Mac McCool - Children's Book Illustrations and Graphic Novels

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Tuesday Tip: Drawing The Soundtrack of a Comics

On the comics page, font weight correlates with the perceived volume of speech. A wavy baseline (the line where text rests) suggests a melody, mimicking the up and down movement of keys on a musical score. Beyond these two conventions, the comic artist can design letters that "play" very specific timbers, pitches, resonances and other audio qualities in the mind's ear of the reader. It's the power of synaesthesia, the ability of one sense to evoke another, like a color evoking a taste. One warning: computer fonts look too perfect and generally fail to evoke lively sounds, so hand-draw your onomatopoeias (sound FXs) instead. In so doing, consider the materials generating your sound and find visual analogies to shape your letters -- is it soft, hard, gas-filled, liquid, metallic, organic, static, vibrating, etc.? Seek shapes and line styles that convey emotional qualities like harsh, tender, deep, superficial, angry, silly, etc. Finally, your onomatopoeia can also mark moments in space. If the sound is moving, like a jet roaring by, your letters can act as motion lines tracking the passage of the plane across your panel. So remember, an evocative lettering enriches your comics' soundtrack, and your reader's "ear" will love you for it!

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