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Home > Articles > Tutorial: A Beginners Guide to Computer Lettering

Tutorial: A Beginners Guide to Computer Lettering

  1. Introduction
  2. The Hardware
  3. The Software
  4. The Lettering Process
  5. Common Misconceptions

The computer letterer does his work over scans of inked art pages and has the same responsibilities as the hand letterer. His tools, however, are very different.

Although you can create computer lettering on any PC, it is important to note that most of the comics (and publishing) industry favors work generated on Macintosh computers. Make sure you have plenty of processing and storage RAM, and also a good printer so that you can print out proofs of your work for the editor to approve. Most computer letterers use the software program Adobe Illustrator to create their work. This provides your pens, pencils, rulers and balloon guides — in short, everything the traditional letterer is accustomed to doing by hand. If you want to enjoy the full benefits of lettering with a computer, you should invest in a font creation program. The most important item you'll need to create is a copy of your basic lettering styles in the form of two or three computer fonts (ROMAN -- or UPRIGHT -- Lettering; ITALIC and BOLD ITALIC). However, you might prefer to purchase one of the fonts that are commercially available.

You won't need to know the inner workings of your computer and all its programs to become a good letterer any more than you would need to know the inner workings of a car in order to become a good driver. Nevertheless, you will need to read the software manuals and spend time refining your craft. Richard Starkings and John Roshell at Comicraft originally spent many months tweaking fonts based on Richard's hand lettering styles before they passed the scrutiny of Marvel's editors.

The Goal:

The letterer shares the same goal as the writer and artist: storytelling.

As a lettering artist, foremost in your mind should be the flow of the story from balloon to balloon and from panel to panel. Your lettering placement should not interfere with the dynamics of the story and art. Letters should always be crisp and clean and as easy to read as possible. The computer will help you make basic letters more consistent, balloons rounder and caption boxes straighter, but it will not turn a bad letterer into a good letterer any more than would a new pen. However, given enough patience, time and practice you may eventually wonder how lettering was ever done any other way.

Next: The Hardware

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