The Art of Ryan Francis

The art website of Ryan Francis

Let’s Make A Comic Story Part 7: Lettering

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Lettering is definitely a discipline that I’ve never been taught when I was in college. But, after hunting for a variety of articles and getting some tips the few pro letterers I encounter in my life, I’ve managed to teach myself how to letter with some amount of competence. I’m lettering this as I prep my ink stuff as I don’t plan to color the comic at the moment.

The first step is to save my cropped unedited artwork as high res PNGs. Since, I’m making them with print in mind, I need the images in as high of a resolution as possible so it won’t get hurt too much when I reduce the final comic down to print or web.

I usually do my lettering in Adobe Illustrator as it gives me more options to mess with my text than just Photoshop or Manga Studio. I make a new file with six art boards to the pixel size of the pages I plan to import.

I import or “Place” my images in Illustrator so they’re all in one large file the look at!

I get myself started by dimming my art and typing down my general typing and lettering. I’m not worrying about the exact font at the moment I just need to start getting the words out.

I refer to my thumbnails for the bubble placement to the art and the original post image the the dialogue stuff. I kinda cleaned up the dialogue at the feedback of my mom, so it lacks teeth compared to the original post.

Here’s the rough placement of my words for the comic. Again, I’m not fretting too much about the dialogue, but usually I use the Back Issues font; one of the free fonts from Blambot. They’re a great resource for lettering comics and a great source of comic fonts in general!

So now it’s time to make word balloons for the dialogue. In addition to having decent text tools, Adobe Illustrator has its signature ability to make vector artwork, which can change size and rescale with no issue to image quality! A good freeware alternative to this program is Inkscape! I’m not as confident with my ability to draw word balloons myself, so I generally do it separate from the artwork digitally. Most of what I know about making word balloons is from this tutorial by John Roshell.

In a nutshell I start by arranging the dialogue in a centered diamond pattern. I take some time to put words on different lines until it looks more professional looking. Next I use the Ellipse tool and use the Direct Select and Scale Tool to adjust the balloon to a nice squared up round shape I make sure in the Attributes window, I select Overprint stroke, this is usually for color comics so the white fill doesn’t spill out of the black lines when a print flaw happens, it’s still a good habit to keep. I don’t use the Rounded Rectangle tool because I feel like it makes the balloon too square for dialogue.

Next, I expand the balloon size and set it up to “anchor” to the top of the panel. I use the Rectangle tool to make new shape and put it on top of the balloon shape (I probably made it too big…) Then in the Pathfinder Box’s Shape Modes (Shift+Ctrl+F9) Select both of the shapes, select Unite, and the paths of those shapes will merge into one new shape.

I arrange the shape to go behind the dialogue by selecting Object>Arrange>Send to Back (Shift+Ctrl+[)

Time to create a balloon tail to point to Fatty. I mainly use the pen tool to draw a rough tail shape and use the Direct Selection tool to work the shape to a pointed tail. The same steps to Unite the tail to the balloon are applied and now you have a connected balloon.

Now make more rectangles and arrange it so it aligns to the borders of the panel, I just get rid of the fill color for a short time only seeing the lines. Make sure the rectangles is arranged over the round balloon use Object>Arrange>Send to Front or Ctrl+Shift+]. Select the rectangles and the word balloon, use the Pathfinder’s Shape Modes and select Minus Front and it will cut out the balloon shape for the panel anchoring.

The font I use is a free font called Back Issues. Of the fonts I have, it’s the least bad looking font to me. But, I don’t just type it in and be done with it, I adjust the Leading and Tracking to bring in the letters to make it look closer to a human hand. It also gives you even more space to work with in the balloons.

I checked out this tutorial section for making yelling dialogue balloons by Jim Campbell.

I got on Page 3 to do some work on this charging scream from the boyfriend character.

Most of this knowledge from this tutorial from Balloon Tales on making Emphasis Bubbles.

I make a new little speech bubble and move it on the middle white letter stroke color layer. Next, I manipulate the shape of the ellipse and make the stroke size 10 pt and adjust the bottom black letter stroke color layer to make it look seamless.

I use my previous balloon making techniques to build up a new balloon shape.

I rearrange the bubble back in proper place, fiddle with a few more adjustment in my vector nodes and I’ve completed a new screaming balloon for page 3!

Now I do a little to figure out what I can do for page 4 and the fat guy’s maniacal laughter. I try out a Blambot font called Torn Asunder. I created Outlines out of the typed font and I now painstakingly edit each letter with the lasso tool to make it look pretty decent.

More Progress on the laugh. I figured a way to make it easier on myself and arrange the lettering in groups and manipulate them in sections.

Panel 1 page 5 I was a bit more lax and I stuck with simply using a Warp filter to the text.

Did some more work on some other panels. For the gross sound effect, I used Torn Asunder from Blambot again!

I didn’t plan enough for sound effects but I think it will help to have them. I’m using the Damn Noisy Kids font from Blambot.

I’m very close to the wrap up phase of lettering. I first started to use the Newsflash font from Blambot for my tittle and endings but I still didn’t feel it was right.

But then, I looked up GameStop’s logo and learned something hilarious and pitiful. GameStop uses the Impact font, a terrible free font that’s in most computers and terrible image memes.

Now to start wrapping things up. I first unlock full of my usable layers, making sure Overprint stroke is checked on all of my balloons, and I Select all of the letter stuff in the panel.

I go to Object>Rasterize and Set it to the High Print Res that I have.

This will make it easier to export the text back to Manga Studio or Photoshop as a transparent layer you can overlay on top. I do this for all of my pages.

I did a bit of last minute stuff to add a new reaction bubble for page 2 of panel 1

Now it’s time to export my stuff from Illustrator. The original digital file is at 600 dpi because it’s easier to shrink than to expand them. So I save to 72 dpi.

So I export it as a transparent PNG so it will fit in the pages with the screen tones that I’m still working on.

After importing all of my lettering, I get started using my Layer masks techniques to clean up the text so it falls behind the monster on page 5.

I fiddle about with my Lasso, Magic Wand, and Hard Brush to work with my mask.

The lettering is now behind the monster as I need it to be.

So I do this for the the other pages in the comic fiddling with other lettering areas.

I’m not liking how straight one panel looks so I curve it down a bit.

One sound effect kinda blends in to the line art so I did a bit of toning work to get it to pop out more.

I think I’m pretty much finished with the lettering now, I’m 90% finished with this story! But I’m still missing a cover…

Author: mastafran42

I'm a freelance cartoonist who has been going at it for several years at this point. I mostly draw cartoons, and comics, so if you need something funny, cool, or expertly done art, I have what you need. If you have any questions, job offers, comments, concerns, complains, or simply wish to say hi, message me!

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