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The Art of Lettering
Gonzogoose
post Jan 27 2012, 08:43 AM
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I don't usually link over there, but there's an excellent interview Ron Marz conducted with letterer Troy Peteri about lettering:

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=36639

The bullet points at the end are of special note to any writers and artists out there. These are things all letterers at one point or another pull their hair out about when working on certain books. smile.gif Very good advice for creators to help them construct a book so that the lettering is incorporated as best it can be. Here they are for easy reference, straight from the article linked above:

Rules to Letter By

I think one of the biggest "light bulb" moments for writers is seeing your dialogue on the page for the first time. You start to understand the translation of your script to actual lettering: how it looks on the page, how it fits, how it should lead the reader's eye. It's another skill a writer needs to have in his toolbox. There's no substitute for that firsthand experience, but here are some lessons to take with you:

  • Writers, tell your letterer specifically what you want, whether it's small type in a normal balloon, a wavering balloon outline, a certain SFX style, a burst, a bridge between balloons. Don't make letterers guess what you want. Their job is to letter, not read your mind.

  • By the same token, don't ask for things that a letterer can't give you. Troy mentioned once getting an instruction for a "pensive balloon." As he said, "What the hell is a pensive balloon?!" When I've edited other writers' scripts, I've removed instructions like "angry balloon" or "sad balloon," because those are not instructions for anything specific.

  • Understand how much verbiage fits in a balloon, and how many balloons fit in a panel. Don't expect the letterer to just "fix it." My rule of thumb is about 25 words per balloon or caption. Much more than that, the balloon gets to be unwieldy (not to mention ugly). If you have more text than that, split it into multiple balloons. I usually refrain from more than three balloons in a panel, unless it's an especially large panel with ample room.

  • Never cross balloon tails. It's the writer's job to indicate to the artist (in the panel descriptions) the expected left-right character placement in a panel. If the art ends up not fitting your dialogue order, adjust your dialogue. Rewrite and re-place the dialogue so it flows naturally with the art that's on the page: left to right, top to bottom. Again, don't leave letterer to just "fix it."

  • Writers and artists: understand proper balloon placement. Artists: leave room for balloons; no one likes covering up important art. Writers: if there's not enough room for all your genius dialogue, start cutting it. Brevity is indeed the soul of wit, as well as the letterer's best friend. Especially in a visual medium.

  • Yes, almost all lettering is digital, rather than hand-lettered, so revisions are much easier to execute. But that's not an excuse for the writer (or editor) to make more work for the letterer. I've heard my share of letterer horror stories about writers or editors who treat a complete, lettered issue like a first draft, making substantial revisions on every page. Not cool. Letterers get paid once; they shouldn't have to letter an issue twice because someone in the process hasn't quite figured out what they want. Yes, there are always some corrections to be made. But doing wholesale changes once an issue is lettered is bush league. See above: "...pristine script that can be lettered exactly as it appears."

  • And finally, for a book to be lettered well, the writer, artists and letterer need to be in sync, each taking the jobs of the others into account. It's not about you, it's about the finished product.


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Ron Fortier
post Jan 27 2012, 11:59 AM
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Loved that last rule, about it being a collaborative work with all hands devoted to the finished product and not their own individual egos. Amen.
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Gordon_D
post Jan 31 2012, 07:30 PM
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My only wish is that I wish I had read this article before I wrote my first script - not that there's a lot of dialogue, but I think I might have been better able to articulate what I needed to the artist/letter, but more importantly - given some thought to how I letter.

(Yes, folks, I mentioned a script. Finished and sent off last few pages yesterday. Will give more details elsewhere on the site - and the blog - shortly smile.gif)

Gordon


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Gonzogoose
post Feb 1 2012, 04:00 AM
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I don't recall, Gordon, if the article mentioned it, and I don't have time to check at the moment. But a little bit of advice: after you receive the art, go through the script and edit it one more time making sure it all fits. Too many times writers don't do this and it results in way too much text for panels that were smaller than they originally envisioned.

That's definitely one advantage of lettering your own book. You can actually go in and edit on the fly as you letter. I've done that many times on Wannabez, and other projects I've been given a bit of liberty on.


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Cary
post Feb 1 2012, 12:01 PM
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Yeah I tend to letter on the fly all the time with my stuff, and offer the same to clients as well. It tends to make things move much faster all around.


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