Font size is a technical aspect of comic book creation that, like comic book page layout and shading, is essential to your readers’ comprehension.
Much like cleaning, your fans will only really notice the lettering if you don’t do it well. Fortunately, there are decades of letterers who have come before you to let you in on the wisdom of comic book lettering.
Here’s all you need to know about fonts, point size, text boxes, dialogue balloons, and text blocks so you can get it right the first time.
What is Point Size?
Point size is the smallest unit of measurement and is mostly used to measure the printed size of letters, numbers, and characters on a page. This measurement refers to the letter’s height on the page; 12 point font measure ⅙”.
The aim of picking the right point size for your lettering is to make sure your reader stays engaged with the story. Confusing letters in jarring fonts can make the reader lose interest or not follow your story.
The industry standards hover around 9.5 as a standard point size with 10 leading (or 9.5/10) for full-size artwork. 10 leading refers to the amount of space that occurs between the lines.
For the printed page, 6.35/6.75 is an adequate size for heavy copy, although some letterers go up a ½ to ¾ of a point if they have a lighter copy issue coming out.
Why is Font Important?
Since fonts are shaped differently, some skinnier than others, some taller, it follows that 12 point Helvetica will not be the same as 12 point Times New Roman. Since the letters aren’t the same, they won’t look the same on the page.
Uppercase Letters Only
The most common type of letters you will see in a comic book, whether in a text box or a dialogue balloon, are uppercase letters.
Uppercase letters allow you to stagger the lines of text or dialogue in a balanced manner; if you use lowercase letters, a lowercase “y” will often create unnecessary space below with its tail. This then unbalances the whole text block – the block of text with select or descriptive information.
The Crossbar “I”
Another small detail that can make a big difference once you’ve gotten your comic back from the printers is the use of the crossbar capital “I.”
Since most text is written in small point size and uppercase letters, an uppercase “I” using crossbars will make unnecessary space when used in the middle of the word. Therefore most letterers will use a straight line for the capital “I” when it appears in the middle of words. However, when used at the beginning of the word or as a pronoun, the crossbar “I” is used.
Use Diamonds for Dialogue Balloons
How you create conversations and thoughts in your comic book is another consideration altogether. Dialogue balloons are different from text boxes and have a set of rules all of their own.
Dialogue and thought balloons are round, compared to the rectangular text boxes usually used for descriptions and context. The letterer’s job is to make these balloons as attractive and easy-to-read as possible. This means employing an imaginary diamond shape when filling up the balloon, so the lengthiest lines are in the middle.
The tails of these balloons should point to the speaker’s (or thinker’s) mouth and be ample enough for the reader to take note, but not too fat that the balloon tail is taking up precious real estate in your panel.
Never Use Comic Sans
Most professional letterers have professional-grade tools at their disposal, which include different fonts. If the font came for free with your computer, it is not a professional letterer font.
The number one amateur mistake in lettering is to letter your comic book entirely in lower case and Comic Sans. If you want a skillful-looking comic, you should choose a printer who knows which fonts to use and have them at their disposal.
Leading is the space between the lines in text boxes and balloons. Most computers come with a default leading setting, but this may not be the best choice for your printed comic book.
If you’re lettering both upper and lower case, the letters will be different sizes. You have to make sure the leading isn’t too tight, or the letters will touch, making reading confusing and taxing.
There are other fascinating details that letterers are familiar with, like using the “less than” and “more than” symbols to connote that the character is speaking in a foreign language. Also, using a double-dash shows that a character is interrupted (there are no En or Em dashes in comic books).
You won’t necessarily have to know all of these minute details as they’ve been developed hundreds of years of typography. What is essential is to choose an excellent printer to help lead you on your creative journey, resulting in a professional and polished graphic novel.
They call lettering the invisible art because letterers as a whole don’t get as much fanfare as the artists or colorists of a comic book series. The letterer, however, is one of the most crucial contributors to the creation process.
The letterer has to choose the correct font and point size so that the reader’s eyes will effortlessly read and not get stopped up by a crossbar “I” in the middle of a word or the dangling tail of a lowercase “y.”
Comix Well Spring can help you make your dreams a reality every step of the way. Our professional printing services know the ins and outs of printing and lettering comic books or graphic novels. Call us today, and you’ll be one step closer to holding your printed comic book in your hand.