View Full Version : Learning to Letter Comics please help

10-31-2014, 05:52 PM
Hey, I'm an aspiring comic artist. I can pencil, ink and color (to a degree) and I need to learn how to letter. I'm working on publishing my comic and I can't afford a letterer at this time so I'm trying to learn how to do it myself. I am using Adobe Illustrator and I suck at SFX but I'd like some input on my letters. http://fc04.deviantart.net/fs71/i/2014/304/3/8/pg_13_lettersjpeg_by_wielder-d84sjaa.jpg

Stewart Vernon
10-31-2014, 07:01 PM
One thing you'll want to avoid, I would think, is having your letters overrun OR get too close to your word balloons.

I admit, I tempt fate with my own comic strips running to the borders of my panels (I'm not using word balloons)... but I'm only publishing on my blog right now. I would definitely have to clean mine up before going to print because it is likely your letters and balloons will run together more once you're dealing with ink on paper.

10-31-2014, 08:09 PM
Wow, very good point. I will definitely be aware of that in the future. Thank you.

Stewart Vernon
10-31-2014, 09:04 PM
No problem... I should also have noted, the "BLAMMM" sound effect, is hard to read. I am 95% sure it says "BLAMMM" given its placement and what is going on in the panel... but the "A" is almost indistinguishable from the "M"s at that size.

Also, the technical part of me felt compelled to note that the actual "BLAMMM" would come from where the gun is located, whereas the sound effect at the guy-being-shot is likely to be more of a "SPLORT" or whatever sound you think the bullet going through the arm might make.

Lastly... the "KUWAIT CITY 0400 HOURS" text isn't easy on the eyes either. I can get going for a different look for those letters, but maybe another font choice might be better.

paul brian deberry
10-31-2014, 10:51 PM
You did all right.... just need some more hands on practice.

panel one... the balloons are good. The tail for the first balloon is good. second tail kinda lost the shape of the first one. Don't be afraid to copy and paste tails and balloons. Nothing wrong with it and can speed things up. The text stack is okay, but you want at least letter space between the last letter in the sentence and the balloon.

panel two... ugh. You almost never want dialogue balloons from different speakers touching. Besides you had plenty of room to the right of the panel. I would have taken a balloon from panel one and dropped the balloon right over the first speakers head. The second balloon is okay, but with a different placement you could have moved the balloon more to the right. Giving the illusion of the panel having more open space. Then you have the tails... yes you want your tails to close to the speakers mouth, but no you do not want them that big or where you placed them. Smaller tails would have worked fine.


You wanna try to get ever text stack to fit into a beer cap.

Keep lettering. Read a few more comic books and study how they letter and check out blambot.com

11-01-2014, 12:20 AM
Thanks a lot for your feedback. This is gold, I'll keep at it and I will study some current comic book letters.

11-01-2014, 12:40 PM
As noted above -- you should aim to have your text fit in a diamond shape within the balloon. And the tail should lead to the character's mouth on one end, and look like it leads to the middle of the balloon on the other.

Some great letterers have posted tutorials and tips:
http://blambot.com/ (look at "Articles")

There are some specific rules to comic book lettering that these will help with.

In the larger sense, remember that the text should be "invisible" -- if it calls attention to itself, it's unsuccessful. Try to keep balloons close enough to characters that the reader doesn't have to trace tails around a panel. And think about, if you removed all the art and tails, would the text still read in the correct sequence left to right, top to bottom?

11-02-2014, 08:37 AM
I'm studying balloontales right know. Great stuff, thanks for the tip. Does anyone know where I can find a tutorial comic covers btw?

11-02-2014, 11:52 AM
Does anyone know where I can find a tutorial comic covers btw?

Id say that would go into the realm of Graphic Design. Id look up general articles about what makes a successful logo (even non-comic stuff like Coca Cola), and possibly some typography. Understanding why elements like words and art are arranged in a certain way are just as important as understanding how to create them.

11-02-2014, 12:28 PM
I see, I'll do that. It will surely give me a better scope on using software for comics and in general.

11-02-2014, 12:41 PM
Can't believe I left Todd Klein out of the list above -- though he doesn't really have a lot of how-tos, there's one that talks about logos: http://www.kleinletters.com/LogoBasics.html. Worth poking around the site for his other essays.

He also has an ongoing series showing originals of comic logos at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Todd-Klein-artist/216005401754256?sk=photos_stream&tab=photos_albums

Yes, study logos in general. When you're doing a comic, think in terms of it being seen as a thumbnail -- that's not just how it will often appear, but it also kind of simulates the effect of being on a busy rack or table.

11-03-2014, 04:20 AM
I have a series of illustrated walkthroughs for all the major elements of the lettering process using Illustrator on my blog:

1: Preparing Your Script (http://clintflickerlettering.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/lettering-in-adobe-illustrator-one.html)

2: Setting Up Your Documents (http://clintflickerlettering.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/lettering-in-adobe-illustrator-two.html)

3: Setting Type (http://clintflickerlettering.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/lettering-in-adobe-illustrator-three.html)

4: Basic Balloons and Captions (http://clintflickerlettering.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/lettering-in-adobe-illustrator-four.html)

5: Non-standard Balloons (http://clintflickerlettering.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/lettering-in-adobe-illustrator-five.html)

6: Sound Effects (http://clintflickerlettering.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/lettering-in-adobe-illustrator-six.html)

This article (http://www.blambot.com/grammar.shtml) by Blambot's Nate Piekos is a very handy overview of the major dos and don'ts.



11-03-2014, 04:42 AM
A couple of things… firstly, your page is an odd size. No problem if your intention is web/tablet/phone publishing, but a definite problem if you plan to print your comics.

Secondly, I'd echo everything that's been said about making your text into attractively shaped blocks. Never underestimate the usefulness of butting your balloons to the panel borders as a means of using space more effectively when the layouts are tight for space.




11-03-2014, 02:15 PM
Thanks Jim there's a lot of knowhow on your links but I'm most concerned on your comment of my sizing for print. I've seen the artist format for lettering but I didn't quite understand whether or not I was to use a ruler and draw my comic within the given margins or If I was to scan it as is and edit on the computer. Is it too late for me to fix my poorly sized pages?. I don't have any immediate plans on printing but I would appreciate the option.

11-04-2014, 02:40 AM
Is it too late for me to fix my poorly sized pages?. I don't have any immediate plans on printing but I would appreciate the option.

Once again, I'd refer you Blambot, and this excellent article (http://www.blambot.com/ruleyourown.shtml) which gives you both the 'artwork' size for drawing a comic page, and the reduced size for final print.

The re-lettered example I posted above is laid up on my standard US-sized lettering templates, and you'll notice that there's a LOT of white space at the top and bottom. It's possible you could chop the pages up into individual panels in Photoshop and re-arrange them on a correctly sized Photoshop document to fill the space better…



11-04-2014, 12:10 PM
Wow that is a lot. I though I was further along in the aspiring artist thing, but to not know something like page sizes that seems like it should be commonplace sets me aback. I think I can fix it though, I'll try to find a template online, if I can't I think I can make one.

11-04-2014, 05:36 PM
I drew out a live area that is 6" by 9.562" (roughly). Using Powerpoint and photo editor I attempted to clean up the dimensions of my page to be print friendly. If my methods are sound, or if I'm onto something then I can clean up my pages. Let me know If this can work or if I need to find another method. Thanks

11-05-2014, 07:28 AM
Heya Red! Good to see you're active as ever. I've been damn busy. I'm not a good multi-tasker, methinks. :har:

I'm going off-topic for a second here, mainly because I don't really "get" comic lettering so I don't feel right offering advice beyond what the others have already given. But this is the latest thread I've seen you create, and I wanted to throw a word of caution:

It's awesome that you're getting into all aspects of comic book creation. Pencils, inking, colouring, letters... you're trying them all, and actively trying to improve. You've got a lot of drive, and you'll need to hold onto that to make it in the comics industry (or, er, ANY creative industry, to be honest). The thing that concerns me is that you might be spreading yourself too thin. If you're constantly jumping from one skill to another, you won't give yourself enough focused time and practice to get really good at those skills. Rather than just being one of the best damn pencillers out there, you risk becoming a guy who's just kinda okay at all things comic-creation.
Don't get me wrong, it's entirely possible that with your drive, you'll become a kickass One Man Act, but I wanted to throw the caution out there nevertheless.

I can kinda draw, and I can kinda colour. But I'm sticking strictly to writing. Why? Because writing comes a lot easier to me than the other tasks. I enjoy writing more. I get frustrated often, but nothing like how I get frustrated with my drawings.
I recommend finding that one skill that you really enjoy the most right now, and focus on that. You don't have to marry that skill for the rest of your life, just work on it long enough to reach a professional level (i.e. the point where clients are consistently paying you industry rates- or better- for your work). At least, that's where I personally got the most fulfillment from my creative pursuits.

Of course, you're more than welcome to completely ignore me. I could be talkin out my ass. :har: I just wanted to drop my personal recommendation, for whatever it's worth.

Keep up all the hard work, dude!

11-05-2014, 08:55 AM
Thanks Alyssa I believe you're right. However I hope to put a book out in the next year and won't be able to afford a creative team so I was hoping I could get by alone until hiring one became possible, but I am starting to neglect my pencils. One benefit that I've noticed is that: Clean pencils and inks make flatting/coloring easier, and drawing/scanning and image the correct size makes lettering/printing easier. I 'do' have two how to draw vehicles books in the mail so my mind is still on pencils, I just need to pick one up now. Thanks for the advice.

Duane Korslund
11-05-2014, 09:16 AM
Of course, you're more than welcome to completely ignore me. I could be talkin out my ass. :har: I just wanted to drop my personal recommendation, for whatever it's worth.

From what I've seen of you on the forums your ass talk tends to lead to much wisdom. So I say "Speak from thy ass with furious abandon!"


11-05-2014, 09:33 AM
I found a template on rinkprinting.com with these dimensions:
Standard Comic Size
Final Trim Size: 6 5/8 x 10 1/4
Outside Yellow Edge (6.625 x 10.25)
Bleed Size: 6 7/8 x 10 1/2
Outside Red Edge (6.875 x 10.5)

I pasted my page over this template on Photoshop. My image is in the live area but the image is slightly blurred. Easily rectified seeing as it hasn't been inked yet. If I don't have it now I may have to invest in a comic art board.


Comics Commando
11-11-2014, 12:32 AM
I'm chiming in a tad late on this one, but here's a guide I made that explains comic art size in quite a bit of detail.

I letter lots of comics every year and improper dimensions is the number 1 problem I encounter. Even supposed pros screw it up a lot.

Get it here:


Kurt Hathaway
Cartoon Balloons Studio
Lettering • Logos • Pre-Press • Graphic Design • Video
for Print or Web • Entertainment, Advertising or Education!


11-11-2014, 10:07 AM
Never too late, although I must add that the link you have given
doesn't work.

11-11-2014, 10:34 AM
Never too late, although I must add that the link you have given
doesn't work.

It's the asterisk. Try clicking here. (http://www.mediafire.com/view/?s6t89dp9mgl8b1p)



11-11-2014, 11:31 AM
Asterisk was the problem, thanks.