Hi and welcome back to lesson 5 of our comics tutorial. Today we’re going to be talking about words. Now while it’s perfectly possible to make comics with no words in them, a speech balloon is what most people think of when they hear the word “comics”. A speech ballon can be shaped in many ways. It can give off emotions, like anger, frustration or even love. You can hear people’s thoughts with a thought balloon or even a caption, much like the voice over in a movie, or you can have you characters whisper or shout in a number of ways. You can also put sound effects in your comic to help us understand what’s going on. A few words about speech balloons: They should always be placed in least intrusive areas of the panel – usually in the top – and the “tails” of the balloons should point towards whoever is speaking. If possible, towards their mouth, as that where the sound is coming from. Beware of the reading order, and be careful where you place your speaking characters, so you don’t have tails criss-crossing and confusing your readers. If you draw your speech balloons first and put the text in afterwards, you might end up with balloons that are either to small or too large. That’s exactly why I always text my comics before I start sketching. In the old days, before computers, us cartoonists had a much rougher time than now. Making lay-outs and texting has never been easier. Before computers, measuring out the borders or “gutters” between panels was done with a ruler and texting was usually done by hand. Today we can rely on layout programs and computer fonts for that. Later, you can print out your entire comic and trace the frames and balloons on a lightbox. That’s what I do, anyway. I like the hand-drawn look of it. Some artists make their own font, so their texting looks like their own handwriting. However cool that sounds – and it DOES sound cool – I would advice against it, unless you have a lot of time on your hands and the skills needed to follow through. Go online and look for free fonts, see what you can find that fits your story. I often use a place called dafont.com, but there are lots of places online where you can find free fonts. Just make sure you’re not spending days looking and wind up with a trial version of something you can’t really use. A lot of sites advertise free fonts, and then when you click through, they still want your money. When deciding on what font to use, you need to think of the tone or voice of your story. Is it a whacky cartoon or a horror story? The font is part of that. You might also need some special characters for your language, so make sure the font has those before downloading. In the last episode we talked about layouts and thumbnails. Using my thumbnails as a guideline, I do rough sketches of my entire story. I do that in print size or even smaller. This is still the planning phase, I don’t want to be worrying about the details or what paper to use for the final comic. What I then do is I scan my rough sketches and paste them in an InDesign document. Some use Photoshop or Illustrator. I’d say use whatever program you’re most comfortable with. First, make a standard page that fits the format you want to use. US comics for example are taller and narrower than European comics. Find a comic on your shelf that fits what you want and measure it, use that as your standard. While you’re at it, measure the space between the panels, often referred to as “the gutters”, use that as well. You will notice, that there is no “industry standard” to how wide the gutter should be or how thick the frames are. Pick a standard you like – and stick with it! Experiment, but be consistent within the story, you can change it up for the next project if you want. In your layout program of choice, set a standard bleed for the entire page and make a standard border. If you don’t plan on letting your art go all the way to the edge of the paper, you don’t need to worry about bleed. But if you’re doing a cover, you will need it for the print shop anyway, so… I always draw the finished panels by hand, so in my layout document I just make a box to represent the gutter, copy that and paste it wherever I need it. The text is a little trickier. If you did what I recommended in lesson 1 and 2, and wrote and actual script for your comic, you’ll have your dialogue in a word document or the like, so you can easily paste it in your text boxes in your layout document. Begin with pasting it all in on box, and cut the dialogue as you go along. Don’t worry about placing it to begin with, just do the boring work of getting it on the right pages. Use the same standard box for all text, one with no frame. Make sure dialogue is centered and captions are left aligned. When you’ve finished pasting in your dialogue, adjust your boxes, and maybe even edit down some lines, or divide in two separate balloons, if your dialogue is too long. As a rule, two or three sentences per balloon is quite enough. You don’t want the reader to loose their place or their interest. When I’ve done the tedious work of layouting my entire story this way, I feel like I need a reward. And that reward is printing it out and actually start drawing. So let’s go on to lesson 6: Perspective drawing and backgrounds!