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If you are a publisher and your clients want their comic books to reach new markets and they have their own translations to use, you may be looking for comic book typesetting to help take those translations into the design files. What does a publisher need to know and what information would help you to keep it cost effective.

  1. Ensure that the translations that are provided by the client are in a standard format across all languages. It should be in a bilingual format with the English and the translation side by side. You can do this in Word or Excel.
  2. Ensure that all styles are captured in the translations that are in the English – this includes bolding, italics or underlined text.
  3. Have the translators be responsible for the final proof of the typeset files. Your language service provider should do the format proof against the English and the translations provided (a quick find of each line of translation can ensure you captured all of the text in the translation correctly).

Which fonts for which languages? The English fonts used for most comics may not support your other languages. We can help advise and provide options on which fonts to consider that capture the style of your English fonts. There are several types of fonts to consider – those used for speech, emphasis text, chapter headings/titles, and SFX (sound effects).

Comic Book typesetting and fonts

comic book typesetting with Samaritan lower fontSamaritan Lower font image for comic book typesettingHow do you know if the fonts you want to use will support the languages you need? Comicraft Fonts is a great place to start. Their high-level descriptions specify regions rather than individual languages, which we find to be very vague. One of the sample images, however, does show all the supported characters. For a recent comic book typesetting project, we were researching German fonts for a client to approximate the font they were using in English. We had to keep in mind that German has four special letters; three are vowels accented with an umlaut (⟨ä, ö, ü⟩) and one is a ligature of ⟨s⟩ and ⟨z⟩ (⟨ß⟩; called Eszett “ess-zed/zee” or scharfes S “sharp s”), all of which are officially considered distinct letters of the alphabet. You can see the Eszett in the image below of Samaritan Lower.  Characters supported in Samaritan Lower font for comic book typesetting

We initially thought that Wildwords would also be a good candidate font but alas, the ß was missing. It has since been added to the supported character set, but as you can see, it wasn’t there before:Characters supported in Wildwords font for comic book typesettingYou must be diligent in your font research and be sure to check all characters for each language. You can go down a rabbit hole of research, forums, and blogs or you can rely on your language service provider working in comic book typesetting to help you and provide you with research and options. We are very quick at research and know what we’re looking for, so it’s not an expensive investment but one that will save you costs. You don’t want to begin typesetting and then find out that a character is not supported and then you start over from square 1.

Can you find the Eszett character ⟨ß⟩ in this image with the font we selected?German comic book typesetting


Chinese and Japanese fonts for comic book typesetting

To have a Chinese typography font, font foundries not only have to create a character set of at least around 20,000 characters, they have to do it twice: once for Simplified and once for Traditional. And that doesn’t even take multiple font weights (thicknesses) into account. Because these font files contain so many glyphs, they also are very large fonts – about 3-7 MB per font weight. The Japanese and Chinese writing systems use many of the same characters, so a single font works for both languages.

Japanese manga does not use “cartoony” fonts, so you have a little more choice. For a block of text (e.g., speech), Hiragino Maru Gothic Pro is a great choice. For shorter text for emphasis (e.g., onomatopoeia) we could recommend Hiragino Kaku Gothic Std font, part of OS X. Choose serif or sans serif based on the English. For example, if you’re using a serif font for English text, then Kozuka Mincho Pro is good. If you’re using a sans serif font in English, try Kozuka Gothic Pro.

SFX in comic book typesetting

Treatment of SFX in Korean in comic book typesettingSFX stands for “sound effects.” These are onomatopoeia in manga or comics such as boing, gargle, clap, POW!, etc. It is used to add action and excitement. For foreign language comic books, you always leave the English SFX and put the translation under it in a smaller font. That initial sound of the SFX in its original language is important to the experience of the comic reader. To the left is an image of how it is treated in Korean. Zoom in to see the Korean transliteration in small black text underneath the big red “POW.”

Have a comic book typesetting project? Want to use your own translators or use ours? Let’s discuss to find out what works for you.