Illustration & Writing

Talking About Speech Balloons: Speaking Within or Outside a Panel

Part 2 of 8

This is part two of an eight part series discussing speech balloons. Characters can deliver their message from within or while outside a panel. Today’s article discusses both methods.

Character Speaking within the Panel

The most common type of speech balloon is one in which a characters delivers a message within a panel. These are a few methods which can be used.

Standard Method

The most basic method is when a character delivers a phrase within a panel.

Typical speech balloon placement
Typical speech balloon placement.

Multiple or Compound Method

When a character has multiple or compound balloons, only the balloon closest to the speaker has a tail. The other balloons are commonly connected with narrow speech bridges or some call them connectors.

Multiple balloons from the same character can be used to distinguish different sections of dialogue. They can also be used to indicate a pause or a change in subject.

One method of a double speech balloon.
One method of a double speech balloon.

The bridge can also be omitted, with the first and the additional balloons joined together.

Compound balloon example.
Compound balloon example.

Overlap Method

There may be times when characters speak over one another. In these instances, overlapping balloons may be used to portray this.

Example of overlapping speech balloons.
Example of overlapping speech balloons.

Character Speaking Outside the Panel

There are multiple ways a character is shown to deliver a message from outside a panel. Here are three examples of the most common methods.

Positional Method

Positional is a speech balloon with the tail pointed toward the character’s position outside the panel.

Example of a positional speech.
Example of a positional speech.

Indented Method

Indented has the tail pointed towards the speaker but inwards into the speech balloon. This style is often used in manga.

Manga speech bubble from speaker outside panel.
Manga speech bubble from speaker outside panel.

Rectangular Method

Rectangular shape often has a different background color, quotation marks or has a double outline and does not have a tail. It can be used when a reader has a good understanding of the character making the comment and draw the reader’s focus on object versus a specific character. It can also be used in the beginning of a chapter to cause a reader to be curious of the character’s identity making the comment.

Rectangular speech bubble example.
Rectangular speech bubble example.

Rectangular balloons can be confused with a caption box, as they are similar in shape but serve different purposes. A caption box typically serves as a title, short explanation, background information or description accompanying a panel. They typically do not have quotation marks. Example: Scenic City, October 1st 

Next time: Colors, Emotions & Symbols (Part 3 of 8) will be discussed.

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