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Computer Lettering for Comic Books: A Primer
by Sean Glumace

Ok....I never do my lettering in Photoshop. I would suggest you stay away from this practice just because it looks bad when it is printed and that its a pain when you want to correct something. I would suggest you use Adobe Illustrator (or Macromedia Free hand) to letter. I've been lettering for a number of years now and here's a quick how to do it primer (note: I only work on the MAC and Silicon Graphics systems, but I think that this will apply to IBM as well):

1) take your final image (tiff file or such) from Photoshop and place it in an illustrator template that you make with your guides (usually 6.75 x 10.5 but that may vary) on a layer by itself. You may also want to streamline your artwork if it's simple, this is when you take a bitmapped image and convert it to a vector based image. I prefer this because the final output of the page is in EPS format and it is only one "package" instead of two files when I put it together in quark.

2) Create another layer on top. This is where you will be placing the lettering. I also suggest that you use postscript fonts. ComicCraft Fonts and Wizbang all come in postscript. I suggest this because larger image setters (which will be used to produce film off of your disk) sometimes have problems with TrueType fonts and you may have problems with the lettering. But if you don't have a postscript printer at home or only have a jet ink and will be producing production pages for output at home, True type will work just fine. I usually use 7-8 text with no stroke weight when lettering, but that may vary as well.

3) As you start to letter I like to have the script written out in a Microsoft Word or ClarisWorks file. This protects me from doing creative "editing" when typing in a script from a hardcopy, plus it speeds things up because all I have to do is cut and paste.

4) Now to the word balloons.... First I lay down the script and by eye I try to shape it into an oval or round shape. This may take some practice to do, but you will get the hang of it. Then I take the oval tool in illustrator and draw the bubble around the text with a white fill, I do this fill because if you didn't you would have the art work showing through. I try to give an ample amount of space around the text the outside line. I also use all 1 pt. stroke weights on the bubbles (but this may vary as well). Now you are ready to do the monkey tails (or balloon tails).

5) Monkey tails.... This is where it gets tricky the first few times out. Use the pen tool to create a point where you want the tail to start. Then create another point where you want the tail to end in a point, then hold down the option key and click on that point, this will redirect the vector handle and you will get a sharp point. Then create the last point back inside the bubble where you want the tail to end. You know have a custom Monkey Tail! But it looks ugly with it sticking up into the word bubble, not a problem, under filters in illustrator select pathfinder then unite and they will become one, also your text may "disappear at this point, but don't worry just send the balloon to the back (apple key + minus key) and you'll be in business.

5) As you letter in illustrator you will find that when you need special effects (like POW or BANG) the filters and comercial plug ins like KTP Vector effects and such will come in handy. Plus with illustrator you can just make corrections by retyping or moving a bubble from place to place....something that lettering Photoshop just cant do (well maybe but it wouldn't be no fun!).

6) The last steps...first when you are done with the page delete the layer with the TIFF or image file in it... you now have just the text on a blank page. Save it as an EPS file... this is very important...if you don't things may not work correctly! I also try to name files accordnaly...like. page01.eps... this helps out later. ANd remember to save your TIFF or image files the same! EX: page01.tif. I use the IBM naming system just incase I have to open these up on an IBM or if the printer only has IBM.

7) then it is on to QuarkXpress or Pagemaker for the final output. This is the simplest of the process to do. First create a page template to the size of your book. I usually use a 6.75 x 10.5 page with a 1/4 inch margin, some prefer 1/8 inch, but as I said before this may vary. Then start laying in the images on each page. TIFF or image file should be laid down first then the eps file ontop, line them up ( I do this by eye but you may want to make a crop mark off the page in illustrator and photoshop to help). I also try to build the entire book in Quark at this point, letters to the editor page, ads etc. this also includes the inside and inside rear cover files and call this file my interiors file, then build an exterior color cover file.

8) AND THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP!! SEND ALL OF YOU FONTS WITH THE FILES!!!!!

I don't know how much I can stress this point. You need to send ALL of your font with the book. Just create a folder called fonts and place them in it. Even if they are common fonts like Helvetica and such, dont asume that the printer will have them. If you fail to do this I can promise you that bad things will happen....late printing, wrong fonts etc..... just dont do it. Also send a complete set of proofs and a mockup as well as color keys or match proofs for the cover.

Well I hope that this helps or answers your questions... and I hope that I didnt cost my self many jobs outthere! hehe;)

Any who if you guys find something wrong or have a better way of doing it give me a yell, I'd love to hear from you!!

Thanx

Sean Glumace
Dothenridge Press
http://members.aol.com/ostem/ppress.html

 



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