Scan and Polish - Lettering

Here's a look at how to add lettering and speech bubbles in Photoshop.

Let's start off with an undeniable fact: I am crazy. I letter by hand only to erase it and redo it digitally. There are two reasons this works for me: one, I get to show my friends an unscanned page and two, I give myself a good idea where my actual lettering will go when I'm drawing. The downside is that it's much more work for me to clean up. A normal person will begin with slide number 2.

Here I have added a mask to my artwork layer to hide my original lettering. This is a good tool to use for all your touch-ups because it doesn't erase the original art, so you can always go back, make adjustments or turn the mask off to see what it looked like before - which is exactly what I did for slide 1.

Create a shape layer to form your speech bubble. The bubble consists of two parts, the body and the tail. I use rounded rectangles for the body, but cornered rectangles, ellipses or a fancy custom shape with the pen tool can all work great. Keep the tail simple. Here, I used two curves with the pen tool. The tail should usually point to the speaking character's mouth. The outline can be created with either the layer effects or the shape layer's stroke setting. The stroke is easier but the effects layer gives you some fun options.

Keep your lettering consistent. Use a consistent font size and leading (that's the vertical space between lines). Don't let your letters come too close to the edge of the speech bubble. Consistent white space between the text and the bubble edge will keep the dialogue readable. Clean, small text is more readable than large crowded text, especially in print.

Don't forget the little details! Make a layer between the text and the bubbles to add the essential hand-drawn touches that are so important to comic text.

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