some font creation utilities. As I remember there are a couple of pretty good ones that are shareware (US$20 or so). Pretty good price vs the commercial software prices of >$500.

Maybe some of the Hand lettering art jocks can help me. I am looking to buy a decent lettering guide, a little device that helps lay down the lines to slap words into. Just curious if anyone has any recomendations.

On a side note, I know several font dorks who all hate comic sans. It is the font equilvilent of chewing foil while holding a lightning rod. It doesn't bother me really, but it is a very distinctively generic font.

These people _hate_ comic sans

Surlyben's picture

Bringing this thread back from the dead to point out that hand lettered and computer fonts are not the only options.

For example, I use an old Underwood No. 5 for lettering my post-apocalypse comic. The idea of using a manual typewriter (those Underwoods are nearly indestructable) and the fact that my grandmother had a bunch of typed up recipes just seemed right. The glitches and mangled letterforms I get just add to the appeal as far as I'm concerned.

I could also imagine someone lettering a comic using found letters or words (say, from a magazine) to give a look that was like a ransom note (I think I've seen this in Dave McKean comics) We used to use transfer type back in the day. I wouldn't want to letter a comic that way, though. Scanned in alphabet blocks, scrabble letters, etc... Of course, with any of this sort of thing you would want to make sure it was appropriate to the comic (or only use it in titles and heads...) Otherwise it would get old very fast...

-
Ben Bittner

Yeah the thing about lettering is that you have to be able to read it. I've found any number of fonts that I wanted to use for one thing or another but found out they were completely illegible and inapropriate afterwards.

I wish i could letter by hand but my penmenship is sloppy and I'm a terrible speller....I must type in word and the I bring all my images into Quark (so I can play with the lettering and add boxes). Adds a lot of time but placing text in Photoshop is frusterating and limited.

I use Letter-o-matic. Used to work w/ Comic Sans but i think it's flat.

Grr. Lost Cookie. Above guest was me.

I use comic sans MS based on the reccomendation of Eric Millikin, who pointed out that my style was jaunty enough that I really should have a font that wasnt as active looking

When I was in Japan, I bought a whole bunch of sweet comics-making tools. Two of them were lettering tools, one for lines, and one for balloons. So, with great joy I slapped them onto my paper and started to work, and you know what?

My hand-lettering was still crap.

Some people have the steady hand for it, some don't. I dont. So I still use Photoshop for my lettering.

My understanding of the concept of "Shareware" is that it was free...

I agree that the font should jive well with the visual design of the cartoonist's comic. In my case, I hand lettered the alphabet on paper and used a font maker app to digitize my lettering style from a scan, thus creating a custom font that I could use in Illustrator or Photoshop. It saves time during comic production, yet yields an original result in my opinion.

The first hundred pages in my archives are unfortunately stuck with Comic Sans MS, I'll definately have to change that before I go to print.

Comic Sans MS is like Hitler's mustache, it's both objectively ugly as well as saddled with negative connotations.

PhotoShop CS is great because the fonts are all vector grapgics and you can size them as you need it and you don't have to worry about resolution until you rasterize the image.

Alvin makes the Ames Lettering Guide that I use. It's a nice instrument and works really well with my drafting board.

I'm curious..
downloaded free fonts usually have a disclaimer like "This font is freeware for independent comic book creation and non-profit use ONLY," or the like.
SO if one day one decides to publish their strips that use these "free" fonts,should one expect a call from font owner's lawyers?

Who needs shareware... isn't that what KaZaa is for?

[quote:1a43d75b23="Anonymous"]Who needs shareware... isn't that what KaZaa is for?

No. KaZaa is for installing spyware on your system.

I use Comic Sans MS, Arial, and Georgia for everything on my website because they're on my computer, and they're easy to read.

I tried using an exciting font like "anime Ace" in earlier comics, but my art was exciting enough as it was. I needed to throttle down.

Like most people, I use all Freeware or Shareware fonts.

I use Anime Ace (Blambot, I believe) in my book. I found that most of the other fonts were harder to read when reduced to the size I needed for the number of words per balloon. Anime Ace also suits the feel of the book fairly well and looks decent in Italic and Bold. I go as low as 9 pts and as high as 11 for dialogue. My only issue is that the 'r's can look a little like 'p's if you read through the line too fast.

As for SFX, I use a variety of different fonts, from Zombie to Badaboom to Earth's Mightiest. Whatever suits the effect - I'll play with it in Outline and Free Distort to get the shape and look I want.

I really enjoy lettering, but I also don't adhere to some of the more conventional standards (like limits of words per line in a balloon, etc.). It also helps that I'm also the writer and can tweak my dialogue if it doesn't flow once I'm lettering it.