Sunday Mailbag

May 22nd, 2011 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: In the illustrations requiring text, such as background signs, posters and the like, do you illustrate them free-hand or use the computer?

A: That depends on what feel or context I am looking for. In cartooning, no matter how “hand drawn” a particular computer font might look, it still lacks the warmth and truly hand-drawn charm of lettering done by the artist. If I want that sort of feel, I will do the lettering by hand. For example, I do basically all the “sound effects” lettering in my MAD jobs by hand:

A panel from MAD #492’s Ironic Man parody with hand lettering

More hand lettering from “Yell’s Kitchen”, MAD #470

In the case of lettering or text that are supposed to represent professional signage or printed matter within an illustration, I would use the computer to create precise lettering, but would then try and make it blend into the image by fading or “distressing” it so it wasn’t an obviously pasted-in element:

A recent poster illustration

Close up showing doctored text

another example of an inserted computer font

I am a pretty lousy hand-letterer, so I will use computer fonts when and where I feel I can get away with it and don’t need the hand-lettered feel.

Thanks to Ken Best for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!


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