Speech Balloon Placement in Comics

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Hello! My name is Liz Staley and I’m a long-time user of Clip Studio Paint (I started using the program back when it was known as Manga Studio 4!). I was a beta-tester on the Manga Studio 5 program and for Clip Studio Paint, and I have written three books and several video courses about the program. Many of you probably know my name from those books, in fact. I write weekly posts on Graphixly.com and on CSP Tips, so be sure to come back every week to learn more Clip Studio Tips and Tricks from me!

Lettering in comics is a complex thing. It’s so complex that comics published through big publishers have a dedicated letterer who is an artist of the written word! Unfortunately most artists making comics on the internet don’t have an entire team of artists working on their story, so one person has to be the writer, artist, inker, flatter, colorist, letterer, publisher, and marketing guru! In this article we’ll take a look at some basic tips for speech balloon placement in your comic story. These are some basic tips and things you should remember to avoid confusion with your dialog.

In this article we will cover the following topics:
Basic Tips for Speech Balloon Placement in Comics

Let’s dive right in!

Basic Tips for Speech Balloon Placement in Comics

Remember that most comics are a marriage of art and text. The text and the art should work together and compliment each other. Panel layout, art, and speech balloons should combine to form a flow for the reader’s eye across the page. Plan out your art while keeping any speech balloons or other text in mind.

When I did my comic, I would actually put my text in my panels before I even started drawing so that I knew exactly how much space the speech would take up.

To illustrate these tips for speech balloon placement, I will be using the 3D characters and some Background material images that come with Clip Studio Paint and are in the Materials Library.

A huge consideration for where to place speech balloons is the order in which your reader is likely to be used to reading in. If multiple balloons are in one panel, the reading order will be most clear if the first one is in the top left (for Western readers) and any subsequent balloons go down and toward the right. This is illustrated in the image above, where the first balloon is higher and more toward the left, and the second is further down in the panel and further to the right. When writing in Japanese you should start speech at the top right and go down and to the left.

You also should think about how the speech balloons flow over the entirety of your page as well.

The following image shows another common speech balloon mistake.

Make sure that it’s clear which character is speaking in your art. Point your balloon tails toward the speaking character’s head or mouth. If there are multiple characters in a panel but not all of them are speaking, draw the talking character with their mouth open to make it obvious who the dialog is coming from.

What’s wrong with the speech balloons in the following image?

Speech balloon tails should not cross over each other. If this happens you need to redo your art or reposition your balloons to fix it. Remember, don’t cross the streams and also don’t cross your speech balloon tails!

Below we can see another common problem with speech balloon placement.

Make sure that your balloon tails don’t cross over another character’s face or neck, and that your balloons aren’t covering anything important in the art. You might recall that in the beginning of this article I said that I would always put my dialog in before I even started drawing, and this is why! With the text already on the page, I could draw in a way to ensure that there was enough space for my balloons and make sure that nothing important was covered. Nothing hurts more than drawing some great art and forgetting that there’s a huge speech balloon in that panel that’s just going to cover most of it!

Conclusion

These basic tips and tricks will help you make speech clear in your comic and avoid confusion for your readers. Remember that lettering is an art so you need to practice doing it to get good and make the text compliment the artwork. If you are unsure if your speech balloons aren’t clear, show your art to a trusted friend and see if they understand. Keep practicing and you’ll improve your skills!

For more information on CLIP Studio Paint, please visit https://www.clipstudio.net/en https://www.clipstudio.net/en or https://graphixly.com https://graphixly.com

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