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Comic book letterers are often the unsung heroes of the comics world. Although their work is an integral part of the finished product, they do not often receive credit, and they are not as well known as comic artists and writers. Lettering is in fact an art form, and there are a number of ways in which someone can become a letterer. A passion for comics is definitely a key requirement to become a letterer, as is a good visual sense.
Lettering has undergone some radical shifts. Historically, letterers needed to have excellent handwriting in addition to a keen aesthetic sense, because they lettered comics by hand. Today, many use computers for lettering, which requires technology skills in addition to the old-fashioned skills of typesetting, laying out lettering in aesthetically appealing ways, generating special effects with lettering, and understanding the way in which the letter impacts the overall look and feel of the piece. Some letterers who worked by hand historically have had fonts made of their handwriting to retain their trademark style, and other letterers who work on the computer design their own fonts or use fonts which are available for sale.
Some comic book letterers learned through apprenticeship, and recommend this as a way to enter the industry. Someone who wants to become a letterer in this way would start by applying to companies which produce comic books, looking for a job in the lettering department. The work initially might be more supportive and administrative in nature, but over time, the trainee would be allowed to start working on lettering projects, and to eventually become a senior member of the department. Once trained, she or he might opt to stay with the company, or to become a freelancer.
Another option is to attend art school, and to focus on graphic design and typography. Some art schools specifically offer programs in the production of comics and in lettering in general, which can provide people with excellent opportunities for training. A degree can be useful when applying for jobs to become a letterer, although it is a good idea to bolster it with experience in the form of internships and summer jobs.
Some letterers are in fact quite well known in the industry and among people who are serious fans of comic books. Their distinctive graphical styles may be associated with particular series they work on, and they can be in high demand. Someone who wants to become a letterer who will be well known should consider working for a company which prizes graphic design and aesthetics, where the letterer will have an opportunity to develop artistically while lettering comics.
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