How I Letter My Comic Book

I’ve been making comic books since I was around 10 or 11 years old. Somewhere in my studio, I have old examples of comic books I made. I drew on both blank typewriter paper and pre-ruled, three-hole punched binder paper. Back then, there was no graphic design software and computers where one could easily letter comic books. In those early years as a youngster, I lettered all of my comics by hand. I cringe with embarrassment when I look at them today and I’ll only show these if anyone is actually reading this post and requests it. So there, I’m game if you’re game!

Fast forward many years later to around the late 90s to early 2000s when I began work in a commercial print shop. It was there that I was first introduced to the software that is still used today for many a varied graphic arts application: Adobe Illustrator. Personally, the first copy of Illustrator I bought was still on CD. It was version 10. Back then, I worked on a PC and I taught myself how to use Illustrator. Coupled with my day job working in the prepress department of the print shop and learning Illustrator on my own after hours and on weekends, I became adept at using this vector-based graphics program. Because of my job at the time, I also learned Adobe Photoshop along with QuarkXpress.

QuarkXpress was the 800-pound gorilla of desktop publishing layout software back when I started in digital prepress. It eventually gave way to Adobe InDesign. InDesign soon became the program of choice when it came to page layout software. Adobe InDesign is not like Illustrator or Photoshop. Illustrator is used for mainly creating vector based artwork. Photohop is an image editing program. InDesign is where you would place Illustrator and Photoshop files into to create compositions. Compositions such as posters, flyers, brochures, and…books. Like comic books.

In the video posted here, I go into more detail why I prefer using InDesign to letter my comics. I even show you how I actually do it, using the tools within InDesign. But, in a nutshell, I like using InDesign for my lettering because my approach to lettering is one of creating a finished publication. You see, as I letter, I am able to review all of my pages at the same time. That’s because with InDesign, I can have all the pages of my comic book assembled in one place and I can literally scroll up and down from page to page, reviewing each one. If I were lettering in Illustrator, I’d have to work off each individual Illustrator file. Or, have an Illustrator file with multiple artboards. That’s too time consuming and the latter would create a file way too large to work with.

In addition to that, I’m able to create a document within InDesign that is essentially my comic book set up to spec. My Realm Ethereal comic book currently has a page size set up for 8.5″ x 11″. It’s not the normal comic book size and that’s intentional. But with InDesign, I can start lettering and laying out my pages so that I’m building the actual print file at the same time.

Now, I’m a totally independent creator/publisher/writer/artist/website designer/marketer who is totally in charge of all my own art production, wearing all of those hats. And I freakin’ LOVE it. I can’t think of anything that more accurately describes “indie creator”, right?  I understand my method of lettering might not pertain to someone who is part of the production chain. So, I can see how a letterer who is only doing lettering would probably work just within Illustrator. She or he would letter the pages as they receive them, then pass them along down the production line. And that’s cool. Since I’m doing all of my own production work, it makes sense for me to tidy up my process and make it as streamlined as possible. I try to practice a “touch it only once” method in my process. If I can do in one program what others might do in three programs, I see a huge time saver.

I hope you like the video. If you find InDesign works for your lettering needs, awesome. If not, there’s always more than one way to cat a skin. Cheers!


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Rene Arreola © 2020