I have no desire to become a comic book letterer but I’ve been reading comic books (and graphic novels) for a long time and lettering was one of the few art forms in the comic book business that I didn’t know much about. Until now.
As professed by the title, this is indeed The Essential Guide to Comic Book Lettering. Author Nate Piekos notes that there isn’t a real guide book for comic lettering and his hope was to provide a useful resource with this books. He succeeds magnificently.
This is a very detailed ‘how-to’ book with step-by-step instructions for creating and placing the letting in comic books. From the best software to use, how to best fit words in a word balloon, to how to choose or create the looks of the word balloons.
I was surprised at how much work is involved on the letterer’s end. There is a lot to bear in mind – though it undoubtedly becomes second nature as the letterer gets more experience. ‘Little’ things, like where to place the tail in the word balloon, or what shape it should be and even where on the panel the word balloons should be placed so the reader can follow the story but that the balloons don’t negatively impact the art if possible.
The book is primarily filled with all the technical detail (the digital software to use, and how to set up and maintain time-saving steps within the program) any budding letterer would want. For me this information was much more than I needed since I wasn’t looking to set up my own lettering business. But the portions that weren’t technical detail were generally tips and tidbits that were fascinating.
What looked like the most fun was the creating of fonts and styles for the classic sound effect words (“Pow” “Blam” “Zzzzt” etc). It was also quite eye-opening to get a reference as to how much a letterer should be paid (per page) and what the entails.
I was glad to see a section, albeit brief, on hand lettering. Of course everything is done digitally today, but some of us grew up with the old-style, hand-lettered comics and it was nice to see the extra steps those people had to go through to finish the work.
There is no doubt that this will be the ‘Bible’ for comic book lettering for years to come, and it deserves to be. This is extremely well written and packed full of information from someone who’s done the work and knows whereof he speaks.
Looking for a good book? The Essential Guide to Comic Book Lettering by Nate Piekos is not only a fantastic guide for anyone looking to work in the comic book industry, it is also a great peek at an often overlooked facet of the artistic look to a comic, giving the reader a new appreciation for what it takes to produce a graphic work.
I received a temporary digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Essential Guide to Comic Book Lettering
author: Nate Piekos
publisher: Image Comics
paperback, 256 pages