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adityab
09-14-2013, 09:24 AM
I do a lot of stylesheet exercises for later use in books. I try to take inspiration from different places, like Eurocomics, lots of old hand-lettered comics etc. and add bits of my own. Yesterday I was reading the excellent Vertigo series Skreemer, lettered by Tom Frame, and I loved what he was doing in it, so, for a laugh, I made this:

http://i.imgur.com/NZ4BUl6.jpg

Now usually, when I create a stylesheet and actually feel like using it, there's a whole lot of me in there. By the time I've ended up with something usable, it barely looks like the original(s) anymore. So firmly on the side of inspiration. And even when I steal specific elements that I like (such as Costanza and Klein's tendency to centre-align the last line of a left-aligned caption), I make sure to avoid 'signature' elements, like, let's say, Workman's balloons, or Klein's burst balloons etc.

But what we have here is very recognisably an imitation of Frame's style. So of course, I have misigivings about actually using it somewhere.

I don't much care about actually getting to use this. This was an half-hour exercise which was fun to do, and gave me stuff to think about, which is enough for me.

But I'd like to hear what people think. Is it okay to imitate someone's style to this extent? Looking at lettering as an art, is there space for pastiche of a letterer and not just an era? Or is this firmly imitation/plagiarism, and hence should be avoided?

And how about when you're creating a font? Lots of people create fonts to evoke an era. But how about evoking a particular letterer? Asking this because I think it might be a fun discussion, especially now that digital lettering actually lets us play with styles to such an extent.

JimCampbell
09-14-2013, 10:39 AM
But I'd like to hear what people think. Is it okay to imitate someone's style to this extent? Looking at lettering as an art, is there space for pastiche of a letterer and not just an era? Or is this firmly imitation/plagiarism, and hence should be avoided?

I'm glad I'm not the only person who's noticed the similarity between CCMarianChurchland and Tom Frame's lettering!

This is an excellent approximation of Tom's work, BTW. Tom is largely unfamiliar to US audiences but he lettered an enormous quantity of British comics, including the vast majority of Judge Dredd strips from the character's earliest adventures until Tom's death in 2006.

I use an approximation of Tom's lettering (nowhere near as good as this) on a couple of 2000AD-inspired small press titles I letter for in the UK if the letterer isn't working any more and the style is appropriate for the material, I don't see any harm in it, TBH.

Cheers

Jim

Scribbly
09-14-2013, 11:20 AM
I'm glad I can letter as cool as Joe Kubert did just by buying his font.
Or the legendary Dave Gibbons.

The good thing is that we not even need to really do the lettering,
it's all about copy and paste.

In the former analogue era, all the lettering would be drawn in pencil, typo by typo,
over guides made with the Ames ruler, inking with rapidographs pens.

Nowadays, in the digital era, this is not imitation/plagiarism. I just paid for having the font.
It become a common practice.
Having the author permission wouldn't be nothing wrong on doing it.

JimCampbell
09-14-2013, 12:44 PM
The good thing is that we not even need to really do the lettering,
it's all about copy and paste.

Seriously, Scribbly: why do you do this? Your entire purpose coming on here seems to be bad-mouthing letterers and implying that there's no skill to what we do.

Computer lettering is a completely different skill to hand-lettering and, in many respects, it is easier but if there was no skill to it all, there wouldn't be any bad lettering, would there?

As to copying the style of an existing letterer? Artists copy other artists they admire; they learn from doing so and they improve their own work. I would never copy for example *John Workman's style wholesale because John is still working and I would worry that I was taking work from him. Tom has been dead for seven years, so I don't think that applies.

Cheers

Jim

JimCampbell
09-14-2013, 12:46 PM
BTW, Adityab — there looks to be a very slightly variable stroke weight on those balloons that I absolutely love. Do you mind me asking how you do that?

Cheers

Jim

adityab
09-14-2013, 12:55 PM
I use an approximation of Tom's lettering (nowhere near as good as this) on a couple of 2000AD-inspired small press titles I letter for in the UK if the letterer isn't working any more and the style is appropriate for the material, I don't see any harm in it, TBH.

Thanks, Jim! It was fun trying to figure out which of his tics were stylistic choices and which were a result of limitations of hand-lettering (i.e. non-redoability).

I think you've got an excellent point re: working letterers, which bears thinking about.

The good thing is that we not even need to really do the lettering, it's all about copy and paste.

I was wary about responding to this until Jim stepped in. All I'll add to what he said: If you look at the image I posted above, you'd notice that I'm approximating a lot of what Tom Frame did, except for the typeface, which is CC's Marian Churchland. So obviously there's more to what a letterer does than the font.

adityab
09-14-2013, 01:00 PM
BTW, Adityab there looks to be a very slightly variable stroke weight on those balloons that I absolutely love. Do you mind me asking how you do that?

That's actually embarrassingly simple. It's not a variable weight, but a 53% round brush with an angle applied after the fact, so it LOOKS like a variable weight. [In my defense, there are projects where I actually use variable weight brushes and actually sit and draw out the balloons one by one. So I think it balances out. :har: ]

JimCampbell
09-14-2013, 01:25 PM
That's actually embarrassingly simple. It's not a variable weight, but a 53% round brush with an angle applied after the fact, so it LOOKS like a variable weight.

Wow. That's remarkably effective. Great stuff.

Cheers

Jim

lordmagnusen
09-14-2013, 10:08 PM
I should use that brush trick...

Scribbly
09-15-2013, 03:39 AM
But what we have here is very recognisably an imitation of Frame's style. So of course, I have misigivings about actually using it somewhere.

I don't much care about actually getting to use this. This was an half-hour exercise which was fun to do, and gave me stuff to think about, which is enough for me.

But I'd like to hear what people think. Is it okay to imitate someone's style to this extent? Looking at lettering as an art, is there space for pastiche of a letterer and not just an era? Or is this firmly imitation/plagiarism, and hence should be avoided?

And how about when you're creating a font? Lots of people create fonts to evoke an era. But how about evoking a particular letterer? Asking this because I think it might be a fun discussion, especially now that digital lettering actually lets us play with styles to such an extent.


I was wary about responding to this until Jim stepped in. All I'll add to what he said: If you look at the image I posted above, you'd notice that I'm approximating a lot of what Tom Frame did, except for the typeface, which is CC's Marian Churchland. So obviously there's more to what a letterer does than the font.


You did an imitation adaptation of other guy lettering. You did it for practice, not for commercial
purpose. Ok. Nothing wrong with it. To avoid it? Why? You were just practicing.
You went the extra mile recreating and existing font and making modifications on it by yourself.
What is your concern? The original author reaction?
The audience reaction? To be tilted of plagiarist?
Do you want to hear what people may think of it?
I already gave you my opinion.

Do you want use these letters you got for commercial purpose?
Having permission from the original letterer who designed these typos
this wouldn't be a problem.

Do you want to do art in lettering? Then, at least you should learn calligraphy or design
and create your own design for font.
The one that would express your personality and aesthetics in each typo and in each paragraph..


As I said before, nowadays, in the digital era, using other's people fonts designs is a common place and procedure.
It is no longer seen as plagiarism.
Personally, I can make use of any style from any designer letterer as long I can pay for it and I have
granted license of the authors.

I don't know how do you guys do your lettering.

My experience, is that I select a font designed by someone's else,
Kubert, Gibbons, silver age, Hush Hush, etc. you name it.
Then I go to the script, I select one full paragraph , (I don't even need to type the letters)
I would do copy of the text and paste it in the area of the panel I want to place the letters.
The letters would adjust to the size of the balloon or I'll make the balloon adjust to the size of the letters.
Whichever is more convenient.
With the SFX I would so something similar, dedicating some extra time on customizing it.
Using three or four variables for SFX I and balloons I have pre-settled. Way to go.

What artistic skills I need to use for doing so? Common sense and basics of artistic composition.
Basic vector's software knowledge.
I don't even need to have good calligraphy.

Before digital, I use to do all the traditional lettering straight in the panels, using the Ames guide
blue pencil and rotring or grapidographs pens for inking. And a lot of practice, patience and dedication.
Drawing letter by letter. Inking letter by letter. That was craft. That was calligraphy. That was technique.

Do I currently design the fonts I use? No I don't. Do I draw or I type the letters? No I don't.
Do I consider myself a comic's lettterer? (which for me is the one who designs the font and draw the
letters in the page) No. But I do the lettering on my pages.

Who is the actual comic's letterist creator when I'm using the Joe Kubert font?
Joe Kubert. Not me. IMHO.

I just do the copy of text from the script and I paste it in the panel and the actual
lettering gets almost magically done in form and with HIS style.
In a 10% of the time of what analogue lettering would take me to get done.
Simply amazing.

How you guys do your lettering? I have no idea.
I no idea either of why somebody would take here offense of my opinion.

Good luck with your future font's design.

Jeff LeBlanc
09-15-2013, 11:29 PM
Scribbly, please stop. You clearly have *no idea* what you're talking about. Your "it's just cut and paste" argument is as offensive and troll-ish as calling an inker a mere tracer.

Let me repeat that. You. Have. No. Idea.

Clearly you think the letterer is a monkey with a keyboard. If you would bother to look over the practice pages that amateurs post here, it should become clear to you that it takes more than a font and the ability to use the oval tool to turn in a professional looking page. That's not a slight on the amateurs. It's very hard to make it look effortless.

You might use Joe Kubert's font, but that alone will not make you even one tenth of the letterer that he was. Not even close.

The letterer is a storyteller, too. As a letterer, you must:

-maintain the balance of the composition of each panel without obstructing the art

-help to guide the reader through the page, making the flow from balloon-to-balloon and panel-to-panel as clear and simple as possible

-understand how to stack lines of text into pleasing ovals, knowing which words should stay together and which should fall on the next line to offer the clearest, most effective reading.

-know how to make a pleasing balloon shape. (Note: if you are just using what the oval tool gives you, you're probably not doing this right.)

-know how to control rhythm and pacing with balloon size, shape, placement, and grouping, and when to break certain phrases out into their own balloons for emphasis.

-know how to express emotion, tone, emphasis, volume, onomatopoeia, and action through balloon shapes and letter-forms

-know how to suggest period detail through letter-form and design

-know something of the art of logos and and signage and layout and graphic design for titles, background elements, closeups of newspapers, magazines, storefronts, etc.

-know how to suggest the staging of the characters in the space of the page, especially when the artwork does not make that clear or when characters are off-panel

-know how to do all of this in the service of story and the art with (usually) as little ostentation as necessary

-know when to tone it down and keep your page from looking like a ransom note with a different font and balloon style for every second character

-know how to accomplish all the above (and much, much more) when the penciller has not left you enough room for your text, or has placed the first speaker in the panel on the right instead of the left, or any number of other problems that are now yours to fix.

In short, Scribbly: You have no idea. Go post on a dentist forum about how you pull your teeth out with a shot of vodka and a pair of pliers. Tell them what a fuss they're making over nothing.

lordmagnusen
09-16-2013, 12:02 AM
What Jeff said. Two times over. In bold.

Scribbly
09-16-2013, 05:35 AM
Scribbly, please stop. You clearly have *no idea* what you're talking about. Your "it's just cut and paste" argument is as offensive and troll-ish as calling an inker a mere tracer.

Let me repeat that. You. Have. No. Idea.

Clearly you think the letterer is a monkey with a keyboard. If you would bother to look over the practice pages that amateurs post here, it should become clear to you that it takes more than a font and the ability to use the oval tool to turn in a professional looking page. That's not a slight on the amateurs. It's very hard to make it look effortless.

You might use Joe Kubert's font, but that alone will not make you even one tenth of the letterer that he was. Not even close.

The letterer is a storyteller, too. As a letterer, you must:........etc..

In short, Scribbly: You have no idea. Go post on a dentist forum about how you pull your teeth out with a shot of vodka and a pair of pliers. Tell them what a fuss they're making over nothing.

Jeff LeBlank,
Totally understood. I'm not denying the work implied on doing lettering, I never did. I never will.
Everything is a job by itself. I been there.
And lettering is a labor of huge patience, constancy and dedication.
And yes, comics letterists are indeed storytellers. Who's denying that?

All these "know how" points you did refer above can be solved by using 2 tools,
1) artistic common sense
2) knowledge of composition.
You can learn how to use these tools by studying graphic design.

I did start my career in advertisement doing lettering and design for magazines and commercials
way before digital era.
After that, working on studio system for comics , my first assignations were lettering
and inking ( traditional style) for pro artists in the studio. I did work feverishly on it.
Eventually, I did become a professional artist myself. Able of ink and letter my own stuff.

Nowadays I can work all digital on my Cintiq.
So, I know what I am talking.
And yes, I have idea. Mind you.
And I perfectly know the differences between analogue and digital systems for lettering.

As letterist in analogue, I didn't design the Helvetica, but I used it thousand times
back in the days of real cut and paste with glue.
Today, in digital, I can use Hevetica by selecting text, copy and paste with the click of a button.

Nobody in Advertisement would feel outraged by me saying that.

Back in the day, comics lettering was the sacred place reserved only by the skilled ones.
Those few guys with graceful calligraphy, own style and lot of graphic design skills.

Today, yes, everybody, even a monkey with a keyboard can do comics lettering.
The difference is that monkeys do not study design and composition, therefore their results
hardly would turn into a professional looking page.

Saying that, my humble advice for all the amateurs interested on comics lettering would be this,
before going on buying fonts and software and start banging pages, as only
way for learn comics lettering.
Before that, go and study graphic design and composition.
Having this knowledge and basic use of vector software your pages and efforts will certainly look professional.

Thomas Mauer
09-16-2013, 07:09 AM
This thread turned from "nice work, adityab!" to a Monty Python sketch fast.

Anyway, nice work, adityab!

adityab
09-16-2013, 11:04 AM
Thanks, Thomas! And Jim, lordmagnusen, glad you guys like the brush trick. It was fun to discover.

It's a pity that the thread devolved, but Jeff's post is a pretty good list of things to keep in mind when you're lettering, especially for people who are starting out. I remember, a few months into my foray into lettering, I literally slapped my forehead when I read that balloon tails should look like they're emerging from the centre of the balloon. Obvious point, but something I just hadn't considered. Over time, of course, these things become learned reflexes and one no longer has to think about them. But for people still on the starting line, this is a good list to print out and paste on the wall.

And of course, I'd still love to hear from the veterans, who have straddled both the hand-lettering and digital eras, and from people who design lettering fonts, on what they think about this kind of inspiration.

Jeff LeBlanc
09-16-2013, 01:51 PM
Sorry for riding that derail all the way to the outskirts, adityab. Very nice work on the stylesheet, by the way (which is what I meant to say when I first read your post).

eDuke
09-16-2013, 03:20 PM
I no idea either of why somebody would take here offense of my opinion.

Because it's belittling?

Scribbly
09-16-2013, 04:53 PM
Because it's belittling?


I'm sorry, I didn't know I was doing any kind belittling with my opinions.
My apologies for that.
I was just trying to be honest with what I know and see.

I saw Adytyab did a nice stylesheet exercises modifying a given font, which is far beyond of
what anyone else usually would do for a regular lettering practice and then he was concerned with the idea
he may be would be doing plagiarism by using it.

Thought that having the original designer's permission or license for using it he wouldn't have any problem.
Instead modifying and existent font he could go straight on buying and using it.
In the same way, I can use any purchased comic's font with license of the designers and use it for my lettering.
As I believe, everybody does.

After that, everybody was jumping over me. Putting words and assumptions on my mouth.
What? Was the way on what I was expressing the concept what sounded I was belittling comic's
lettering or letterists?

I sincerely apologize because it wasn't my intended meaning at all. At all.

eDuke
09-16-2013, 05:55 PM
What? Was the way on what I was expressing the concept what sounded I was belittling comic's lettering or letterists?

It was the "The good thing is that we not even need to really do the lettering,
it's all about copy and paste." comment you posted. But the more I read into your messages, I think you mistake lettering to be just placing fonts on a page. The original example wasn't just about font style, it was everything; the balloon shapes, the layout, the line shapes, etc. That's lettering.

But, it's all good. No ill-will. Just wanted you to see how sometimes what's posted can really go in the opposite direction it was intended.

Scribbly
09-21-2013, 08:39 AM
It was the "The good thing is that we not even need to really do the lettering,
it's all about copy and paste." comment you posted. But the more I read into your messages, I think you mistake lettering to be just placing fonts on a page. The original example wasn't just about font style, it was everything; the balloon shapes, the layout, the line shapes, etc. That's lettering.

But, it's all good. No ill-will. Just wanted you to see how sometimes what's posted can really go in the opposite direction it was intended.

Yes, I can see it now. I'm sorry by the confusion of the terms.

I was using the word "lettering" as the specific act of "drawing the letters" in the page.
In opposition to the expression "comics lettering" which is indeed everything: the placement of text,
the making of balloons, the SFX, etc.

The comic's letterist was a "calligraphy artist" able of drawing the letters in a page by hand.
These calligraphic skills is what make them outstay over their peers, gaining the praise of the audience.

Working digital, the specific "drawing of letters" in the page is an activity not longer needed.
We replaced it by using Fonts made by the features of those "old school" professional letterists.

All that become an automated function executed by selecting the paragraph of text in the script
and copy and paste it in the desired place in the panel.
Balloons and SFX can be saved and reused as well.

The calligraphic skills are not longer a limitation for becoming a comic's letterist.



Back to thread, Adityab's ethical dilemma after doing his digital exercise was,

It is OK to be using someone else lettering?
Or this will be considered plagiarism? Is it okay to imitate someone's style to this extent?
Looking at lettering as an art, is there space for pastiche of a letterer and not just an era?
Or is this firmly imitation/plagiarism, and hence should be avoided?

And how about when you're creating a font? Lots of people create fonts to evoke an era. But how about evoking a particular letterer? Asking this because I think it might be a fun discussion, especially now that digital lettering actually lets us play with styles to such an extent.

If we can use fonts created after any famous comic's letterist for doing our comic's lettering,
we may assume that it is all OK.

Thanks.