Graphic Design Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for Graphic Design professionals, students, and enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

While it's well known in design that lowercase is easier to read.

share|improve this question
Legibility/readability is a good point, but part of it is also the practicality of lettering in lowercase throughout most of comic book history, when lettering was done by hand. This is how professional letterers hand-lettered comics before digital lettering killed the profession. It's easy to see why uppercase was preferred. This look of comic book lettering has become part of industry tradition--notice that Japanese manga don't have the hand-lettered look that western comics continue to have. – Lèse majesté Feb 24 '13 at 9:52
up vote 6 down vote accepted

I think you're confusing legibility with readability. A face can be perfectly legible without being comfortable to read in long passages of text. Most display or decorative faces (assuming they're legible in the first place) fall into that category. A good readable text face like Caslon or Garamond, by contrast, isn't always the best choice for instant legibility (on a billboard, for example).

Handwritten uppercase is more legible in small sizes, especially on newsprint, and the text in talk balloons is usually short. You'll notice that lengthy text in a talk balloon is not so easy to read, but these are very rare.

share|improve this answer
I read there that legibility is the difference between characters while readability is how easy it is to read words. It says that uppercase is bad for readability. So I don’t understand your answer, why is balloons’ text uppercase ? – user855 Nov 21 '11 at 11:52
"lengthy text in a talk balloon" ::cough::Pearls Before Swine::cough:: – Lauren Ipsum Nov 21 '11 at 12:23
user855, Alan gives the answer in the first sentence of the second paragraph: Cartoons traditionally use a "handwriting" font for the speech balloons, and when this font is small, making it mixed case is harder to read. Printing it uppercase makes it easier to read. The roughness and non-whiteness of newsprint also detracts from readability. There are some strips which use lowercase or mixed case deliberately for effect, like "JumpStart," where the kids speak in lowercase but the adults speak in upppercase. – Lauren Ipsum Nov 21 '11 at 12:27
@LaurenIpsum huh ? unless my above link is wrong, Alan saying "Handwritten uppercase is more legible in small sizes" is incorrect and confuses both terms because legibility (characters difference) doesn't change with size. So you’re saying that they use uppercase because they use a size too small to begin with for lowercase ? Ok I can buy this. – user855 Nov 21 '11 at 12:50
@user855: The info in the link you refer to is incomplete, and it's wrong. It looks to me like somebody grabbed bits and pieces from different places and put them together without taking time to understand them. Legibility refers to instant comprehensibility of short pieces of text, typically headlines or slogans. Readability has to do with extended passages of text, like books or articles. Handwritten mixed case in small sizes on crappy paper (newsprint) are neither as readable nor as legible as caps. – Alan Gilbertson Nov 21 '11 at 21:53

A good rule of thumb is not to have more than max 25 words/balloon and 50/panel. Printing sizes of daily newspaper comics have gone way down in the past 100 years, and some are printed on very poor quality paper.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.