Hello and welcome to this week’s installment of Creating Your Own Comics 101. This week we will take a look at lettering. The lettering is the backbone of any story and possibly the most impacting factor of how your comic will be received. There are some artists that provide a lettering service but this article is aimed at people hiring a standalone letter artist.
The final stage in producing the artwork for your comic is having the lettering done. It’s very understated just how important this part of the process is and it can make or break your comic. The words are essentially the main way you tell your story to the audience. Sequential pictures are a massive part of the story telling and like the quote says “a picture paints a thousand words.” However, without coherent story telling text, the comic will simply be a collection of artwork and lack real substance. What text you write is important but equally important is how well you display the text. There are many fonts and bubble styles to choose from but at the end of the day, keep it simple and keep it clear. If you try to be too fancy, it may be hard to read and will look bad. That’s not to say that you can’t have some style and flair. A good example of effective lettering to enhance the story would be the Sandman comics by Neil Gaiman. Some of the lettering work in those comics was truly groundbreaking and still looks great. Even if you are keen to push the boundaries, let your letterer have the final say as that’s what you are paying them for and their expertise should not be ignored.
Below you will see a before and after page of a lettering job executed poorly by the artist and saved by letterer Mindy Lopkin. You will notice the confusing layout and poor lettering style in the first page. Panel number two has also been “flipped” to allow the story to flow better. Also note the more dynamic sound effects used. You can see the difference having a skilled letterer makes. You can see more of Mindy Lopkin’s work on her FaceBook page.
A good letterer will also offer more services than just lettering your comic. Many will design logos, credits pages and edit your text. (Even if your letterer does not edit your book, it’s still a good idea to have an editor look it over for mistakes and grammar.) A bad letterer really can ruin your book and you should always stick to one that has been recommended to you by a reliable source or base your choice on their portfolio of work. I have seen some truly horrible books that have had shocking lettering and it has ruined any effect the book may have had.
The other major job of the letterer is to add sound effects to your comic. A good letterer will have a vast collection of impacting designs and can add some real depth to the story telling. Once your book is fully lettered it is usual for the letterer to prepare the page files to your specifications. Some may provide multiple sizes and print color choices but there may be additional charges for this as there is more work involved.
Once your book is finished, you need to look at promotion, publishing and printing. Next week’s article will be looking at what happens when you are ready to start selling your comic.