Monday, July 02, 2018

Guestpost: RebelVampire: Selecting and Using Fonts for Webcomics

Selecting and Using Fonts for Webcomics

Despite it seeming simple, lettering for webcomics is surprisingly elusive.  For many, it boils down to a simple lack of knowledge, both in the resources that are available and how to use the tools.  Even looking up a tutorial can get confusing, since technical jargon like “kerning” and “leading” are prevalent.  Especially for newcomers to webcomics, it’s all a bit overwhelming.

However, it definitely doesn’t need to be some grandiose obstacle.  In fact, a lot of lettering expertise comes down to one simple matter: knowing how to select and use a font.  Your font choice alone can make a world of difference for your webcomic, so it’s an important matter to consider.  To make the process easier, though, today I will walk you through my tips for selecting your font, and some of the basics on how to use them!

Where to Get Fonts:

First off, let’s tackle the biggest question any beginner has: where can you even get fonts?  Of course, there are your system fonts that come standard on any computer regardless of operating system.  However, these are inadvisable to use for two reasons: legality and a lack of character.  Fortunately, there are a ton of websites that have free fonts!  You can check out some of my favorites below:

  • Font Squirrel - My go-to site, as the tags make it very easy to find a font with a particular theme.

  • Google Fonts - A fantastic collection, particularly if you need a font you can easily embed into a website as well.

  • 1001 Free Fonts - A standard site with an intense amount of fonts; just make sure to check the licenses.

  • DaFont - Another one of the standard ones.

Note: Always make sure you’re protected from viruses when downloading things from the internet!

Considerations for Choosing and Using Your Font:

Below I have laid out a few choice things you should consider, both while picking your font and using it.  These matters will play a role in both aspects, so bear them in mind!

Legality- ALWAYS make sure that your font has the appropriate license for your use.  Generally, you’ll want something that is free for commercial use (usually things that are listed as Public Domain, SIL Open Font License, or CC0 Creative Commons).  The majority of fonts you can download from reputable sites come with .txt files that have this information.  Remember, just because you can download the font for free, doesn’t mean it is actually free to use commercially!

Readability- Readability matters more than anything else about a font.  If readers can’t read the text, they can’t really read the webcomic.  Make sure that you get a font that has a crisp and clear style.  Yet, also keep in mind what size you’ll be doing the font at, as not all fonts are readable at smaller sizes.  Rule of thumb: if it takes you more than a few seconds to read, it’s probably not a good font.

Theme- While you can go with a “comic” font, you can also choose a font that suits the theme of your comic.  You can use a more angular font for a science fiction comic, a more script like font for something fantasy, and so on.  A theme appropriate font can add a lot of character.

Padding- This consideration applies more to the using part of your font.  Your text should have padding and not touch the edges of your narrative boxes or dialogue bubbles.  Some fonts are a little unwieldy for this, so it can often affect choice as well.  Bear it in mind and experiment to make sure you can keep some padding for a professional, readable look.

Using Your Font:

Once you have your font chosen, you’re ready to use it.  However, there are a few nifty things you can do with a font to give it a slightly different aesthetic than its standard appearance.  Since this involves some technical jargon, I’ll walk you through what the jargon means and what it actually does.

Kerning- Kerning refers to the space between the characters of your font.  The more kerning you add, the more space there is between every letter.  You can also go into negative values to bring the letters super close together.

Leading- Leading refers to the space between lines of text.  Like kerning, the more leading you add, the more space there is.

Scale- Scaling refers to how much extra width or height the text takes up than is standard.  Unlike kerning and leading, scaling doesn’t add extra space.  Instead, it deforms the text.

To summarize, you can do wonders for your webcomic just by choosing a great font and learning how to adjust it to whatever suits your fancy.  Text has just as much of an aesthetic presence as your images, and it can truly give your webcomic its own unique character.  As webcomics are also half about the story being told, it’s also kind of important people are able to read the text smoothly.  Whatever the case, don’t be afraid to experiment and show your own unique voice via fonts!

Fonts Used in Examples:

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