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Lettering Droids: it's that time again!

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Jim_Campbell:
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.

Colin YNWA:
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:

--- Quote from: Colin YNWA 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?

--- End quote ---

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.

Colin YNWA:
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:
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.)

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