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Author Topic: Lettering Droids: it's that time again!  (Read 2828 times)

Jim_Campbell

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Lettering Droids: it's that time again!
« on: 01 January, 2021, 10:17:12 AM »
Just a timely reminder that today only is Comicraft's New Year's Day Sale — all fonts $20.21 each until the end of the day.
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Colin YNWA

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Re: Lettering Droids: it's that time again!
« Reply #1 on: 01 January, 2021, 10:25:54 AM »
Here's a question for you Jim how many fonts do you use regularly. I mean I get that as this is your stock in tread you'll collect loads and use any number on accasion as needs require but out of interest how many do you have in your regular go to draw?

On a similar note but you have a rule of thumb for a maximum number if fonts you should use on a page (as few as possible in my head but I really don't know) or in any given comic (20 page american).

Apologise in advance if you've answered these before in one of your blogs and I'm just not remembering, or haven't seen it?

Jim_Campbell

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Re: Lettering Droids: it's that time again!
« Reply #2 on: 01 January, 2021, 11:05:07 AM »
Here's a question for you Jim how many fonts do you use regularly. I mean I get that as this is your stock in tread you'll collect loads and use any number on accasion as needs require but out of interest how many do you have in your regular go to draw?

On a similar note but you have a rule of thumb for a maximum number if fonts you should use on a page (as few as possible in my head but I really don't know) or in any given comic (20 page american).

Apologise in advance if you've answered these before in one of your blogs and I'm just not remembering, or haven't seen it?

As you suggest, most letterers collect fonts like artists collect brushes and pens, and in the exact same way we probably rely on a dozen or fewer of 'em with the rest relegated to experimentation and the odd 'special' requirement.

If you've come from a hand-lettering background (like Annie) and have a custom font made from your hand-lettering, that's part of your USP as a letterer. If you're from a digital graphic design background (like me) then you're more likely to think in terms of picking a font for the tone/mood/look of each strip.

I try to stick to a very limited 'palette' of fonts for each project — one main dialogue font which hits what I think of as the tone for the project. I did a blog post about the thought process along these lines for Zaucer of Zilk early in 2020.

As a basic rule of thumb, I have one dialogue font for a project (and maybe a handful of special 'voices', as with Demon Jenny and Salvatore in Diaboliks) and I try to keep sound effect fonts to maybe three per project. There'll be a 'heavy lifter' that serves for the bulk of the SFX and serves to keep the look consistent, a more ragged one for shattery or discordant FX, and usually one with a lighter weight for quiet FX. Possibly one with a 'blobby' look for spattery or squelchy FX.  :)

So… on any given page, you'd be looking at one main font, maybe a special 'voice' and maybe a couple of the SFX fonts. Say, four fonts maximum. That's not say I've never done pages with more than four fonts, but if you're getting to five or six, it's probably time to ask yourself whether you really need to be using them all.*

On a very quick scan through the ten currently-open projects on my desktop, the 'main' fonts are as follows…

Durham Red: Out of Line BB
Fear Case: Out of Line BB
The Last Witch: CCMoritat
Space Riders: Anime Ace BB
Cherry Gilbert — Necromancer: Ready for Anything BB
Unfinished Corner: Ready for More BB
Proctor Valley Road: Heavy Mettle BB
Spectre Inspectors: CCVictorySpeech Lower
Roxy Rewind: Tight Spot BB
Abbott — 1973: CCHedgebackwards

So, you can see that that's nine different 'base' fonts over ten different books. Unusually, that list doesn't include Collect 'Em All BB, which in most weeks would be in play on at least one book (you can see it on Lawless and BOOM's Firefly books), or CCWildwords, which I use on Titan's Blade Runner titles.

There are some fonts in my library that I rarely use, but which I know are perfect for specific kinds of job. I like Blambot's Duty Calls BB a lot, but I think I've used it twice in ten years: once for the Porcelain books, and once for Megatropolis. Both projects have a heavy art nouveau/art deco aesthetic going on, and Duty Calls has elegant thin, tall characters, except for a wide, almost perfectly circular 'O', which echoes the typography common in those styles. I'd never use it for something like, say, Diaboliks, where Dom's art called for something a little blunter and, well, blacker.

Phew. That was a ramble. I'm not sure if I've actually answered your question — sorry!

*Sometimes, the answer is 'yes'. There aren't many hard-and-fast rules for this sort of thing.
« Last Edit: 01 January, 2021, 11:06:42 AM by Jim_Campbell »
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Colin YNWA

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Re: Lettering Droids: it's that time again!
« Reply #3 on: 01 January, 2021, 11:23:09 AM »
Wow that's fantastic - thank Jim. I'll read that Blog past (again I think now you've mentioned it I do think I've read it).

I'm on a bit of a lettering thing at the moment

1) Cos of the Tharg review of the year has made me realise I don't have criteria for lettering - its just something I appreciate on occasion but can't define reasons for

2) On my re-read I noticed a piece of lettering that annoyed me. And its got me thinking about why. I think in past it was due to an enlongated right hand panel which was the height on 2 left hand panels (if that makes sense) - I always think that must be a letterers nightmare!?! And thinking how I'd have done the lower left panel differently to try to improve the moment of the readers eye. Now this is lettering by Annie Parkhouse so the idea of me having a better way of doing it is laughable BUT it was really interesting to think about the things I wanted to achieve differently - of you see what I mean.

3) I've been thinking about the rule of not crossing word ballon indicators (sorry they must have a proper name) and the way Annie Parkhouse seems to be the only letter who regularly ignores this (I think this might be wrong and me just assuming when I see it done that its Annie and being too lazy to check - its something I'm planning to watch out for). And its made to work,. So is Annie weilding some special lettering magic that others can't? Is it a 'rule' that stems back from physical lettering days and need not be as adhered to any more but just is?

Don't expect answers to any of these, just things that have got me thinking about lettering more, which is a good thing. Once I've sussed it I'll go back to taking you all for granted!

IndigoPrime

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Re: Lettering Droids: it's that time again!
« Reply #4 on: 01 January, 2021, 11:44:16 AM »
I increasingly find bad lettering can stick out like a sore thumb. I fairly read an Image series — I think it was Revival — where some truly terrible lettering decisions kept pulling me out of the story. Also, having grown up with 1980s comics, the modern-day shift to upper and lowercase in dialogue is something I find a bit weird. (On the plus side, comics no longer feel the need to end every sentence with an exclamation mark, due to print quality being so much higher these days.)

Jim_Campbell

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Re: Lettering Droids: it's that time again!
« Reply #5 on: 01 January, 2021, 04:36:32 PM »
2) On my re-read I noticed a piece of lettering that annoyed me. And its got me thinking about why. I think in past it was due to an enlongated right hand panel which was the height on 2 left hand panels (if that makes sense) - I always think that must be a letterers nightmare!?!

I think that would be the dreaded 'Two Wides and a Tall'. I blogged about that specific bugbear back in the mists of time, here.

Quote
3) I've been thinking about the rule of not crossing word ballon indicators (sorry they must have a proper name) and the way Annie Parkhouse seems to be the only letter who regularly ignores this (I think this might be wrong and me just assuming when I see it done that its Annie and being too lazy to check - its something I'm planning to watch out for). And its made to work

The bit of a speech balloon that points to the speaker is called the tail. I'll confess, I can't recall ever seeing Annie cross balloon tails — it's certainly generally considered a no-no. I can think of very specific circumstances where you might do it for a particular effect (characters speaking across each other, or finishing each other's lines, maybe) but I know that in somewhere north of 50,000 pages lettered, I've never done it…

On the other hand, I can think of occasions where Annie (and Ellie) routinely places balloons over the connector between two linked balloons…



…which is a stylistic choice I don't have any issue with.

Also, having grown up with 1980s comics, the modern-day shift to upper and lowercase in dialogue is something I find a bit weird.

I used to be quite militant on the subject of all-caps lettering, but it's not a hill I'll die on these days. Two of the books I listed in the post above are lettered sentence case, but both are explicitly YA titles and the audience emphatically prefers that style, so I'm not going to be a dick about it!

Most letterers default to all-caps rather than sentence case, partly because we're crusty old traditionalists, and partly because (counter-intuitively, perhaps) all-caps lettering takes up less space on the page than sentence case. I learned recently that Jonathan Hickman prefers sentence case on his books because he thinks it means that he can get more words on the page, but he's objectively wrong on that score.

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Jim_Campbell

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Re: Lettering Droids: it's that time again!
« Reply #6 on: 01 January, 2021, 05:16:11 PM »
Huh. No idea why that last image isn’t showing…!

It should look like this:

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Funt Solo

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Re: Lettering Droids: it's that time again!
« Reply #7 on: 01 January, 2021, 07:05:20 PM »
I don't mean to be a sycophant, but I really like it when the creators are on here showing us what goes on behind the scenes - whether it's our resident 20-year veteran PJ Holden, or Jim lifting the lid on letters.

---

I was just reading the Scream & Misty special from 2018, and Mint Condition stood out (and was difficult to engage with) because it had non-professional lettering - the script, art and lettering was all by one person. Kudos, of course, for creating a comic - it's just an example of why you want a lighting professional to do the lighting on your movie, and not just wing it.



---

I'm also currently reading Brink (High Society), and, even though I really enjoy Brink, the design decision to label half the people and locations and things I find just incredibly clunky. I'm not sure what we lose if all that crud is just deleted - it feels like we lose nothing. Certainly, I don't bother reading all the call-outs: the information they provide is non-vital and peripheral, and it gets in the way of reading the dialog.



The frame shown above is one of the worst offenders - Bridget's dialog is already telling us Blasco's name, and we know who he is anyway from the previous episode, so the call-out explaining his name is not necessary. It's also not clear where this info. is coming from, because in earlier series we know that the characters carry a tracelet device. I'd assumed that their tracelets tell them things - but in this series Kurtis has given up her tracelet as part of her undercover op, so all the yellow and red boxes are just meta-narrative glue-ons.

Does this device irritate anyone else? Or, conversely, does anyone find this info. helpful?
« Last Edit: 01 January, 2021, 07:08:55 PM by Funt Solo »
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IndigoPrime

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Re: Lettering Droids: it's that time again!
« Reply #8 on: 01 January, 2021, 07:05:47 PM »
Uppercase is also—for me—a faster read due to greater clarity. Obviously, I wouldn’t want a novel or web page set in UC, but for comics, it still works far better for me.

On Brink, I don’t mind the stylistic device of labelling a lot of stuff. The question is who that ‘narrator’ is, though.

broodblik

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Re: Lettering Droids: it's that time again!
« Reply #9 on: 01 January, 2021, 07:09:58 PM »
For me the way the lettering in Brink with the info blocks where done was something unique and different. I like it.
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Tjm86

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Re: Lettering Droids: it's that time again!
« Reply #10 on: 01 January, 2021, 07:23:21 PM »
Hmmm, one of the dyslexia training sessions I attended a long time ago dug into the implications of all-caps text for readers.  They cited research that seemed to show that all-caps presents a problem for some readers as all of the words are the same shape. 

When normal text is used, the shape of each word is more distinctive and this aids the reading process.  So we were basically told to avoid all-caps in materials that we use with the kids.

I guess it's the same as with the choice of font.  The more stylistic fonts used on some scripts (some of the Defoe's for instance) that are emulating a more dated speech or text from diaries and so forth are quite difficult to focus in on at times.  At least that's how it feels to me.

Jim_Campbell

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Re: Lettering Droids: it's that time again!
« Reply #11 on: 02 January, 2021, 11:02:35 AM »
I was just reading the Scream & Misty special from 2018, and Mint Condition stood out (and was difficult to engage with) because it had non-professional lettering - the script, art and lettering was all by one person. Kudos, of course, for creating a comic - it's just an example of why you want a lighting professional to do the lighting on your movie, and not just wing it.

That was Smuzz (formerly SMS, of ABC Warriors fame) I believe. I've seen Smuzz do his own lettering, and it's pretty competent, so I assume this was very deliberately done in the style of the old typeset lettering used in the original comics from the 70s. That being the case, it's very well done. Whether or not you or I like it is a different question to whether or not it's competent.
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Jim_Campbell

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Re: Lettering Droids: it's that time again!
« Reply #12 on: 02 January, 2021, 11:33:48 AM »
Uppercase is also—for me—a faster read due to greater clarity. Obviously, I wouldn’t want a novel or web page set in UC, but for comics, it still works far better for me.

This is the most common counter-argument against all-caps that gets thrown at me: "You wouldn't typeset a novel in uppercase!"

Well, no, I wouldn't. But, then, a novel is prose. In comics, the text competes with the pictures for attention and I think we're conditioned from an early age to pay extra attention to text in caps, which I suspect is why I tend to find my eyes kind of slide off sentence case lettering in comics.
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broodblik

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Re: Lettering Droids: it's that time again!
« Reply #13 on: 02 January, 2021, 12:33:36 PM »
Now that all folk has seen the intrigues of lettering go and vote for your favourite letterer/colourist:

https://forums.2000ad.com/index.php?topic=47219.0
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Old age is the Lord’s way of telling us to step aside for something new. Death’s in case we didn’t take the hint.

Funt Solo

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Re: Lettering Droids: it's that time again!
« Reply #14 on: 02 January, 2021, 05:02:32 PM »
I was just reading the Scream & Misty special from 2018, and Mint Condition stood out (and was difficult to engage with) because it had non-professional lettering - the script, art and lettering was all by one person. Kudos, of course, for creating a comic - it's just an example of why you want a lighting professional to do the lighting on your movie, and not just wing it.

That was Smuzz (formerly SMS, of ABC Warriors fame) I believe. I've seen Smuzz do his own lettering, and it's pretty competent, so I assume this was very deliberately done in the style of the old typeset lettering used in the original comics from the 70s. That being the case, it's very well done. Whether or not you or I like it is a different question to whether or not it's competent.

Fair enough - I hadn't realized it was probably a stylistic choice. Alongside strips using modern techniques it looks clunky. (Also, I didn't know that Smuzz == SMS.)

I did realize when Sinister Dexter did a similar thing recently for their fighter pilot story (The Gangbusters, progs 2079-2081), but only in the narration boxes that hardly anyone uses anymore:

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