Friday, December 19, 2008

The Art of Comic Book Lettering Part II

Following on from our previous post on comics lettering, I wanted to discuss the process we went through to find appropriate typefaces for our Elf~Fin proposal. We set about searching for fonts in the following three categories – logotype (for the Elf~Fin title), dialogue/thoughts (generic rather than character based), and sound effect. At this point of time, the lettering in the proposal was for placement only as some publishers reserve the right to have a say in what type of fonts you use in your project. They also prefer to choose the logotype for themselves so we didn't want to lock anything in. 

I LOVE looking at fonts – always have. I might even be developing an addiction towards them – simply because they inspire my imagination. I think both Jozef and I have a well trained eye and pretty good instincts when it comes to font-spotting and project-matching. Beyond that we have the highest regard for letterers and graphic designers who understand their craft and bring that added creative flair and dimension to their design choices that exceeds anything we have to offer. The best title logotype I have seen for a while comes from and Gestalt Publishing's The Eldritch Kid which establishes the mood, the time period and the genre of the title in question in just one glance.

The criteria we established in making our font selection was in fact – the genre (fantasy), the pictorial environment (underwater), the characters (mer-elves), and the feel (fairy tale or storybook). Each level of font also needed to be in sympathy with the others. For example,  a pointy or drippy gothic horror font would not work well as sound effects when used in conjunction with a children's style font used for dialogue unless it was done ironically. 

We used several excellent resources for our quest for the right font – the first being the Comic Life software, which is great for beginners. It lets you create comics on your computer and offers a variety of panel set-ups, speech balloons, sound effects and comic book fonts. I sorted the fonts according to whether they were plain (non comic book) fonts or whether they were comic book fonts. The other resources were the ComicCraft, 1001 FreeFonts and, the latter of which has an extraordinary selection and a great "waterfall" feature that allows you to check out your font in different sizes. I typed in bits of dialogue from the book, printed it up then cut out the different examples and popped them on top of Jozef's artwork to see if, firstly, the font resonated with the story and characters and, secondly, to check the appropriate size so that it could be easily read. 

The other important aspect to consider is that comic book dialogue in general is set in upper case rather than in lower case – the exception is when you use calligraphy style typefaces for effect or to set a mood. We found that in the end it was indeed the comic book fonts that were more appropriate for the internal panel to panel text – they were easy to read and in general fit the comic book lettering conventions far more readily than the normal (non comic book) fonts. 

The other most excellent font we were pointed to by the talented Barb Jacobs who uses it for her gorgeous webcomic Xylia is WhizBang, which is one of those industry standard fonts used by DC artists. 

I ended up with anywhere between half a dozen to 15 fonts plain AND comic book fonts per category. Jozef and I then sat down for an hour or two and culled that list down to our three preferred fonts. We ended up choosing, buying and downloading Holier Than Thou. Since we only had one sound effect for the opening five pages we decided to defer on both that and the title font and purchase the appropriate ones later down the track. 

And by the way, the wonderful piece of Ms Helvetica Neue font artwork you see here is by Philadelphia artist Matt Suter from his Typewoman series. 

No comments: