I wrote this little thing on tumblr, but figured it'd be helpful here too. http://hbreckel.tumblr.com/post/92856086892/presentation-is-important-every-now-and-then-ill
Presentation is Important
Every now and then I’ll critique lettering or presentation in an amateur comic. Common problems are terrible font choices or word bubbles that are obviously an afterthought. Usually when I bring it to the person’s attention I get the reply of “it’s just a font” or “comic sans has the word comic in it, X-Men uses it” (no it doesn’t)
I want to remind anyone that has ever wanted to do comics professionally that presentation matters. Lettering matters. Coloring matters. Penciling matters. Inking matters. Editing matters. Story matters. I understand that we all want to be rock star pencillers or writers and lettering is just for peasants, but if you want to be a professional, you need to at least act like you care about what you’re doing.
Nothing says “I don’t give a shit about what my work looks like” than Comic Sans or Times New Roman in a poorly constructed word bubble. It’s all too often that people will tell me they do all their lettering at the last minute and it really shows. Don’t do that.
Here are some handy dandy tips on not only lettering, but overall presentation. (note, I am not a professional letterer so I am not an expert on the subject. But bare minimum I know how to not make it hideous)
If the font can be used in a term paper, it does not belong in a comic.
If the word “comic” is in the font title, that does not mean it’s a good font for comics. If you see the font being used by soccer moms in PTA letters or being used on shady business establishment signs, you probably don’t want to use it.
Some of the best comic lettering fonts on the planet can be found at http://www.comicbookfonts.com/
they are pricey, but can be found for sale all the time. People that don’t want to spend money on fonts can find perfectly acceptable fonts at http://www.blambot.com/
Care about text placement. There should not be 5 miles of space around your dialogue in the word bubble.
Plan your pages better. Stop sticking 5 paragraphs into a tiny panel. That will never ever work and will waste time. If you need a lot of dialogue in a panel, draw it that way.
Transparent word bubbles aren’t a good idea. If you didn’t want to cover the character, you should have laid the page out better.
Colored fonts and word bubbles are rarely appropriate. Really the only times I can think of is for a really evil character. In 90% of cases, you should be smart enough to lay out word bubbles in a way that does not make it confusing for the reader. You should not need to color code dialogue like a crappy anime fansub from 2005.
If you need a ton of text in one panel, for fuck's sake, don't put it in one bubble. If I see 2 paragraphs crammed together into 1 giant word bubble, I skip that bubble because I don't have time to melt my eyeballs trying to decipher all that information in one big clump. Look at how actual professionals layout larger amounts of text and follow their example.
If you can’t digitally color, don’t do it in something you’re getting paid to do. No seriously. It’s too often I see someone color a comic page they intend to show prospective employers and are like “lol I’m just starting to learn to color”. No. Don’t do that. If you’re just doing it for fun as practice, that’s totally fine as obviously you have to start somewhere. But it’s not okay if you want to get HIRED for something.
Just because you’re good at coloring traditionally, doesn’t mean you’re good at coloring digitally. They’re two different things. I’ve seen so many amazing traditional artists that apparently throw out all knowledge of color theory the second they try digital coloring. It’s normal to need time and practice to get used to it, but don’t forget your basics when you make the jump to digital. If you wouldn’t do it in a painting, it shouldn’t be in your Photoshop work.
Hideous shape brushes and default Photoshop textures are terrible. Texture is awesome, but not when it’s a piece of crap brick or rock texture getting shat out of a Photoshop filter.
Work at no smaller than 300 DPI if you’re working digitally.
Scanning is not hard. Stop acting like it is. Know how to properly scan your lineart, because nothing says “I don’t want to be hired” like poorly scanned lineart. (also your colorist will stab you)
If you’re not drawing digitally, paper choice matters. Lined paper is not okay. You don’t have to necessarily draw on fancy expensive Blue Line Pro paper, but if you have any interest in selling originals ever, don’t use shit paper.
Buying a tablet or a Cintiq when you’re not very good at drawing will not automatically make you a better artist. I work on comics digitally for a living and I don’t even own a Cintiq because I don’t think I need it. If you want to start learning how to draw digitally, be reasonable and buy a Wacom Bamboo/Intuos. (Bamboo is dead now. The new line is Intuos and Intuos Pro, beginners want Intuos)
But don’t go into it thinking it will make you a better artist. A tablet is a tool like anything else and it will not polish a turd. It’s all too often I see people starting out dumping $1000+ on a Cintiq because they think it will make them better artists. You don’t buy a fucking $2000+ guitar when you can’t even play a song.
You don’t have to color digitally, but be aware it’s not viable for monthly comics in most cases. You can only pull it off if you are a speed demon. I only know of 1-2 artists that is able to do it on a monthly series.
Hope this is helpful! When I went to art college, teachers took off points if pieces weren’t mounted and wrapped properly. I hated it at the time, but it taught me how important it is to present your work like you care about it. The earlier you start, the better.