drawing comics
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    drawing comics

    How can you use a speech balloon correctly when you’re drawing comics?

    drawing comics

    If you have experience reading comics as I do, you have noticed that comics use to utilize many different colors, sizes, and shapes in balloon speeches, but do you know what means each one is and how they can help you to tell your story? why is better for your comic to use X shape or in Y shape? how this will help to improve your reading experience? 

    drawing comics

    In this post, I will give you the best practices that I do about using speech balloons that will help you to improve the reading experience for your readers. If you keep your text clean and readable will be easier for your audience to get hooked by your story.

    drawing comics

    Speech balloons are the most common flaw in most beginners work that immediately identifies them as novices in the eyes of their readers. And, amazingly, the problems are ridiculously easy to solve. Address these problems, and your work will take on an air of professionalism that is bound to be noticed by your readers.

    So let’s dive into some balloon basics:

    1. Basic balloon rules that you must have to get a clear reading experience

    Sometimes these rules are like “duh” everyone knows it. This is too obvious, but It’s amazing how I see many times indie comics failing in these simple rules and this makes it boring, frustrating, and hard to read a story.

    If you follow these rules you will make easier for your readers to follow your story:

    Don’t add too many texts in one speech bubble

    If you have too much text in your script try to break it down into different bubble speeches or drawing panels. Remember, this is a comic, not a novel. So don’t make it hard for your readers. I recommend you to use 35 words per balloon as maximum. if your script has more words in one image try to break your dialogue into compound balloons.

    drawing comics
    drawing comics

    Have a clear font for your comic

    This with this rule you must consider: 

    • font-size: don’t make it too small or too big, make a test reading one page from your comic on your phone, and ask a friend if he/she can read it on her phone.  
    • font and balloon color: use any color you want as long as you can make it contrast with the background, one tip I can give you is to add the black and white test. use a black and white filter on your page, if you still can read the text in black and white that means that you have a nice level of contrast. yays 😉
    • font-type: Please, don’t use any fancy font type on your webcomic unless is a special-strong moment in your story. I like to use serif fonts for my normal text, always pick a font that is not too fancy is round, and is not soo thin :D.

    drawing comics

    Simple design rules about drawing balloons

    Leave an interior border in your balloons: This is the most common fault in novice word balloons. It’s amazing to see how many cartoonists allow their text to touch the lines of their word balloons. At all times, there should be a significant, consistent border inside the word balloon that the block of text floats in.

    Never cross tails: It is rarely, if ever, acceptable to allow the tails of your word balloons to cross. There are several ways to fix this problem. The most obvious one is the switch your speakers so their word balloons line
    up to be read straight across from left to right. If you’re unable to switch your speakers’ position, try stacking the balloons so the right-hand speaker’s balloon appears above the left-hand speaker’s balloon. Whenever I do this, I try to indent the bottom balloon slightly so there’s no chance a reader will try to read left to right rather than top to bottom.


    drawing comics

    Comic Balloon's placement

    There are many strategies for placing a balloon in a panel, and each has a benefit in terms of composition and format. For example, it’s a different placement for a printed comic than a webcomic so you will have to think carefully about where to place your balloons depending on your comic format. 

    There’s a little space between the panel borders and the balloon. It’s equidistant from both the to and the right-hand border.

    Inside or outside the panel?

    In my personal taste, I like to leave the balloons outside the panels on my webcomic, but many webcomics use to mix outside and inside panel format.

    so, how do you know when to put your balloon inside the panel? let me give you some tips to consider in your art  before you choose to put your balloon inside a panel:

    • Always have in mind the negative space. if you have enough blank area inside your panel where you can place your balloon do it. Keep in mind that your balloon never should get in the way of important elements of your art unless that’s your intention.
    • the bigger size is your balloon the better, never put a balloon inside a panel if your panel is very small.
    • if you created the art to blend it with your balloons go for it!


    Your speech bubbles are part of your panels!

    drawing comics

    When you’re drawing comics, a good speech bubble is also in harmony with your panel’s composition, so when you’re drawing your panel, always remember to keep a clean spot for your bubbles.

    be wild with your imagination! drawing comics is an art that needs mastery. 


    drawing comics

    Balloon's dictionary

    My fourth tip for starting a webcomic / webtoon is to network your butt off. Especially early on, connecting with other creators from webtoon or Tapastic on Facebook groups, Reddit, or Discord servers who are on the same page as you will help make getting subscribers for your comic that much easier.

    Engage like you were a friend. Leave fun comments on their comic, offer them fan-art out of nowhere with no strings attached, and basically talk to them, not at them.

    Being active on Twitter particularly on webtoon events, Webcomic Chat, Comic Book Hour which both host weekly questionnaires for all web cartoonists to answer can also help build your audience.


    drawing comics speech balloons

    Compound balloon

    Use it when you have to split your dialogue in smaller pieces. This will help your readers to read your story easily.

    drawing comics

    drawing comics speech balloons

    Weakness balloon

    Use them to express fear, sadness or a weak feeling for your character.

    drawing comics speech balloons

    Burst balloon

    Balloons with sharp points, use them to express anger, frustration or yelling. Use them to express tension or drama in your story.

    drawing comics

    drawing comics speech balloons

    Fancy balloon

    These ones use to have fancy ornaments, you can use it for a special dialogue, the feeling of the balloons depends on the design. this one express love for example.

    drawing comics speech balloons

    thought balloon

    Use them to share your character's thoughts, these ballons has a different tail to differentiate them from the speech balloons.

    drawing comics

    drawing comics speech balloons

    Your own balloon

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

    drawing comics


    In summary for my personal taste, all good word balloons share some traits:
    • The body of the balloon is circular.
    • The tail has a slight curve to it and points to the speaker’s mouth.
    • Tails never cross.
    • Text is centered — vertically and horizontally — in the body of the balloon.

    • The style of the balloon matches or complements the style of the illustration.

    • the balloons are in harmony with the panel composition in your webtoon.


    You don’t need to create the weel again, if you don’t know where to start making balloons for your comic use your favorite mangas, comics, or webtoons as references for your own work, look what they do why do you like it, and try to copy the style in your own work.


    Do you have a suggestion for this topic? I would love to hear it! please share your opinion in the comments!



    See you! 😀 

    lezlynorman is a webtoon / webcomic illustrator who trys to help amateour digital artists focused in manga / anime style, auto of among men on webtoon

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