Updated: December 31, 2012 6:51PM
A trite, overused font is like a clip-on bowtie. It’s like the even rows in a bad set of hair plugs or the uneven stitching on a knockoff handbag. It’s the waxy texture of the chocolate glazing on a prepackaged supermarket donut. It’s the slight wobble of a flat-pack bookcase. The long gaps between laughs in a late-in-the-show “Saturday Night Live” sketch.
Must I continue? There’s something about your computer’s pre-installed fonts that says “cheap and careless.” That doesn’t apply to all of them, of course. But when you need to letter a sign or create a title card, a masthead, or anything else that needs to really pop and fill the viewer with a sense of confidence about the rest of the content, Helvetica Just Won’t Do.
No, not even Helvetica Bold.
Did you just say “Copperplate”? GET OUT OF MY OFFICE!!!
Come back, come back. I’m sorry I lost my temper. I want to help you and so does Comicraft, the producer of some of the finest display fonts available anywhere. Every year, on New Year’s Day, they put all of their fonts on sale for 24 hours. The price: the current year, in pennies. In past years, the sale began on Jan. 1 and the regular prices weren’t posted along with the sales price. But, whaddyaknow, the sale began Monday afternoon, and regular retail prices are posted alongside the sale price.
Now and through Tuesday, every font will be just $20.13 all day long. Even the fonts that cost hundreds of dollars. Presumably, they make their money back by upcharging for the ones that are priced at $19.99 the rest of the year.
If we were perfect people, we’d just hit comicbookfonts.com and be driven solely by the lofty desire to acquire some nifty fonts. Alas, Homo Sapiens share a common ancestor in the weasel, and therefore we’re slightly driven to find the biggest bargains in Comicraft’s large catalog.
And advance recon will pay off in practical ways, too. I buy loads of fonts every year at this sale. Many of them are so handy and sturdy that I wind up using them at least once a month. But some are like that fez that I bought a few years ago during a clearance sale. It was a fine bargain and it was an understandable impulse buy...but in the cold light of day, when can I wear it? I mean, apart from those rare events when I can cosplay as Syndey Greenstreet in “Casablanca”?
They have loads of fonts and it’ll take some time to sift through them all. It’s worth the trouble, trust me. The site has gained a new “wishlist” feature since last year’s sale. Go ahead and visit http://comicbookfonts.com/ before Tuesday, and put together your Most Wanted List. Pull the trigger a day later, once the light of first love has faded.
Here are a few suggestions to get you going:
Comicraft is famous for its handlettered-style comic book fonts. “Monologous” is to digital lettering what Adobe Photoshop is to photo editing. It’s the expensive package you buy because you want professional results.
$395. It’s the Star Prize of the New Year’s Day sale. Compare this to any of the handlettered fonts that either came with your system or are available from free font libraries and you’ll understand the sticker shock. Close examination of the letterforms, even at high magnification, will fill you with a deep respect for the craft of font design and construction.
Comicraft has dozens of comic book-style fonts. Many of the fonts in the catalogue are named after the artist, or the comic book, for which they were originally commissioned. I own Monologous because it’s a little more less fluid and friendly than Comicrazy. I use it when I want the lettering to look a little more stiff, or when I want to ape the lettering from a 1960’s or 1970’s comic book.
Monologous only includes uppercase letters...and that’s actually a feature, not a failing. When you hit the shift key, you get an alternative version of that same letter. A word such as “letter” can be set with two slightly different “E”s and “T”s, which helps to sell the impression that this is handlettered text. Neat.
Boy, this one earns back its price quickly. It’s a thick brush-lettered font, in several weights, that mimics the sort of hand painted signs you’d see in a store window. Whatever you print in “Sign Language” will be seen and understood, even when it’s just in someone’s peripheral vision.
You’ll get your lost dog back for sure if you’re tacking up handbills that use this font. I don’t own this one yet...but I’m gonna on Jan. 1 for sure.
4) Digital Delivery ($149)
I love the way that Digital Delivery hovers between “a plain font that doesn’t call attention to itself” and “something way more interesting than Arial.” It’s a solid go-to sans-serif display face. It’s a friendly-looking font that doesn’t overtly appear cartoony or hand-lettered.
Look at the commercial signs that are produced on the cheap by jiffy-printing services. When letters need to be extra tall, or extra wide, the shop’s software just stretches them. So the narrow letters have invisibly-skinny uprights and crazy-fat horizontals.
Professional designers never pull this kind of junk. Instead, they use fonts that were designed to be wide or skinny in the first place. “Marian Churchland” and “Credit Extension” will be the right answers for any number of banners, headlines, and blocks of text. They also play nice with the other handlettered fonts in the Comicraft collection.
7) Cheese And Crackers ($69)
Comicraft is filled with display-style fonts that are clearly good for only one thing, such as the heading for your annual family Christmas letter, or an invitation to a Harry Potter-themed birthday party, or the lettering on the drumhead for a KISS tribute band. Like holiday decorations, they’re perfect for their purpose and they stay in the closet the rest of the year.
“Cheese And Crackers” is an exception. It’s literate and friendly, decorative without being garish. It’s familiar, even though you can’t quite place it. All of this translates to a fun font that works hard and can be used throughout the year. It peps up a boring label, it invites the observer to read the rest of the sign, and it removes the aggressive undertone from a breakroom notice that the Management doesn’t want to keep reminding people that they’re not supposed to use the microwave for popcorn.
8) Letterbot ($29)
I like “Cheese And Crackers” so much that I have to be careful about overusing it. “Letterbot” is in the same category. It looks like the way that a robot would draw block letters, if deep in its heart it wished it were a real, live boy. It’s a medium-thick font that’s clear at almost any size or screen resolution.
It’s my go-to font when I title videos destined for YouTube; I know the titles will be readable, whether the video’s being viewed on an HDTV or on a phone screen.
9) Spills ($29)
Thick, swooshy, brushed cursive letters. Sometimes, it’s the perfect choice and there’s no way to get that effect without a purpose-designed font. You’ll only use this a couple of times a year, but when you need it, there’s no substitute.
10.) Belly Laugh ($49)
Belly Laugh was designed for comic book sound effects: “KRAKADOOOUM!!!!!” “BADOOUM!!!!”
(Ten points to all of you who read that and instantly thought “Thor. During Walt Simonson’s run.”)
Which means that its strength is as the strength of a thousand Helvetica Narrows and it cannot, will not, be ignored...so shall it be, by the will of the almighty Allfather himself.
I consider these 10 fonts to be the all-stars of the Comicraft catalog. Of course, I’ve bought dozens more over the years and I’m sure that “Sign Language” isn’t the only one I’ll buy this year.
As you nurse your New Year’s hangover, I urge you to browse through the whole Comicraft catalog, www.comicbookfonts.com. Try to keep a few caveats in mind, however:
♦Many of these fonts don’t include lowercase letters.
♦Don’t buy a font before you check to see if there’s also an “international” version available. This version will contain scads of those weirdo foreign letters that you can only type by holding down, like, nine keys at once. Normally the International font costs a few bucks more but during the sale, every font is the same price. Might as well get the Deluxe version, eh?
♦Perhaps most importantly: although all of Comicraft’s fonts are lovely, and they can add a flash of style and flair to almost any dull design...um, don’t go nuts with your new Comicraft font library. “Stonehenge” isn’t exactly an appropriate choice for a resumé font. Unless you’re applying for a gig squeegeeing goat blood and bear guts off of the stained-glass windows after weekly black masses.