Digital Comic Book Lettering

Make your life easier with digital comics and check out Manga Studio!
Make your life easier with digital comics and check out Manga Studio! | Source
Letters I made with Illustrator for Arrow Publications tryout page.
Letters I made with Illustrator for Arrow Publications tryout page. | Source
Letters for Flashback Universe, My favorite comic blog about everything comics.
Letters for Flashback Universe, My favorite comic blog about everything comics. | Source

The Dawn of a New Age...

When I finally caughed up the big bucks for Adobe CS2 back in 2003 I started down the path of becoming the universal comic artist.

Until that time I was a newcomer and had been just inking comic pages and manually lettering. While I love the smell of ink and black fingers, this computer stuff massively enhanced what I could do with comics and in a quarter of the time. I could not only letter, I could color and prepress books for any projects I was working on.

Inking was still easier on the board, but that changed later in 2009 when I found Manga Studio. Now I'm using both Adobe Illustrator CS5 and Manga Studio EX for lettering.

I've transitioned out of using Adobe CS5 to Manga Studio because it is all encompasing in the same drawing file and specifically designed for the comic book artist.

There is no transition or linking from Photoshop to Illustrator to Indesign. Not to mention you can get Manga Studio for $50-100. And Manga Studio is made specifically for making comic book artwork from start to finish. I'm sure there are other programs out there to use for comic lettering, I just haven't found the need to use anything else.

***Diversion to tell you about my revelation with Manga Studio digital comic making***

Let me explain a bit behind why I now use Manga Studio over the much more powerful Adobe CS5 for all of my comic book functions. The hassle...

1- I can probably ink with Photoshop with a bit more effort, but that would be tedious and more research than I care to invest. Not to mention that Photoshop does not allow easy page rotation or flipping for easier sweet arc inking. Inking arcs are better in a single direction for most artists (right arc for righties, left arc for lefties) and mirroring allows the same smooth arc in your "crabby" offhand arc direction.

2 - Switch, Switch, open, open. Once I finish inking in Photoshop or preferably Corel Painter then I would link the file into a separate Illustrator file to do the lettering. Then I would create bubbles and tails for each panel. And then I would link that file into InDesign so that I can output to a suitable print format for the printer or digital media. This is far too much opening and closing of different programs and keeping several mondo programs open to slow your computer down. The Adobe Bridge is nice, but not nearly as seamless and effortless as the Manga Studio book format.

3 - Coloring would be somewhere in between inking and lettering and usually I'd have to update the file and hope that the colorist (if it wasn't me) used the same size file as the inker. If not then morph it into shape to get the letters to fit. In Manga Studio the same file format can be shared amongst penciler, inker, colorist and letterer

4 - With Manga Studio, once the page is done then you do not have to assemble it into a book via linked pages for a layout program like InDesign. You can output either a single printable pdf file or individual files in the format of your choosing.

5 - Photoshop does not have halftone dots... Manga Studio has an endless palette of halftone dot patterns or whatever you may want. No need for Rip software here.

Concession... The coloring capabilities in Manga Studio are limited in comparison with Photoshop and Painter. So when I'm only coloring for a client I use Photoshop or Painter.

Clarification... I have not abandoned Adobe Products, it is just far easier for a multi-disciplined comic artist to function with Manga Studio. If I were just doing lettering or coloring and getting a REAL page rate, I may have a different opinion.

Diversion complete...

The Digital Lettering Process

1 - If you are receiving scanned files from another artist, make sure that they are at least 300 dpi resolution in whatever format works best with your software. With Illustrator you can use .jpg, psd, open pdf or whatever. Manga Studio the same, but jpg works best. Preferrably you will be lettering after the Pencilling, Inking and Coloring are complete. Get the script from the writer in MS Word or whatever digitally if possible. This allows you to copy/paste text directly from the script. Email, Word file, whatever works. Then you can't be held accountable for spelling errors from re-typing. Not to mention saving typing time.

2 - If needed you can rule the panels to clean up the edges. If working in Manga studio, this is done with the panel making tool. If in Illustrator, you will draw rectangles or shapes with the appropriate stroke size. If working on a continuing anthology be sure to look at previous publications to match the stroke and style of the previous Letterer.

3 - Copy text into the bubbles and captions and format letters. Select and size font, justify and adjust letter spacing. Pick rough placement of the text. Allow plenty of white space. A common newbe thing to do is crowd the bubble strokes. You have the ability once the letters are placed to change the kerning and letting of each character. It is perfectly OK to narrow or widen letters within around 20% of the standard character size without being noticeable to the reader. And while I know the new standard is to not place double spacing after punctuation, it is much easier to read punctuation breaks with a double space, especially with all uppercase letters.

In Manga Studio you do not need to place characters and bubbles separately because text is inserted with the caption or bubble type.

4 - Draw caption box or bubble to fit text. Add bubble tails with your style of curve (short, long, fat, skinny). With Illustrator I would place the bubble with the proper stroke then draw the tails and merge the bubble and tail with the pathfinder merge tool. Steps 3 & 4 would be done in one step with Manga Studio because the text and bubble are placed at the same time and linked together. Just place text and grab grips to size then pick 3 points for tail and choose tail width. Takes about 1/2 the time or less than Illustrator, a huge time saver.

5 - Once the page is complete, export file to send to publisher. Ask for file format when you get artwork to begin with. If you are in Illustrator then you'll open another new file and repeat the process. If in Manga Studio, you'll just go to the next story page within the same story file.

For some more tips on general lettering check out my Comic Book Lettering Hub HERE!

***************THIS HUB UNDER CONSTRUCTION, THIS IS A PREVIEW*********************

Your Friend and Fan,

Mike Rickaby
CE Publishing Group

© 2012 Comic Enterprise Publishing Group


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