Hand lettering has several advantages. It lends a unique look to the cartoon and helps single out the voice of your comic. In the same way a handwritten note is friendlier than a typed letter, hand lettering can give your comic a more personal feel.
However, hand lettering is a difficult craft to master and can be distracting — or downright disastrous — when done incorrectly. It is also time consuming, requires plenty of advance planning, and is difficult to edit. For all of these reasons, many artists opt for computer lettering. With computer lettering, you can keep everything consistent, and adjusting font size, kerning, and tracking to get more words into a small space is much easier.
Choosing a Computer Font
Even though you may have amassed an impressive array of computer fonts, you should be aware that very few of them will be appropriate for your comic. Some companies — such as Blambot (
I found a font I liked, only to find out it's a PC-format font that isn't recognizable on my Mac. Is there anything I can do?
Download TTConverter from any number of places on the Internet (
Due to the accessibility of various computer fonts, some people are tempted to give certain characters their own personal font — to add distinction to their voice. For example, they might choose a digitized font to depict a robot's voice. When you read cartoons that use this technique, you will see that the cartoonist has succeeded in one thing: He's made you pay particular attention to the font. But this is the last thing you should be doing! Fonts should be unobtrusive. Any font that calls attention to itself is being used incorrectly.
Specialty fonts can be distracting.
A Font of Your Own
An alternative to buying a font is to create a computer font based on your own lettering. This can give your art a more personal look than using a store-bought font will — and it's the next best thing to hand lettering. With a little preliminary work, the results can be very pleasing.
Macromedia offers software, Fontographer, that is an excellent tool for this procedure. It's available in both Windows and Macintosh platforms. To start, carefully hand letter the alphabet — including punctuation marks — on a piece of illustration board. The larger you make the characters, the less noticeable their flaws will be when the font is used. Scan the alphabet on your computer (for more on scanning line art, see Chapter 20). Fontographer will guide you though selecting each letter and importing it into a font grid. When you have imported all of your letters, the software will also help you kern the letters and establish special kerning for problematic letter pairs.