Sunday, August 12, 2012

My Comics Process Part 3 - Lettering

Welcome back. If you haven't been following, part one is here, and two is here. I hope you find these useful, and always, if you have questions feel free to ask.

Well, first and foremost, I finished my newest mini comic, an all ages story about a Shaolin monk who must save the village from a wild ogre. The comic is totally free to read online at

The book will also be in print and can either be purchased in my Etsy store (soon), and at any future comic conventions until copies run out.

Shaolin Monk cover!
So now on to the comics process. Every mini comic I take on, I try to work on a couple key points to expand my chops. The two big things for this book were environments and lettering by hand. Last comic was a little background-light, so I really pushed it for this book. As for that, I don't think I need to go into much detail. As in part one, I found a lot of reference photos to use for locations in the comic.

But lettering, that's what I'd like to talk about. As I've heard countless times in Jessica Abel interviews and lectures, hand lettering can make a world of difference. Also, in my portfolio review a few months back, this statement was also reiterated. Word balloons, dialogue boxes, sound effects, they are all a significant part of the art as a whole. They shouldn't deter from the art, they shouldn't be an eye sore, they should be integrated. Hand inked sequential art can clash against streamlined perfectly smooth vector balloons and fonts.

If you know much about lettering though, it's all about laying out an ames guide, ruling out lines, and creating word balloons with french curves. My art style doesn't express complete perfection, and I was looking for a quicker turn around for lettering. So I came up with an alternative approach: creating the balloons and text digitally, then printing them as non photo blue, and inking it by hand. This way you get a lot of precision, while still getting the uneven individuality of every letter by hand. Interestingly too, even though I'm going over a certain font, my own hand gestures make it in. The outcome is a blend of my own handwriting, a touch of varying line-weight, and slightly reminiscent of the original font.

The most important thing is the tool for inking the balloons and letters. I choose the Pentel Sign Pen SES15. The tip is pretty rad, it has a lot of give to it, but it's not uncontrollable like a brush pen can be. They are pretty awesome tools. The one trouble I have with them is that they don't seem to be waterproof. That leaves marker coloring and watercolors on top of inks to be slightly a messy situation.

Here is a comparison between my hand lettering, vs the digital fonts and vector balloons I made. Click on it to zoom in, and compare. I think it's not bad for my first attempt at this method. I also really dig the brush style letters, it feels very calligraphic. It's fitting for a story about a Shaolin monk.

This page is my digital lettering, colored in non-photo blue (Cyan 7%). I scaled the letters at 200% larger than the size it will be in the printed book. I printed it on bristol, then started to ink.

Here's what I came up with. I scanned it in, and placed it over my finished pages, and that's it!

I really like this outcome. If anything, I think the brushwork was a little thicker than I planned. Next time, I'll try printing the balloons out at 225% - 250%, thus making my signpen lines a touch smaller.

Have any of you tried out this method before? It saved me time, while giving me some nice unique letters and balloons. It really matched the book.

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