Sunday 30 January 2011

Sunday Surgery: We're Caught In A Trap

With apologies, once again, for the length of time it’s taken to get things back on a sufficiently even keel to start giving this blog some attention, I’m pleased to bring you the return of the Sunday Surgeries.
Today, I’m just going to pick up a couple of queries out of the recent comments, but we’ll be getting to more in-depth content in the near future.
First of all, jteethy asks:
How much leeway do you have with moving balloons to another panel? There were a couple of instances in Salem's Daughter where it would have improved the flow of dialogue and still made sense with what was drawn. Also: "Shriek" doesn't work particularly well as onomatopoeia...
This is the sort of thing you should always establish upfront with your editor. As soon as you get a script, you should ask how much freedom you have with this. The editor may have a policy on this, and will also know whether the writer is the kind that’s happy to leave lettering decisions in the hands of the letterer, or the kind that, well, isn't.
To be honest, you can infer a great deal of this from the script itself. If it has instructions like “Screaming FX” it’s a fair bet that the writer is looking to you to pick up this side of things, and that was certainly how I read that “Shriek” in the script and changed it for a more traditional effect.

(Interesting that you should mention onomatopoeia, because it’s a little considered aspect of lettering that the word of a sound effect not only has to say the noise it’s making, but needs to look like it, too. This is why “CRASH” is generally represented as “KRASH”… the soft curl of the C simply doesn’t look like a harsh, crashing sound. The angular K makes the word look like it’s supposed to sound, a consideration unique to the comic medium.)
Shunting balloons backwards or forwards to preceding or following panels is certainly a legitimate technique to create space if the artwork will still make sense. Again, it’s something I’d clear with the editor, perhaps even e-mailing them an example (“I think these two panels work better like this -- are you happy for me to rearrange the balloons as shown?”)
Once given the OK, I wouldn’t personally then pester the editor with every single change, but I would highlight the changes I’d made in an e-mail at the end of the job.
Second question, from Airy:
In the Balloon Tales article, it instructs to select the Text and Balloon layers and then use "Overprint Black..." with the Fill and Stroke options checked. In my version of Illustrator, this option is not found in "Filter > Colors" as stated in the article but I found the "Overprint Black..." option in "Edit > Edit Color" so I used that method in the process to save several eps files. Reading Todd Klein's "DC Guide to Coloring & Lettering" he describes a slightly different method. It states to use the "Attributes" window so when you select the text layer you can set those to "Overprint Fill" and when you select the balloon layer you can set those to "Overprint Stroke." So I tried that method as well and saved several more eps files. Either method looks fine in Overprint preview. However, when I click on text or balloons in eps files I've saved in the Balloon Tales method, they don't show checked stroke or fill boxes in the "Attributes" window like they do when I use the Todd Klein method. Being new to this, I'm not sure what this means or which method is best to use when preparing files for output. Also, (okay, this question in particular is probably very stupid of me but...) if I were to make a white SFX it will not show up on overprint preview, so how do I handle those differently?
The first thing to do is to understand what overprinting is, and why you’re using it. This is one small aspect of the dark and arcane realm of four-colour printing known as trapping, which could comfortably fill a year’s worth of blog posts on its own. Of necessity, the following simplifies the subject drastically, but should illustrate the point. I hope!
Overprinting only applies to CMYK printed pages and relates to the way the four colour plates interact  when prepared for printing. Essentially, the four colours overlay on top of each other to create the full colour image: an area with 100% coverage of yellow ink is (obviously) yellow; add 100% magenta coverage over the top and the area will print as red.
The black plate will, by default “knock out” the other colours where it overlays them. For example, if you were to create a graphic with a smaller black circle on top of the red area described above, then the black circle would automatically knock out its own shape on the other colour plates, so that it would print directly onto the white paper.
If the black is set to “overprint”, then it literally prints over the other other plates without knocking them out.

The disadvantage of overprinting in the example above is that the black will take on a distinctly reddish cast but, by the same token, the knockout version relies on the printing to hold exact register and align all the plates precisely, or a ‘halo’ may appear round the black circle where the empty area of one or more of the other plates shows.
Overprinting, then very specifically relates to the way that elements on the black plate interact with the other printing plates. There is no need for any other colour to be set to overprint and, in the example you give, white will fail to print at all if set to overprint because all white is is a hole in the other colour plates that allows the white of the paper to show through. By its very nature, it has to knock out.
Similarly, if you have black that is sitting on white -- the text inside normal speech balloons, for instance -- there is no need for that to overprint, because it doesn’t interact with any other colour plates. Generally speaking, the strokes on speech balloons (and on SFX if the stroke is black) need to overprint in order to prevent the ‘halo’ effect I describe above, resulting from mis-registration of the printing plates.
Note that if you have black text in a coloured speech balloon or caption, you will need to set that text to ‘Overprint Fill’.
As far as actually achieving the overprint is concerned -- I have never used any method in Illustrator other than the ‘Attributes’ palette to set overprints:

I hope that goes some way to answering your query -- please feel free to post follow-up questions in the comments, if I’ve been unclear, or if anyone has further questions.

Thursday 27 January 2011

True Grit: Mean Business

True Grit is one of the few movies I'm looking forward to this year, and I couldn't really say no when invited to letter the online tie-in comic! Adapted by Dan Light and Ben Read, with awesome art by Christian Wildgoose, you can either read it free on Comixology or snag yourself a PDF version. 

Just click here for more info…



PS: Work levels are finally returning to normal. I'm just going through everyone's attempts at the sample packs, and should have some proper posts for you very soon. Honest!

Sunday 16 January 2011

Passing Through…

Apologies to one and all for the drive-by posting -- lots of work, all of it good, but it's made it difficult to put together much meaningful content this last couple of weeks.

At least two projects get put to bed by mid-week (he typed, tempting fate catastrophically) so I hope to bring you some proper content by next weekend.

Thank you to one and all for your continued patience!



Sunday 9 January 2011

Sunday Surgery: Miller Time!

One of the odd pieces of statistical data that Blogger offers is to show you which search engine queries have led people to your blog.

Yesterday, I discovered that someone had visited my blog as a result of the query: "What lettering font was used in Frank Miller's 300?"

It seemed like a very specific question, and I felt kind of bad that whoever had asked it didn't find an answer here, nor, indeed anywhere else if my own Googling of the same query is any indication.

It appears that Miller does his own lettering -- he certainly did for Sin City and 300 appears to be the same style and there's no credit for a separate letterer.

However, looking at the irregularity of the spacing, the hyphenation and the fact that the lines of text aren't accurately centred*…

300 © Frank Miller -- Art by Frank Miller & Lynn Varley
… And I'm pretty sure that this is hand-lettered. So… to whoever was searching for an answer to that question, I'm afraid that (to my eyes, at least) there is no font, because Frank has lettered the book the old-fashioned way, and more power to him.



*Note that I don't say this as a criticism!

Thursday 6 January 2011

Interview! With Me! Blimey!

The splendid Matthew Badham contacted me over the holiday period and, between plumbing catastrophes, we managed to conduct an interview, the results of which you can now read on Matt's blog.



(PS -- Sorry, Martin, I know I said we'd do an interview, but you bamboozled me with talk of Skype and IM clients and other things that my supposedly technophobic wife has no problems with, but which utterly baffle me!)

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Wednesday Surgery: The Shoulders Of Giants…

I was mulling over some thoughts for today's Surgery but then noticed that Todd Klein had posted a splendid update to his blog. Todd is a friend of this blog, and a letterer who has won the Eisner award for Best Letterer so many times that they should probably just engrave his name on it.

So… when Todd speaks about lettering, I shut up. This time, he's made a detailed post about lettering a section of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Alan Moore.
Kevin O'Neill.
Todd Klein.

Compared to that, I got nuthin'. Read Todd's post here.

Whilst I'm deferring to wiser heads than mine, I would also direct your attention to this unrelated but superb tutorial on constructing lettering in perspective by Clem Robins. I had to Google this up for a recent discussion on another Digital Webbing thread because I'd failed to bookmark it. That was a mistake -- I've bookmarked it now, and so should you!



Sunday 2 January 2011

Sunday Surgery: Practise Packs

This week's Sunday Surgery brings a couple more batches of sample pages for you to work, courtesy of the nice people at Zenescope Entertainment.

First up, we have the first five unlettered pages, plus script, for Salem's Daughter #4. The pages are the correct size, but have been reduced to 150dpi to try and keep the file size down. Click the link below to for the download, which is about 19Mb.

Download Salem's Daughter #4 Pages

Next, we have the first five pages of Neverland #0, along with the script. Again, the resolution of the artwork has been reduced to keep the download reasonably quick -- about 17.5Mb this time.

Download Neverland #0 Pages

As previously, please feel free to use these for practise and/or portfolio pieces but not for any other purpose and please do not, under any circumstances, remove the copyright notice on the artwork.

If you'd like to post a link to your lettered versions results on the comments section here, or post the pages themselves on the Digital Webbing lettering forum, for a critique, you're most welcome to.

I know several people posted links to their versions of the previous practice packs, and I have downloaded them all -- I hope to bring you some crits in a Surgery post fairly soon.

In the meantime, I hope you find these new packs helpful. There'll be some more to follow shortly.



Saturday 1 January 2011

New Year 2011 (GMT)

Well, it's now New Year here in the UK, so I'd like to wish all the readers of this blog a very happy New Year. We cruised past 10,000 page views earlier this month, which just staggers me! 

I'd like to offer particular thanks to all the members of the lettering profession, whose party I've gatecrashed and who have nonetheless made me feel both welcome and supported. A huge thank you to everyone on the Digital Webbing forum and particular thanks for support and encouragement for this blog to Nate Piekos, Todd Klein and Clem Robins.

I'd also like to make a special point of thanking Clive Bryant at Classical Comics, and Ralph Tedesco and the team at Zenescope for giving me enough work to make lettering a viable living for me, and to everyone else who's been sufficiently impressed with my lettering to want to pay me for it!

On a purely personal note, I'd also like to single out two comments from the last couple of months:

Via Twitter, Dave Gibbons said "Enjoying your clear and useful blog," and went on to tweet "Suggest anyone interested in digital lettering heads over to Jim Campbell's excellent blog"

A few weeks later, I had the pleasure of lettering a strip for the always-fabulous Rufus Dayglo, whose kind words alone would have been enough, but he was good enough to feed back a comment from Mick McMahon when he showed him the finished pages: "That’s a nice page. And really good lettering and balloons, who does that?"

The art of Mick and Dave largely defined the whole 2000AD experience when I was growing up, and I attribute my lifelong interest in lettering to the fact that Dave lettered his own work. The idea that either of these guys would say anything complimentary about my efforts… well, it just exceeds my wildest dreams.

All in all, I have to keep pinching myself to remind myself that this is real. I feel incredibly fortunate, and I'll try to keep paying that back out via this blog, and any other way I can think of.

And, finally, I just wanted to offer a timely reminder that January 1st sees the annual Comicraft Font Sale with all their fonts up for grabs at a bargain $20.11 each for one day only. Treat yourself -- you know you want to!

So, once again, thank you to everyone for their support, for their feedback, or just for reading. I hope each and every one of you has a quite splendid 2011.