Talking About Speech Balloons: Colors, Emotions & Symbols

Part 3 of 7

Colors Emotions and Symbols

In the third part of the speech balloons series, speech balloon colors, the use of punctuation and symbols to designation emotions, and delivery methods are discussed.


Most commonly, the speech balloon has black text is displayed against a solid white background. The contrasting colors help a reader clearly see the words being spoken.

A variation method is to use a slightly transparent white balloon, which allows the artwork to show through the parts without text.

Different text colors can represent different character’s speeches. This can be helpful if there are a lot of characters and color can be quickly associated by a reader to a specific character.

Example of different colored dialogue.
Example of different colored dialogue.

Another method is to have the white text and a black background. This speech method is sometimes used for otherworld/dreamlike beings, horror stories, and black and white comics so the speech balloon can be more easily read with the color scheme.

Example of dark colored speech balloon.
Example of the dark-colored speech balloon.


Punctuation marks inside speech balloons convey feelings.

A question mark is used to express confusion or ignorance.

Example of question marks used for confusion.
Example of question marks used for confusion.

Exclamation marks indicate surprise or terror.

Example of exclamation marks in dialogue.
Example of exclamation marks in dialogue.

Letters appearing in bold or italics are words a speaker emphasizes.

An ellipsis indicates silence. This is used when a character stunned in silence or is supposed to say something but cannot find the words to do so. This is often used in manga.

Example of use of ellipses
Example of use of ellipses.


Symbols can also be used within balloons to represent emotion, thoughts, or a way a message is being delivered. There are many examples of symbols that can be used, here are just a few examples.

A light bulb symbol indicates a character has thought of an idea.

Musical notes can reflect a character is singing a phrase.

A storm cloud indicates a character is angry.

Grawlixes are symbols replacing foul language. An entire speech balloon with these symbols can also be referred to as a maledicta balloon.

Example of grawlixes.
Example of grawlixes.

Next time: Foreign Language & Fonts (part 4) will be discussed.

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