Lettering In Webcomics – Handwritten Or Digital?

2016 Artwork Webcomic Lettering Article Sketch

Well, since I’m still busy making a webcomic mini series at the time of writing (eg: the one after the one that is currently being posted here every night), I thought that I’d talk briefly about lettering in webcomics and whether handwritten lettering is better than digital lettering.

In case you don’t know what “lettering” is, it’s a professional-sounding term for the written text in a comic. This can either be written the old-fashioned way, or it can be added to the comic digitally. In fact, many traditional print comics apparently actually had a separate artist just to do the lettering – although, if you’re making a webcomic, then you’ll probably be adding the lettering yourself.

Personally, I’m a fan of handwritten lettering (with some occasional digital editing) for several reasons. Even so, there are some advantages to entirely digital lettering. This is one of those questions where there isn’t really a “right” or a “wrong” answer, so I’ll be talking about both types of lettering here.

The first reason why I prefer handwritten lettering is that I find it to be a lot more intuitive in many ways, since you have slightly more control over things like text size, the writing style and how much text you can cram into a speech bubble. It’s also a natural fit if you’re using traditional materials to make the rest of your comic. In addition to this, it also lends the comic a certain amount of “personality” that you just don’t get with typed text.

Unless you’re writing very small text, legibility isn’t as much of an issue as you might think as long as you follow the cardinal rule of handwritten lettering – “ALWAYS WRITE IN BLOCK CAPITALS“. This can take a bit of getting used to, but if your “normal” handwriting is anything like mine, then your webcomic’s readers will thank you for it.

Plus, modern technology has eliminated one problem with traditional handwritten lettering. If you make a mistake in your text, or need to change it, then all you have to do is to open your scanned comic with an image editing program (I use MS Paint for this) and either copy and paste some pre-written replacement text over your original text, or create new text digitally by painstakingly copying individual letters and/or words from other parts of the dialogue.

On the other hand, the advantages of digital lettering are consistency and easy editing. Not only that, because most computer fonts are designed to be read quickly, you don’t have to follow the “block capitals” rule that applies to hand-written lettering. This can allow you to include more nuance in your writing by including both upper and lower-case letters in a realistic way.

In addition to this, if you have some expertise with image editing, you can also add both the speech bubbles and the lettering to your comic after you’ve finished the art. This gives you slightly more control over speech-bubble placement, although the idea of drawing a comic without speech bubbles just seems kind of strange to me. Still, different things work for different people, I guess.

One downside of digital lettering is that, unless you use a custom font, your lettering will have a lot less “personality” to it than it would do if you wrote it by hand. However, if your writing is good enough and your art is interesting enough, most people will probably just let this slide by without really noticing it.

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Sorry for the short article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂

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