Step Ten: Lettering (cont.)

Balloons & Tails
Something I see in a lot of comics that bothers me is the use of straight ellipses (unmodified shapes drawn with the Circle/Ellipse tool). Personally, I think these look a bit awkward and inorganic for spoken words. So what I have done is create ‘squashed’ ellipses that have a more round, organic feel to them.

These are easy to create:

  1. Create an ellipse.
  2. Using the Point Selection tool (the hollow arrow tool in Illustrator), select the top and bottom points of the ellipse.
  3. Using the Free Transform tool (E), push and pull the ellipse so it becomes more rounded at the small ends.

As shown on the previous page, I have a library of balloon shapes on the left. I also draw custom balloons using my tablet.

Once the balloons are placed and resized to fit the type, I go back and trim any balloons butting up to the panel edges by drawing a square around the balloon, aligned with the edges of the panel. Selecting the balloon and square, I do do an Intersection using the Pathfinder tools, and the balloon edges spilling off the edge of the panel are deleted.

Now, I draw in the balloon tails, keeping eye flow in mind. I usually draw these in with my tablet, though I do have a few pre-made tails along the top of the document. Next, I go back to the Pathfinder tools and unite the tails to the balloons using Union. As a final step, I apply a Calligraphic Brush to the black outline (Illustrator 8 and higher), giving the balloon a slightly varied line shape that to me is more pleasing than a straight outline.

Before clean up with Pathfinder.
<br /> Balloons before clean up with Pathfinder.

After clean up with Pathfinder.
<br /> Balloons after clean up with Pathfinder.

Finally, I select all the type, the balloons, and the page outline from the artwork layer and Copy and Paste the whole mess into Photoshop, making sure to uncheck Anti-alias when Pasting. I then clean up any edge spillovers and get rid of the black page outline.

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