Michael Penick on Lettering

You might not know the name, but Michael Penick is a fine artist who works in many areas, including, occasionally, comics. Have a look at his website.

In a recent message board discussion, the talk was about how to direct the flow of the storytelling through a page of comics art, and Michael had this to say:

“I have a theory about that as well. I’ve been reading comics for many years now and I don’t follow patches of black through a page. What I follow are word balloons. I think word balloon placement is the single most crucial part of design on any page. You are reading the book, after all, so your eye naturally wants to find the next balloon to read. So long as the images support proper balloon placement I think it’s a successful page, at least from a design point of view.

When I chimed in that I had never heard an artist make this point before, he added:

“Well I just think I’m not doing my job if I don’t take into consideration all the elements that will be on a page. It’s egotistical and/or lazy to not think about them. And really, you’re reading it, right? So isn’t that where your eye goes first? Add to that the fact that the balloons are often the only white of any real size on a page, so they draw your attention for that reason as well.”

4 thoughts on “Michael Penick on Lettering

  1. chris stevens

    he makes a great point…i’ve noticed, especially these past 5 years or so, that as lettering has became something ‘anyone’ can do there are more and more pages that are just plain hard to follow due to poor choice of placements. done well, the placement of balloons becomes almost lyrical, building the rhythm of a book.

  2. Mike Carlin

    I’ve been screaming this for years! I periodically talk to the newer editors and try to convey some of my thinking concerning placements… with widely varying degrees of success.

    I think lots of folks humor me and my “pet-peeve” but am thrilled to hear anyone helping me fight the fight!

    Mike C

  3. Brad

    And where I think it’s most critical is with newer readers “learning” to read comics.

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