> Tutorial: A Beginners Guide to Computer Lettering
Tutorial: A Beginners Guide to Computer Lettering
- The Hardware
- The Software
- The Lettering Process
- Common Misconceptions
1. A Computer
Your first decision will be whether you want to invest in a Apple Macintosh or an IBM PC (or compatible). The comic book industry (like the design and publishing industries) largely perfers Macintosh computers. If you have a Windows-based PC, read on -- most of the same programs are available, and the finished files are largely compatible.
Your second decision will be which Macintosh model you're going to buy. Your considerations are:
- Processing RAM (Random Access Memory)
This is the amount of information the computer can process at any one time. The minimum you will require is 512mb (512 MEGABYTES or "512 Megs of RAM"). Most Mac models will allow you to add in extra DIMMS (DUAL INLINE MEMORY MODULES)
- Storage RAM (Random Access Memory)
This is the amount of information the computer can store at any one time on the internal hard drive. The minimum you will require is 20GB.
- Speed (measured in megahertz)
After you've been working on the computer a while, how quickly it processes information becomes an issue. Generally, the more you spend, the faster the computer will be.
The basic iMac (@ $999) is an excellent computer for lettering and most other design tasks. A few hundred more will get you a model with greater processing speed, hard drive size and/or digital video features, which are nice, but not necessary for the lettering process. All iMacs come with a monitor, keyboard, mouse and built-in CD-ROM (or CD-RW) drive.
If you plan to be doing memory-intensive image editing (such as comic coloring or photo manipulation), or large-format layout and design, you may want to opt for one of the G5 towers, which have greater processing power and allow for a choice of monitors.
2. A Color Monitor
Here, what you spend dictates how much you see. Apple makes excellent 17" (@$500) and more luxurious 21" (@$1000) monitors. We absolutely love the new flat-panel displays ($999 and up) -- they're much easier on the eyes after a long day of computing.
3. Removable Storage
Most likely, you'll need some sort of removable storage device to send your finished files to the color separator or film outputter. Iomega's Zip drives ($100 and up) are fast, cheap, and widely accepted by publishers and service bureaus. Disks hold either 100 or 250MB, and start at about $10. The latest iMacs come with CD-RW drives, which let you write 650MB CD-ROMS ($1-2 each) -- an excellent way to send out files and make backups.
4. A Scanner
Most letterers are accustomed to lettering directly onto the artwork, or, at least, on a vellum overlay. In order to work this way on screen, a scanner will become an essential tool. The ideal letterer's scanner is an 11x17, but can set you back $1500 or more. Unless you're planning on becoming a professional color separator and need to regularly scan lots of full-size art boards, we recommend spending $100-150 for a decent 8.5x11 or 8.5x14 color scanner. Umax, Agfa and Epson are highly rated brands -- make sure it scans at a minimum of 600dpi (dots per inch).
Note: Some manufacturers used to make 11x17 scanners for less than $200 -- click here for more info.
5. A Printer
If you need to output your finished lettering onto paper (as well as possibly vellum and crackback), look for a laser printer with a paperpath that will feed material through without unnecessary twists and turns. Crackback paper that will withstand paste-up and wear and tear is also very important. If your lettering files will be output at the film separation stage, then a cheaper Epson or HP inkjet printer ($100 and up) is good enough for proofing purposes.
6. A Modem/Online Access
A modem allows you to transmit electronic files directly to the publisher, separator or film maker, eliminating the need for hard copy lettering altogether. A 56K dialup connection is acceptable, but now that higher speed access is becoming widely available, cable modem (through the cable company) or DSL service (through the phone company) can quickly be worth the additional $30-50 a month.
Next: The Software
Share your thoughts in the Balloon Tales Forum!
The contents of this website are copyright (c)
Active Images. All rights reserved.