> Tutorial: A Beginners Guide to Computer Lettering
Tutorial: A Beginners Guide to Computer Lettering
- The Hardware
- The Software
- The Lettering Process
- Common Misconceptions
We Use: Adobe Illustrator ($395)
Probably the most flexible graphic design program available. Illustrator provides you with your pens, pencils, rulers and balloon guides - in short, everything you are accustomed to doing by hand, you can reproduce in Illustrator.
Comparable: Macromedia Freehand ($399) or CorelDraw ($179).
Free Alternative: Inkscape is an open-source vector drawing program that apparently performs many of the same functions as Illustrator. We've yet to try it, as the installation process is pretty complicated.
The Bottom Line: your lettering program needs to be able to handle type with versatility, draw vector-based graphics with ease, and output the results as an EPS file.
We Use: Fontographer ($349)
The most important item you'll need once you start lettering is basic balloon type styles in the form of two or three computer fonts. You can either farm out this task to a friend or colleague, or take a shot at creating the fonts by yourself. You might even prefer to skip the hard work altogether and simply order one of our fonts that are commercially available.
If you want to enjoy the full benefits of lettering with a computer, I'd recommend that you invest in your own copy of Fontographer. Familiarity with such software will allow you to continually tweak and refine your fonts -- and create more!
Comparable: Fontlab's extremely complicated flagship program FontLab or its stripped-down cousin TypeTool ($99)
Free Alternative: FontForge is an open-source outline font editor. Like Inkscape, it has a complicated installation process.
We Use: Adobe Indesign ($699) for combining lettering and artwork files for print production. Indesign is also an excellent tool for designing any kind of book or print project. Two reasons we love it: 1) the interface is similar to Illustrator and Photoshop, which makes it easy to learn, and 2) it generates excellent PDF files for printing, which makes it simple to send jobs to the printer knowing all the pieces are in place and will output properly.
Comparable: QuarkXPress ($829) has been the industry standard for more than a decade and is still widely used in the comics industry.
We Use: Adobe Photoshop ($599)
Photoshop is the industry standard for coloring artwork. As a letterer, you'll use Photoshop to clean up scanned pages and then save them as low-resolution TIFFs for placement guides in Illustrator. Many scanners come with a limited version of Photoshop called Photoshop Elements (a.k.a. Photoshop LE), that can perform basic image editing tasks. However, it does not permit you to work in CMYK mode, which is necessary for print production.
Comparable: Corel Paint Shop Pro ($99) performs many of the same functions as Photoshop (and can output CMYK files) for a fraction of the price. Many colorists love Corel's Painter ($329) for its realistic natural painting features. Corel also makes the less-expensive Painter Essentials ($79).
Free Alternative: GIMPshop, an open-source pixel editor that boasts many of the same features as Photoshop. Once again, a bee-yotch to install.
Adobe Streamline (@$195) is useful for converting scanned line art into vector outlines you can manipulate in Illustrator or Fontographer.
StuffIt - for compressing files to send across the internet
Font management: ATM Deluxe & Suitcase are two commercial options, FontExplorer is a new free program from Linotype.
GraphicConverter - can open and convert virtually any kind of graphics file
Transmit ($25) our favorite file transfer (FTP) program has an intuitive Mac-like interface
icWord and icExcel are handy shareware programs that can open Microsoft Word or Excel files without having to give Micro$oft any of your $$.
Next: The Lettering Process
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