Veronica With Four Eyes

How To Write Alt Text For Digital Comics

This blog post has gone viral with several popular content creators who have wanted to learn how to write alt text for digital comics. I’ve been beyond thrilled to hear from some of my favorite artists from all around the world about how they have used my tips for their own work, and have now updated this post on how to write alt text for digital comics and online comics with even more tips for making comics accessible for visually impaired audiences, inclusive of low vision and blind readers.

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Low vision assistive technology definitions



Alt text and image descriptions are text-based descriptions of visual details in an image written primarily for people who are visually impaired (inclusive of blind/low vision). Image descriptions are similar to alt text descriptions that are used by screen readers to recognize images, though there are a few key differences between alt text and image descriptions:

  • Location. Alt text is typically attached to an image metadata or added in the “alt text” box on social media. Image descriptions may be in the image caption, in a text post, or otherwise incorporated into a social media post
  • Visibility. Alt text is usually only visible to screen readers, which read the alt text out loud or display it on a braille display. Image descriptions are “exposed” and can be read by anyone
  • Length of text. While alt text is typically limited to 100-250 characters, image descriptions can be the same length or even longer, since they are included in the photo caption, in a text post, or text link.
  • Level of detail. Image descriptions tend to go more in-depth about visual details than alt text due to the larger character limit.

I recommend including both alt text and image descriptions when making digital comics accessible so that everyone can read descriptions of images, not just screen reader users- especially since many users with low vision do not use screen readers when browsing social media, but still might need assistive technology for reading images such as a screen magnifier.


A screen reader, sometimes referred to as text-to-speech, is a form of assistive technology that allows people with vision impairments such as blindness and low vision to read digital information. Screen readers are built in to almost every smartphone currently on the market so that users can read text messages, make phone calls, interact with apps, and much more. The most popular screen readers for mobile devices are VoiceOver for iOS and TalkBack for Android.

Some users do not use screen readers full-time and instead use “on demand” screen readers that are activated by a gesture, shortcut, or by pressing a button on their phone. These tools may be referred to as select-to-speak, read aloud, speak text, or similar and are only used to read text or alt text, not navigational buttons or interfaces.

Braille users have the option of having their screen reader display alt text, image descriptions, and other text-based content via a refreshable Braille display.


Screen readers can read almost anything that is displayed on a screen. Examples include:

  • Text (in any form)
  • Websites
  • Links
  • Menus
  • Pictures and graphs with alt text
  • Emoji
  • Keyboard input


Screen readers will not recognize the following information:

  • Videos (note- some social platforms support alt text for videos, but a screen reader will not read captions in a video)
  • Pictures or graphs without alt text or image descriptions
  • Certain apps that are image-based
  • Text in a photo without alt text

Without alt text or image descriptions, screen readers will not “see” images or other visual content and will skip over the image and not say anything, meaning the user has no idea this content exists.


How to write alt text for digital comics

Do I have to say what comic this is at the beginning?

No, the screen reader will read the name of the account posting the image before it reads the alt text of the image. Assuming the comic title matches the name of the account or that the account exclusively posts comics from one series, this information does not need to be included. However, if an artist posts multiple comic series, it would help to mention the title at the beginning.

Introduce the character and say what they are doing

Who is in the comic today? Share the name of the character and what they are doing, or what pose they are in prior to sharing anything else. For example, if I was describing myself, I would write this:

“Veronica sits at her computer with a focused expression while typing a blog post.”

After introducing the character, share what their dialogue is

It helps for me to know who is saying something prior to knowing what they are actually saying. I recommend writing this text verbatim, but there’s no need to describe where the speech bubble is placed or any other details like that. Continuing my example from before:

“Veronica sits at her computer with a focused expression while typing a blog post. She then asks ‘where did my phone go?'”

If the character is silent, describe what they are doing

If there are background characters or people that are important to the story, make sure to include them in your description. I prefer to have characters described in order of appearance from left to right, since that is how I naturally read things. Let’s add some more details to my example:

“Veronica sits at her computer with a focused expression while typing a blog post. She then asks ‘where did my phone go?’ Her friend is hiding behind her smiling as they take a bunch of selfies.”

Don’t worry about describing recurring characters every post

As you might have noticed, I didn’t describe what Veronica looks like because she would be considered a recurring character and it wouldn’t be very efficient to describe what she looks like in every single post. Also, most digital comics don’t have characters that change drastically in appearance from post to post anyway.

Now if I decided to make Veronica not be wearing glasses for a comic, I would make sure to note that because that would be something out of the ordinary that would impact my visual reference of the character. Here is an example of how I would describe that in a comic without dialogue.

“Veronica opens the door to an emergency room without wearing glasses and has a panicked expression. She talks to an unseen receptionist and then a doctor. She walks into a room and stands next to a hospital bed, with her glasses on the pillow.”

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How I prefer to read digital comics with low vision

Have one panel in each image

I was really excited when Instagram provided users with the option to have multiple images in one post, since this made it infinitely easier for me to read digital comics. In fact, this is the only way I am able to read digital comics, since I am able to zoom in on details in individual panels. Most digital comic creators I know will add a version of the comic at the end of the post that features all of the panels stitched together so that the entire comic can be shared in a screenshot.

If possible, have a post that introduces the characters

Remember how I said there’s no reason to describe recurring characters in every single post? Many of my favorite creators have a post that describes the characters they use, what they look like, and how they act. Here’s an example of how I would describe myself in a comic:

“Veronica is a 22-year-old college student with short brown hair and large purple glasses with tinted lenses. She often wears floral dresses and walks with a blindness cane in most indoor and outdoor settings.”

Don’t put the introductory post on your story

As of right now, Instagram only supports alt text being added to personal posts, profiles, and items on the explore tab. For this reason, Instagram stories do not have the option to add alt text, so as a result I would recommend not putting the aforementioned introductory post with character descriptions on your story or in the highlights section.

For animated frames, write an additional image description

Some comic creators may include gifs or videos, which are not supported by alt text on some platforms. For images like this, I would write an image description in the caption, which could be formatted like this:

[Image description- Veronica’s friend tries to hand her the phone, but since Veronica isn’t paying attention, the phone falls to the floor]

Another option is to create an image description that is posted online, or to post an extended description- I have an entire post on this linked below. XKCD is one example of a comic that links their alt text online.

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Adding alt text and image descriptions to Instagram posts

Should I use automatic alt text?

Alt text doesn’t work well for digital comics, because it may not recognize handwritten text or provide correct descriptions of what is in a picture- for example, automatic alt text recognized a picture of a llama that I drew for my friend as being a picture of a lamp. While this might be a sign I need to work a bit more on my art skills, it also shows that taking the time to write manual alt text can make a difference in making content inclusive and accessible for readers with vision loss- I definitely notice and appreciate when a creator takes the time to make their content accessible for readers like me!

Alt text and image descriptions on social media platforms

Here are the policies for alt text on popular social media platforms, copied from my post on How To Add Alt Text on Social Media.

  • Twitter supports alt text up to 1,000 characters, though alt text cannot be added or edited after an image or gif is posted.
  • Instagram supports alt text up to 100 characters, and alt text can be added or edited after a picture is posted.
  • Facebook supports alt text up to 100 characters, and alt text can be added or edited after a picture is posted.
  • Tumblr supports alt text up to 200 characters, and alt text cannot be added or edited after a picture or gif is posted.
  • Pinterest supports alt text up to 500 characters, and alt text can be added to static/image or video pins after they are posted.

Image descriptions can be added or edited as captions on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest, or added in the replies of a tweet either in the form of a text-based description or extended image description.

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to the photo

  • Make sure to click the check mark afterwards to save your work.


More alt text posts on Veronica With Four Eyes

My favorite tips for writing alt text for digital comics on social media, written by someone with low vision

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