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KielDaMan

Lesson: Adding Dialogue to Comics

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One of the integral parts of comics is character dialogue, which is as valuable as the images themselves in conveying the story of the comics (of course with the obvious exception of “speech-less”/”silent-type” comic strips). Adding the character dialogue is usually done in conjunction with the post-editing of the images after the principal photography. At this particular stage of comic-making, one is expected to already have a general idea (or even better - a working script) on how the exchange of dialogue would be. This lesson will teach you how to add character dialogue in your comics – with emphasis to the proper usage of speech balloons and comic-book grammar.

Lesson Sections

Section 1: Types of Speech Balloons

Section 2: Adding Speech Balloons to Comics

  • Using Adobe Photoshop
    • Using speech balloon custom shapes
    • Manual drawing of speech balloons

    [*]Using Microsoft Office Word

  • Speech Balloon Positioning

Section 3: Traditional Comic Book Lettering and Grammar

Deviating from the Norm & Exercising Creative Freedom


Section 1: Types of Speech Balloons

The visual tool used to represent speech/dialogue/conversation of characters in comics is Speech Balloons (also referred to as Speech Bubbles, Dialogue Balloons, Word Balloons). There are different types of speech balloons depending on the emotion of the dialogue, the nature/manner of delivery, and the source of the speech/sound. This lesson will tackle the various types of speech balloons used in comic books and its conventional proper usage in comic-making.

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Examples: (Click on images for higher resolution.)

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Left: LOTR Funnies by Sextant Images Middle: Tabloit by Oky - Space Ranger Right: Wolverine's Worshipers by Oky - Space Ranger

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Examples: (Click on images for higher resolution.)

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Left: Forever Alone by The Penguin Middle: No Wiener? by Kiel.Da.Man Right: Princess Quest by Sandy

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Examples: (Click on images for higher resolution.)

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Left: Raging Plankton by Kiel.Da.Man Middle: Unlimited Powah by Oky - Space Ranger Right: To Infinity and Beyond? by TinyPiesRUs

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Examples: (Click on images for higher resolution.)

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Left: Hey I just met you by Kiel.Da.Man Middle: Lego Bin Laden Watching TV by Here Be Zombies Right: Do the Robot by pong0814

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Examples: (Click on images for higher resolution.)

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Left: Shhh by Kiel.Da.Man Middle: Day 346 by Dan (LEGO365) Right: Day 270 by pasukaru76

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Examples: (Click on images for higher resolution.)

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Left: Must save Friends by Kiel.Da.Man Middle: Day 271 by Dan (LEGO365) Right: supercutstext by TheLegoJoker

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Examples: (Click on images for higher resolution.)

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Left: Pay Attention by darkdragon Middle: Puny God by Oky - Space Ranger Right: My Precious by Kiel.Da.Man

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Examples: (Click on images for higher resolution.)

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Left: Triceratops Dewback by J.V.D. Middle: Civilian Marvel Heroes by Hobbestimus Right: Forgot to blow dry by Clone O'Patra

Sources:

1. Speech Balloon , Wikipedia

2. Comic Book Grammar & Tradition , by Nate Piekos (www.blambot.com)

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Section 2: Adding Speech Balloons to your Comic

There are several ways how you could add speech balloons to your comics. For this lesson, I'll be touching on the use of two programs to add speech balloons to images: the more advanced Adobe Photoshop and the simpler but useful Microsoft Office Word.

Adding Speech Balloons using Adobe Photoshop

I. Using Speech Balloon Custom Shapes

Adobe Photoshop comes with a default set of custom speech balloons. You could activate it by:

a. Selecting the Custom Shape Tool 7985857068_6ba2c26050_o.jpg in the Tools Palette

Speech-Bubbles1.jpg

Image by Jennifer Farley

b. In the Option toolbar above, click the drop down box called Shape > click on the triangle on the top right corner – this opens a drop down menu – and from there choose Talk Bubbles.

Speech-Bubbles3.jpg

Image by Jennifer Farley

c. A dialog box will open asking if you want to Replace or Append the current set of Shapes > choose Append (this adds the new set of shapes to the end of the currently visible shapes).

d. The speech balloons are now activated! Just scroll down through the array of shapes and you’ll see the set of speech bubbles at the bottom.

Speech-Bubbles4.jpg

Image by Jennifer Farley

e. If you want more choices of speech balloon custom shapes for Photoshop, here's a good online source. Just download the kit (for free), and follow the instructions for installation to Photoshop. Once successfully installed, the new set of speech balloons will be added to the grid/list.

After you've activated the speech balloon custom shapes, you can now start adding them to your comic images:

1. Open your image/comic layout in Photoshop. Add a new layer by clicking on the Add New Layer 7961331948_d883d1fba2_m.jpg icon in the LAYERS pane.

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Image Size: 405 x 350 px

2. Set the foreground color 7960518908_cb45aefea3_t.jpg in the Tools Palette to the color of your choice. White is the universally preferred color of speech balloons.

3. Select Custom Shape Tool (U) 7985857068_6ba2c26050_o.jpg in the Tools Palette > and in the toolbar above select from the drop down menu the particular type of speech balloon you want to use.

4. Draw the speech balloon over the image by dragging the sides/corners to your desired size. By convention, the tail of the balloon should be clearly pointed towards the character speaking (preferably the mouth/head area).

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5. To put the outline on the speech balloon: Right-click on the speech balloon layer > choose Blending Options > tick Stroke > set the desired parameters (Size, Position, Color) > Click OK.

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Balloon Outline (Stroke) Size: 2 px / Position: Center / Color: Black

7. To add the text: select the Horizontal Type Tool (T) 7960518564_7178882d25_t.jpg in the Tools Palette > set in your desired font, font size, font color > and type in the text.

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Font: Digital Strip / Size: 24 pt. / Color: Black

8. In cases where the text extends over the speech balloon, or there is too much space inside the balloon, you could either:

a. Resize the speech balloon by using Free Transform (CTRL+T) on the speech balloon layer; or

b. Resize the dimensions of the text box or resize the font.

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Resized font and re-oriented text box to fit in the speech bubble.

9. For specific speech balloons which are not included in the default set (like radio bubbles, whisper bubbles, wavy balloons, etc.), you would have to manually create the speech balloons, which will be tackled in the next section.

II. Manual Drawing of Speech Balloons

Speech balloons can also be drawn "manually" instead of using the default set of custom shape speech balloons Adobe Photoshop comes with. Even though this method requires a few more steps than using the ready-made speech balloons, this offers more customization options to the speech balloons (longer balloon tails, specific position of the tail point, curved balloon tails, etc.) and to add certain types of speech balloons that do not come with the default set of custom shapes (like radio bubbles, connected speech balloons, etc.).

Speech Bubbles

1. Open your image/comic layout in Photoshop (I'll use the same image we used above.) > Add a new layer for the speech bubble by clicking on the Add New Layer 7961331948_d883d1fba2_m.jpg icon in the LAYERS pane.

2. To draw the balloon: Select the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) 7992425196_6c55068646_o.png in the Tools Palette and draw the ellipse on the specific part of the image you'd like to add your speech balloon.

3. To draw the tail: Select the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) 7992425132_eb44002f5b_o.png in the Tools Palette > while pressing the Shift key, draw a triangle (three points) overlapping the ellipse.

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Steps #2 (left) and #3 (right).

4. To add color to the speech balloon: Press D and then X to set the foreground color to white > Press Alt + Delete to fill the balloon with white.

5. To add the border/outline to the speech balloon: Right-click on the speech balloon layer > choose Blending Options > tick Stroke > set the desired parameters (Size, Position, Color) > Click OK.

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Steps #4 (left) and #5 (right). Balloon Outline (Stroke) Size: 2 px / Position: Center / Color: Black

6. To add the text: select the Horizontal Type Tool (T) 7960518564_7178882d25_t.jpg in the Tools Palette > set in your desired font, font size, font color > and type in the text.

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Font: Digital Strip / Size: 18 pt. / Color: Black

7. Re-size the font / Re-orient the text box dimensions / Re-size the speech balloon (CTRL+T) as needed.

Curve-Tailed Speech Bubbles

1. Open your image/comic layout in Photoshop > Add a new layer for the speech bubble by clicking on the Add New Layer 7961331948_d883d1fba2_m.jpg icon in the LAYERS pane.

2. To draw the balloon: Select the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) 7992425196_6c55068646_o.png in the Tools Palette and draw the ellipse on the specific part of the image you'd like to add your speech balloon. Follow the previous steps above to fill the balloon with white and to add the border/outline.

3. To add the text: select the Horizontal Type Tool (T) 7960518564_7178882d25_t.jpg in the Tools Palette > set in your desired font, font size, font color > and type in the text. Re-size the text or balloon as needed.

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Balloon Outline (Stroke) Size: 2 px / Position: Center / Color: Black

4. To draw the tail: Go back to the balloon layer > Select the Pen Tool (P) 7995962273_c08bbd85a9_o.png in the Tools Palette > click the Paths icon 7995969280_47b5e08b7e_o.png in the Pen Toolbar above > create a triangle overlapping the balloon with just three clicks of the mouse.

5. To make the curved tail: Select the Convert Point Tool (P) 7995962391_b4e4bc7f2b_o.png in the Tools Palette (in the submenu of the Pen Tool) > click one of the points inside the balloon and drag the cursor to get your desired curve > do the same for the other point inside the balloon > DO NOT click on the point outside the balloon.

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Steps #4 (left) and #5 (right)

6. Right-click on the area within the curved tail > Select "Make Selection" > Click OK > Press Alt+Del to fill the tail with white and add the corresponding border.

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Lightning-Tailed Speech Bubbles (Radio/Broadcast Balloons)

1. Open your image/comic layout in Photoshop. Create a regular speech bubble by following the standard procedure above (Steps #1-7).

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2. Select the Balloon Layer > select the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) 7960518666_f6f32eeabb_t.jpg on the Tools Palette > make a rectangle selection covering the bottom two-thirds of the tail of the speech balloon.

3. Select the Move Tool (V) 7999400004_89b1cd98ff_o.png on the Tools Palette > press the right or left arrow keys to move your selection.

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4. Repeat Steps #2-3 to the lower section of the tail to get another "lightning bolt layer".

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Connected Speech Bubbles

In cases where multiple speech balloons are required on a single panel, separate speech balloons coming from the same character are usually joined together to avoid the unsightly view of several speech balloon tails pointed to the speaker. To do this:

1. Open your image/comic layout in Photoshop. Type in the exchange of dialogue according to proper chronology. Do also provide enough spacing between the separate text captions for the speech balloons.

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Image by paanjang16

2. Add a new layer for the Connected Speech Balloon > draw an elliptical balloon for the topmost text caption, using the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) 7992425196_6c55068646_o.png > fill with white (Alt+Delete, with the foreground set to white) > Deselect the elliptical selection.

3. On the same Connected Speech Balloon layer, draw another elliptical balloon for the next text caption using again the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) 7992425196_6c55068646_o.png. Using the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) 7992425132_eb44002f5b_o.png, draw first the tail of the balloon (while pressing the Shift key, draw a triangle overlapping the bottom ellipse) and then the connecting bar (while pressing the Shift key, draw a narrow rectangle overlapping the two ellipses > fill with white (Alt+Delete, with the foreground set to white) > Deselect the current selection.

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4. Right-click on the Connected Speech Balloon layer > choose Blending Options > and set the Stroke parameters to give the connected speech balloons an outline.

5. Create a speech balloon for the remaining text dialogue to complete the multi-speech balloon panel.

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Thought Bubbles

1. Open your image/comic layout in Photoshop > create a regular speech bubble (without a tail) by following the standard procedure above > type in the text caption.

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2. Select the Brush Tool (B) 7999979646_55fa32a9a9_o.png in the Tools Palette > set the following parameters in the Brush Toolbar above: Hardness = 100% / Opacity = 100% / Flow = 100%. The size of the brush can be manually changed by pressing the right/left [ ] bracket key in the keyboard.

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3. Set the foreground color to white (or to the same color as the balloon) > select the Speech Balloon layer > begin dabbing the brush along the outline of the balloon, with each click producing one "puff" of the thought cloud. Increase or decrease the size of the "cloud puffs" by pressing the right/left [ ] bracket key in the keyboard.

4. Lastly, create the thought balloon tail by clicking three brush dots of decreasing size.

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Adding Speech Balloons using Microsoft Word

Another program that can be used to add speech balloons in your comics is Microsoft Word - yes, that document-making MS Office application. MS Word might be not be as "professional" as the dedicated graphics program Adobe Photoshop, but it still gets the job done in this particular aspect of comic-making (speaking based on experience). Let me show you how:

For this part, I'll be using Microsoft Word 2010, though I'm pretty sure you could still use the older versions (2003).

1. Open Microsoft Word > create a new blank document > select Insert in the Function Menu above > choose Picture > select the image. Re-size the image as needed.

2. To add the speech balloon: Select Insert > choose Shapes > in the Callouts grid below choose the speech balloon you'd like to use > draw the balloon on your image (re-size the dimensions by dragging the sides/corners to your desired size; position/re-size the tail of balloon by moving the yellow-dotted tip)

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3. To change the color fill and outline of the balloon: Right-click on the balloon > select Format Autoshape > and change the settings for Fill, Line Color, and Line Style.

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4. To add the text caption: Double-click the balloon > type in the text > highlight the text and edit the font settings to the change the font style, size, and color > re-size / re-orient the text as needed.

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5. Select View in the Function Menu > zoom in the document to a respectable size (best possible resolution) > press the PrntSc (Print Screen) key in your keyboard > Open Microsoft Paint > paste the selection (Ctrl+V) > Move / Crop the unwanted parts until only the image is left > save the image.

Speech Balloon Positioning

Placement

As previously mentioned, the tail of speech balloons should be clearly pointed towards the character speaking. This is especially important to avoid any confusion for conversations involving multiple speech balloons. If possible, the tail of the balloon should be pointed to the mouth or head of the character. In cases where it’s not possible, the tail could be just pointed to the character as a whole.

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Examples: Speech Balloon tail Left: Pointed to mouth; Middle: Pointed to head; Right: Pointed to body (Patrick)

Chronology

For scenes involving multiple speech balloons, the reading convention is from top to bottom, left to right, so the topmost/leftmost balloon is usually read first down to the succeeding speech balloons. Be sure to keep this in mind when placing your multiple balloons in the panel to avoid any reading confusion. Avoid placing two speech balloons on the same level and instead place them in chronological order.

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Examples: Left: Improper chronology of multiple speech balloons; Right: Proper chronology

Size and space

The text should be of readable size, and as much as possible consistent with the font size used throughout the comic. Avoid unusually large fonts when not needed. On the other hand, excessive amount of space inside the speech balloon is also discouraged (resize the balloon or font as needed).

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Examples: Left: Too large text size; Middle: Too small text size; Right: Proper text size

In cases where there is a conspicuous amount of blank space in the panel, the speech balloon could also be used as an effective ‘space filler’ by repositioning it in such a way that it would effectively reduce the blank space and give the panel a more ‘balanced look’.

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Examples: Left: Available space above; Right: Repositioned speech balloon

Sources:

1. Creating Speech Bubbles in Photoshop using the Custom Shape Tool , by Jennifer Farley (www.laughing-lion-design.com)

2. Speech Bubbles , by Greg Kogan (www.gagcartoons.com/cartoon-tutorials/speech-bubbles/)

3. Add Speech Balloons and Text Bubbles to your Photos in Photoshop or Elements, by Sue Chastain (About.com Guide)

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Section 3: Traditional Comic Book Lettering and Grammar

I’ve found a very good online article written by Nate Piekos which tackles on comic book lettering and its grammatical and aesthetic traditions. It’s a good reading material where you can learn the conventional rules of lettering in comic books, and for this purpose, the designing of the text in the speech bubbles – when to use italics, bold letters, capital vs. small-letters, etc. Since I find the article already useful as it is, I’ll just refer you to read it off-site and hopefully you'll gain a good grasp on the subject matter.

Deviating from the Norm & Exercising Creative Freedom

Throughout the history of comics as a visual mass medium, it has developed its own set of conventional rules on comic-making, some of which have been touched in this lesson with regards to the types and proper usage of speech balloons. But like in any other "artistic medium", the intricacies of the art (comic-making) will almost always ultimately depend on the subjective personal taste of the artist (comic-maker). Yes there are traditional and conventional ways of doing things in comics, but one could always exercise some degree of "creative freedom" to deviate from the norm and do things that will give one's work a "better effect" and a "visual flavor" that suits the creator's personal taste.

Thanks to fellow BFCA Teacher def, here are a couple of examples of deviations from conventional rules with effective results:

Asterios1.jpg

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzuchelli

In this particular example, you'd notice that the lead character is a cold architect whose dialogue is aptly depicted with a signature square balloon, while the other characters have different text font styles. The six-panel division of the single location is also remarkably unique and effective - another perfect example of non-traditional techniques giving a good effect.

From the same artist, here is an example of a radical style of drawing speech balloons - the tails are directly coming out of the character's mouth, who happens to be mentally disturbed.

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Artwork by David Mazzuchelli

From those two examples above, you'll see that doing things 'outside the box' can produce very interesting results. As a comic-maker, you could also try some unconventional techniques like these to give your comics a distinct look. Though a word of caution: don't do these just for the sake of making your comics unique. As much as possible, deviations from conventional rules should be done with good reason, and hopefully with proper execution.

I do hope that through this lesson you have gained a good grasp on the intricacies of adding visual dialogue to your comics. :classic: Should yo have any questions, feel free to ask in the Questions & Answers Thread and the Teachers would try to provide their insights.

Sources:

1. Comic Book Grammar & Tradition , by Nate Piekos (www.blambot.com)

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Assignment

Create a one-panel comic strip showing an exchange of dialogue, with a minimum of two characters with at least one spoken dialogue each. Draw the appropriate type of speech bubble(s) suitable for the dialogue using any of the techniques highlighted in this lesson (you may use Adobe Photoshop, MS Word, or any other digital software program). The work will be judged according to correct choice of speech balloon type, proper placement and positioning of the speech balloons, and the overall look of the speech balloons.

Put your assignment in a new topic in the BF&CA subforum with a title of "Student Enrollment: Adding Dialogue to Comics". Post both the original image (without dialogue) and the edited image with dialogue. Resize the images as needed as per EB's maximum size of 800px wide. Feel free to ask questions if you need further clarifications.

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