Monday, September 17, 2018

Intro to Comic Craft: Text Balloons

In our last Intro to Comic Craft tutorial, we talked about font choice and placement for comics.  Today we're covering text balloons.

More on Lettering:
Guestpost:  Selecting and Using Fonts for Webcomics
Pre-Lettering Pages
Relettering and Redoing Word Balloons
Super Easy Lettering Hack

Lettering Practice and Pangrams
Lettering Practice-Dialogue and Blocking
When I was 13- Lettering Process Part 2
Lettering Practice- Dialogue and Blocking

There are a variety of ways to handle lettering and word balloons for comics:

Physically Lettering On the Page

Drawing Your Balloons on the Page, Lettering Digitally

Digitally Lettering and Putting in Balloons

If you don't like the word balloons you've physically drawn on the page, you can also reletter and balloon quite easily.

My process for creating word balloons is pretty specific to 7" Kara, and is designed to replicate the watercolor look of the page. 

Materials Needed:

Color Pencil Brush for Program of Choice
Graphics Program of Choice (I'm using Photoshop)
Watercolor Paper Scan (I have several, I'm using an Arches scan for these pages)

Setting Up Your Workspace:

For this tutorial, you're going to need a program that has a clone tool.

Comic Page
Texture Page

Open up your comic page as well as the texture paper you wish to clone onto your comic page.  It helps if it's a similar size and format to your comic page, so you may wish to rotate it before you begin.
Page we're cloning from
Page we're cloning to

Creating Your Word Balloons

Select the Clone tool, and hold Alt to select the area you wish to clone.

On a new layer, and with the clone tool still selected, but no longer holding Alt, begin cloning your watercolor texture paper onto your comic page.  I recommend using a round brush for this.

For adjacent balloons like the example above, I put my balloons on separate layers, in case I want to move my text.

I like to bump the opacity back to 80%.  Not only does this make my text bubble look like it belongs on the page, but it also allows some of my artwork to shine through without losing legibility.  I vary the opacity- muttered things may be knocked back all the way to 65%.

Rather than set the opacity for the individual balloons, I create a folder, put all files relating to those balloons in that folder, and adjust the folder's opacity.

Creating a Border Around Your Balloon: 

Depending on your comic, this may be optional- there are many webcomics that opt not to border their balloons.

For my borders, I use a custom color pencil brush set to a fixed width.  I border my balloons using a dark brown.

Before adding borders, I create a new layer on top of my text layers, and set it to multiply.

Then I simply begin tracing my balloons.  There are many ways to add a border to your text balloons- find the one that works best for you and for your comic's aesthetic!

Finished Page:

Pages with Multiple Panels:

When working with multiple panels, or multiple speakers per panel or page, staying organized is key!  You may have to make revisions later on, and you want to find your dialogue and attribution, as quickly as possible.

In this example, the page has already had basic dialogue placement, and the dialogue has been sorted into panel specific folders.

Working panel by panel, I create a speech balloon on a unique layer for each piece of dialogue, using the techniques demonstrated above.

For dialogue with multiple speech balloons, I continue to create each balloon on its own layer.  Once all balloons in a sequence are completed, I put them in a folder, and change the opacity on the folder, rather than on the individual balloons.

What If You Run Out Of 'Paper'?

Go back to your cone source (in our case, this Arches scan), reselect your clone area by holding alt)

And you can resume work!

Finished Page: 

Creating Muttered or Whispered Dialogue

For muttered and whispered dialogue, I handle things a bit differently.  I tend to leave my font without a stroke, so it's a bit wispier than fully spoken text.

Rather than a round word balloon, I go for a vague shape with sputtered little dots eminating from it.  I draw the tail vague as well.

I set the opacity lower than regular text-around 65% rather than 80%, depending on the art in the panel.

And I leave muttered and whispered balloons unbordered.

Creating Labels That Don't Compete With Dialogue

I handle these somewhat similarly to muttered dialogue.  The text is left unbolded or without a stroke- however left as is, it's almost unreadable.

To increase legibility, I need to create a little contrast.  To do this, I create a layer of paper texture behind my text.

And play with the opacity until it's legible, but not distracting.

Special Effects:

I typically keep my sound effects hand drawn (or retouched digitally), but sometimes I want to give dialogue a special connotation, emphasis, or feel.  Often I will break the rounded balloon border with jagged edges, or adjust the color of the border to imply various emotions such as shock, anger, or in this case, happiness.

I used a salmon color, set to multiply, to help give a soft, happy feeling to the final panel on this page, and to imply that this is a special promise.

Recommended Reading and Outside Resources:

Making Word Balloons:
Two Schools of Balloon Making: Layer Vs Stroke
Consistent Balloon Tails
Pointers (Tails)

Formatting Your Word Balloons:

Layering Balloons in a Conversation
Don't Cross Balloon Tails...Ever!

Text Tips and Hacks:

Line and Negative Space in Comics Dialogue
The 94% Line Width Cheat
Wordy Balloons and Reading Order
Balloon Air

Captions and Special Uses:
Special Balloons
Burst Balloons

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Intro to Comic Craft: Placing Text Digitally

In Monday's post, we talked about selecting a font for your comic or webcomic.  Today, we're going to talk about blocking and placing your text within your comic panels.

Before You Start Lettering:

It helps to understand a few things about comic lettering, and how comic pages are read.

For today's homework, I recommend you read (or reread) these tutorials by Nate Piekos.

Blocking Your Text

Also referred to as 'stacking'

An example of dialogue blocking, with dialogue taken from The Red Dragon.  Original post here

An example of dialogue in a variety of speech balloons, practicing blocking and creating containing balloons.  Original post here.

When creating your blocks of text, you're aiming for:
  • Easily digestable chunks of text
  • Text should conform to an oval shape

Placing Your Text: 

This to avoid when placing text:

  • Crossing tails
  • Obscuring action
  • Obscuring faces
  • Blocks of text
  • Text hoagies
  • Placing long words at the end of your dialogue/speech bubbles

I letter in Photoshop, but you can also use InDesign or Illustrator, or any other graphics program you're comfortable using.

If you find your font is too thin, and there isn't an option to bold your text, you can add a stroke in the Layer Styles menu.

I recommend that you set your stroke to the same color as your font, unless you're trying to achieve a special effect/special connotation.

Throughout my lettering process (placing my text, adding balloons, final editing checks), I move my text several times, so I treat this stage as a rough sketch for lettering.

On a Comic Page:

For my lettering process, I usually roughly place and block my dialogue for the entire chapter, then go back and add my word balloons.

For each panel that contains text, I create a folder.  I recommend you name your folders for organization (Panel 1, Panel 2, Panel 3, ect).  You can also organize dialogue by character (ex Kara Panel 1, Meldina Panel 2).

I'm lettering on 15"x11", 600 DPI scans, and I typically letter in sizes from 14-18.

When lettering dialogue in comics, you have approximately five options for text placement:
Each of the four corners of the panel (assuming it's a rectangular panel)
The center of the panel.

Your placement will affect how you format your text.  For your upper and lower left hand corners, you want to set it to left alignment, for your upper and lower right hand corners, you want to set it to right alignment, and for your center panels, you want to use center alignment.

You also want to consider the reading flow for the page.  For Western comics, readers read from left to right, and you don't want to break that flow.

The reading flow for the final version of this page is admittedly, a bit convoluted.  If I'd brought the text down in panel 4, it would read more clearly, but would obscure the action of the panel.

In Action:

Initial Placement:


On this page I wanted to keep the action clear and uninterrupted, so I placed the dialogue lower in the last panel.  Dialogue slows the action of a page, and often breaks the reader's flow, so when possible you want to place it so it won't obscure action or movement.

Adjusting Dialogue for Word Balloons

You will probably have to tweak and adjust your text quite a bit before you hit on something that works.

You want to avoid splitting words up, such as this hyphenated example with 'something'.

 Longer words need to be on one line.

For darker panels, you may want to do your lettering on a lighter panel, then move it over to the intended panel.

In this example, I'm lettering the dialogue for panel 5 in panel 1, as there is more contrast.

I'm using the visibility as an opportunity to format the dialogue for best fit- I want to place my dialogue in the upper left hand panel, so I need to left align my dialogue.  Your alignment (left, right, center), will change how you structure and format your text.

Adjusting Text for Labels

For this panel (3rd panel), we have two considerations- labeling the food, and Naomi's dialogue.

I opt to use the same font for the labels, although this would be an excellent opportunity to switch to a Serif Font (that has a tendency of looking 'official').  Using another font makes the labels stand out as separate text from the dialogue, but in this instance, I'm confident that my word balloons will keep my dialogue distinct.

My labels are difficult to read as is, so I try to place them so they're not obscuring the produce, but are a bit more legible.

Adding Laughter/Adjusting Text for Effect: 

I want Kara's laughter to have a fun, spontaneous feel.  Having it lined up would give it a mechanical feel, so I need to skew the individual ha's to make it more spontaneous.

I begin by placing my 'ha's and using the move tool to free transform them slightly.

Page with Completed Dialogue Placement

When Placing Dialogue:

Mostly it's about placing your text blocks in a way that's attractive and understandable for your readers.  Keep in mind native reading flow, as well as the flow of the page.  Don't cover important areas such as the face, important gestures, or line of action.

In our next installment of Intro to Comic Craft, I'm going to cover adding in word balloons.

Second Opinions and Outside Resources:

I highly recommend you check out Nate Pieko's (Blambot founder and letterer) guides for lettering

Comic fonts for Comic Artists

Other Useful Font Resources
Google Fonts

More on Lettering:
Guestpost:  Selecting and Using Fonts for Webcomics
Pre-Lettering Pages
Relettering and Redoing Word Balloons
Super Easy Lettering Hack
7 Awesome Free Comic Lettering Fonts for Commerical Use and How to Use them
Comic Book Lettering Tips By Patrick Brosseau

Lettering Practice and Pangrams
When I was 13- Lettering Process Part 2
Lettering Practice- Dialogue and Blocking
A Guide to Hand Lettering Your Strips
Klein Letters:  How It All Began
Klein Letters:  Lettering, Continued: The 1970's
Klein Letters: Computer Lettering
Klein Letters: Computer Lettering, continued
Klein Letters:  Hand Lettering Basics
How To: Cartoon Lettering for Comic Books:  Art Techniques
The Art of the Comic Book:  Learn to Write and Draw Professional Comic Books: Lettering with Speedball Pens

Text, Type, and Font Basics:
Web Typography 101
4 Key Considerations When Choosing Web Typography
An Introduction to Software for Text Design