200704040244A few people mentioned Eddie Campbell’s thought on the art of lettering in the comments to our post yesterday, and we thought they were worthy of their very own call out.

Therefore the very first thing the artist must do upon a approaching a page is pin down the balloons. In fact I go so far as to do all of the lettering first, because in addition to the above, lettering will take much less reduction in size than a picture, therefore it is essential to give the lettering priority. When I am certain that the lettering follows reading-logic, only then do I start drawing. Each balloon should follow clearly from the one before it no matter where the panel borders are placed.

Of course, that’s easy for Eddie, easily one of the most natural and intuitive cartoonists ever, to say. Much more of interest in the link.


  1. That’s the first thing a WRITER should do: thumbnail the script to check for balloon size, sentence length, and other problems. Then have someone proofreed the result before revision.

  2. Even though I do all my art digitally, including the lettering, I still have to incorporate the lettering, in some fashion, at the layout stage. If the balloons are clearly going to cover less than 10-15 percent of a panels’ space, it’s usually sufficient to just leave a space in the art for the balloon. But much more than that, and I find it prudent to “pre-letter” the panel at that point before going to finishes.

  3. It sure beats cutting out your balloon captions out of construction paper and then lettering and then pasting them on the artwork with rubber cement – like my stupid editor did on my very first book.

    Then he has the audacityl to call me to tell me to write shorter dialogue balloons because he’s getting too much of a head rush gluing them on.



  4. Since I do all the prepress stuff on my books and strips, I’ll often kick dialogue around and change it from what I scripted so that it flows better and allows for more organic art. With the digital tools in our hands, it’s sad to see hand lettering go. But it’s like missing putting together the dies on a Guttenberg press versus getting a newspaper laid out with Quark. It’s a dying art, yes, but the final product is benefiting from the technology.