Friday, December 15

How to Letter a Word Balloon in a Comic Book or Manga With Adobe Photoshop

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This article has quick steps for the Photoshop experts, followed by detailed instructions for Photoshop novices. People who have never used Photoshop before were able to successfully letter a manga for my company using the same guidelines I outline here.

1. Open your comic page file and click your Type tool.type.jpg

Launch the Adobe Photoshop program on your computer. Click FILE and then OPEN from the top menu bar. Select the image file with your manga or comic book page and click OK. Once you have your file open, click the Type Tool on your Tools menu.

2. Choose your font.

Switch to a lettering font.


Select the font you want to use from the pull-down menu near the top left of your screen. I’m using CCWildwordsInt in my example.

3. Set the font size to 8pt Set your font size to 8pt.


Click on the Font Size pull-down menu to the right of your Font Selection menu. You’ll want to set your font size to no smaller than 8pt.

4. Set your leading to 7.5 Set your leading to 7.5


Go into the Character menu. This menu is either one of the tabs on the top right, or a floating window. (If you can’t find it click WINDOW and the click CHARACTER). The ‘Leading’ is on the top right of this menu with a capital A above another capital A and an arrow. I’ve circled this in my example to the left. You’ll want to click into the number box and type 7.5. If your version of Adobe Photoshop does not support leading fractions then select 8 from the pull-down menu.

5. Decide where the first speech bubble will go.

Use your mouse to float the Type tool cursor over the spot on the image where you want your character’s speech to be. Don’t click your mouse yet. Make sure that you are placing text in a safe area on the page, that won’t be cut off during printing. Your publisher should provide you with margins to follow, or a template with guidelines.

6. Make a little box with your Type Tool Make a text box with the Type tool.


Move your Type Tool cursor to the topmost left spot of where you imagine your word balloon will be. Hold down your right mouse button and drag your cursor to the bottommost right spot of where you imagine your word balloon will be. This should create a dashed square with pull-tabs around it. You should have a flashing I-beam cursor inside the square.

7. Center your text.


Click the ‘Center Text’ icon on the top of your screen so that the flashing I-beam cursor goes to middle of the top line of the square.

8. Paste or type your text into the text box. Resize the box as needed.

If you’re working from a script, you should copy and paste your character’s words into the square. Once you highlight the text in your script you can press Ctrl-c (the control and the c key at the same time) to copy. To paste the text into your box you press Ctrl-v. You can also just type the text right into the box. Click and drag the pull-tabs around the square to make the box larger or smaller as needed.

9. Your layers window Go to the layer below your text.


Click your Layer window. (If you can’t find it click WINDOW and the click LAYERS). Click on the layer below your active layer. Your active layer is the one highlighted in blue.

10. Click your Ellipse tool.


Your Shape Tool is below your Type Tool on your floating tools menu. It usually has a little blob for its icon. Click the blob and hold down your mouse button a moment. A menu should appear beside the Shape tool. Take a look at my example to see what I mean. Click the Ellipse Tool. (The blob should change to a circle).

11. Change your color to white.

Click the black color square towards the bottom of your tools menu. A color picker window will pop-up. Change your color to white by clicking the topmost left white area in the big color box you see. Click OK.

12. Make your balloon Make a circle below your text with your Shape tool.coco2.jpg

Click and drag your Shape tool cursor under your text to make a white circle. Make the circle big enough so that it fits all your text inside it and has some extra empty space around the text on all sides. This empty space should be big enough to fit at least one more letter on every side of the existing text.

You can edit the circle with your Move tool. Click the black arrow on the top left of your floating tools menu. Click on the circle and drag your mouse to move it around. Click and drag the pull-tabs on the bounding box around the circle to make it bigger or smaller. If you don’t see the bounding box press Ctrl-h.

13. Make a white triangle Use the shape tool to make a white triangle that’s big and long enough to be made into your balloon’s tail later.


Click your Shape tool until that little menu appears beside it again. Click the Custom Shape tool. Your icon will change back to the blob.

On the top of your screen towards the middle there should be a black shape icon with an arrow for a pull-down menu next to it. Click the arrow next to that shape to get a pull-down menu of different black shapes. You want to click the shape that most resembles a triangle. Once you’ve clicked a triangle-ish shape, click and drag near your white balloon on the image to make a slender white triangle. You’re using the triangle shape to make what will later become your balloon’s tail. Don’t worry if it’s not where it should be and is pointing the wrong way for now.

14. Move and rotate the triangle so that it becomes your balloon’s tail.

Click your Move tool again (that black arrow). You need to move and rotate your triangle so that it becomes the tail of your balloon.

To rotate: float your mouse to a corner of the bounding box. Move outside and around the corner of the bounding box a little. You want wiggle your mouse around until your cursor turns into a little bent arrow. Once it does click and drag. You’ll be able to rotate the triangle.

Have your tail point to the mouth of the character who’s speaking. Once it’s in the right place press Enter on your keyboard.

15. Merge your tail and balloon to one layer.

Click Layer on your top menu bar, then click Merge Down from the pull-down menu. Now your balloon and tail have merged into one object.

16. Stroke your balloon Give your balloon a 6pt black stroke set to inside.


Click your Layer window. Double-click your balloon layer in the empty area next to the name of the layer. A Layer Style menu should pop up. You have a list of styles going down the left side. Click the word Stroke on the bottom (the word, not the check-box). This will activate your Stroke style and let you see the settings.

The resolution of the page I’m lettering is 600 dpi (dots per inch), and my balloon stroke size is 6pt. I recommend a stroke of 1pt for every 100dpi. (If you don’t know your comic’s resolution click Image from your top bar menu and then click Image Size from the pull down menu. Your resolution is in the bottom number box under ‘Document Size.’)

Click the number box on the other side of the slide rule next to Size and type 6 (or what suits your resolution). Click the pull-down menu below this. Select ‘Inside.’ On the bottom of this selection area there’s a color box. Red or grey is the default color there. Click that box and make it black. Then click ok.

Finished Product:


You’ve just completed one word balloon. When I letter a page I do each step all at once for the entire page. First I paste in all the text all over the page, then I draw all the balloons behind it, then I make all my tails and move them however they need. I merge all the tails and balloons onto one layer and apply my stroke.

Then I do the thoughts and sound effects…but that’s another article.


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