Neat Cartoon Lettering
The most important requirement of cartoon lettering is that it be legible and easy to read. Unless you're drawing cartoons for a medical journal, your writing should be neat and easy to read. Neat writing is easy to achieve with computers, but for those who still prefer lettering their cartoons by hand, special attention must be paid to your handwriting.
I prefer to use architectural style lettering, because it was developed with simplicity and legibility in mind. It is neat and easy to read, even if the cartoon is downsized or reproduced with a low printing quality.
Even if you plan on lettering your cartoons with a more unique handwriting, it is still helpful to learn the basics of lettering. So here we go:
Always draw guide lines lightly with a pencil. They will help you keep the same letter height and keep the lettering level with the cartoon. Guide lines also help with proper distancing between lines (called "line spacing").
Use a t-square ruler and a right triangle ruler to make perfectly straight guide lines. The following line height measures are recommended for most lettering: 1/4" for major titles; 3/16" for minor titles; and 1/8" for regular text. Line spacing between regular text should be either 1/16" or 1/8".
Most letters should be capitals, fit in a rectangle shape, and generally be the same width. There are some exceptions: The letters A and V are shaped like an equilateral triangle. The letters C, G, O and Q are shaped like a circle (not an oval).
The spacing between two adjacent letters is called "letter spacing." Letter spacing is not the same between all letters! The amount of letter spacing is determined by the area between letters, not distance! You should space your letters in a way so that the area between letters is equal all throughout the lettering. For example, you would place the letters M and J slightly closer together than I and M. Because the shape of the letter J allows more area between it and the letter M than the letter I does, it must be equalized by shortening the distance between the two letters.
The longer you letter your comics or cartoons by hand, the more natural this step becomes.
Here is the English alphabet and digits written with architectural style lettering. I added two more guide lines into each row of text to show how I off center some of the horizontal lines.
Now you don't have to rely on your computer to letter your cartoons! If you decide to use lettering that is more similar to your natural handwriting, you should still keep in mind these basic rules in order to help make your lettering clear and easy to read. If only my doctor would read this...