Get your credit card ready - Comicraft’s annual font sale nearly here
By ANDY IHNATKO firstname.lastname@example.org December 29, 2011 12:38PM
Why keep a stash of great lettering fonts on your hard drive? Because whether you know it or not, you're a part-time graphic designer. And why shouldn't the things you design look nice?
There’s only one holiday-related sale that’s worth getting up early for, in my book: Comicraft’s annual New Year’s Day font sale.
It’s an online sale, so there’s no need to drive off to the mall at 1 AM. And the merchandise is digital, which means that quantities are unlimited and there’s no need to carry nunchucks and pepper spray.
Still! Yes, it’s that exciting. Every year, when the cheers of “Happy New Year!” ring out from the big party in the house next door, it’s my cue to turn away from the Marx Brothers marathon on Turner Classic Movies and pick up some new typefaces.
Comicraft is as integral to the production of modern comic books as staples, soy ink, and the writer’s complete lack of interest in logical continuity. The company creates professional, hand-lettering-style typefaces and all of the major publishers use them. But the company should be just as well-known for their “display” typefaces. Those are the flashier kinds of fonts that work perfectly for that single, short attention-getting element that ropes in a passerby, whether it’s the masthead of a website, the title slide in a presentation, a sign on a wall, or the name of a business on a business card.
Who cares about fonts?
Yes, you ought to care about fonts. A computer enables you to learn and apply new skills that once were plied solely by skilled professionals. You edit home videos; you design your own holiday cards; sometimes you need signs, or a casual business card. You most definitely should hire a professional designer if you need professional results. Their services cost much less than you think and the gap between “professional designer and skilled amateur” is much wider than you can possibly imagine.
But when you’ve got a low-stakes design project in front of you, you’ll be exceptionally well-served by commercial fonts that didn’t come free with every computer on the planet. It’s like casting Gene Hackman in anything. Even a mediocre screenplay becomes a very good movie when you give a central role to a real pro instead of choosing someone anonymous. A yard sale poster set in Arial is unlikely to get a second glance, which means that you’re unlikely to find a buyer for your IKEA futon. Or should I say “unlikelier.”
Comicraft isn’t a “font wonk” collection. The differences between one typeface and another aren’t at all subtle and each one will almost immediately call to mind a desktop design job you did in the past year. You see a sample of their “Spellcaster” font, you immediately think “Lettering on the invitation to our annual Christmas party.”
Some of these fonts cost as much as $395. Which is why you’ll want to set a reminder for January 1. For 24 hours, every font in their online store at ComicBookFonts.com is just $20.12. Yes, even the $395 ones, and yes, even the ones that normally cost just $19.
You’ll want to visit the site make up your shopping list early, too: during the sale, the store doesn’t display the fonts’ normal prices. I would like to think we’re all mature enough and careful enough about our money not to buy an expensive font just because it’s 80% off. But (trust me) by the time you’re ready to check out and pay, you’ll find that you’ve added ten more fonts to your basket than you can afford. That’s when you’ll want to ditch the font that normally costs $29 instead of the $149 one.
A few specific recommendations:
The $395 star prize of the sale is “Comicrazy.” It’s one of their super-professional-looking handlettered fonts in which every letter has presence and a lively stroke without distracting the eye from the actual words. There’s a lot of hatred of Comic Sans and it seems overblown . . . until you look at a real comic book lettering font like Comicrazy.
I’ve paired Comicrazy with two other fonts that make up a complete, “everything handlettered” package. I use Comicrazy when I need a block of polite, readable text. When I need a shouty headline that can be read a mile away, I use “Belly Laugh” ($49), which looks like it was painted with a thick, round brush by a professional sign painter. Last year, I took a chance on “Marion Churchland” ($99) and it quickly joined the all-star list. It’s a narrow, slightly looser style of lettering, and I use it any time I need to fit more text in a limited amount of space.
I never get tired of “Cheese And Crackers” ($69). This display typeface strikes a confident balance. It’s fun and different without ever coming across as precious or annoying. It was one of the first Comicraft fonts I bought and I’m still not sick of looking at it. I keep finding new places to use it.
“Spills” ($49) is a perfect example of the sort of typeface I would only buy during this sale. It’s not as flexible as the others on this list. It’s a thick, loopy script that begs you to test it with the phrase “Be My Valentine.” But when you have this specific kind of thing in mind you won’t find anything else already installed on your PC or Mac that’s works as even a poor substitute.
“Letterbot” is practically my official corporate typeface. It’s a strong combination of digital and analog-style. Imagine what would happen if a sentient robot tried to ape hand-lettering. I like Letterbot so much and use it so frequently that I’m not even disappointed that $20.12 isn’t that much less than its everyday $29 price.
If you’re truly trying to simulate actual, hand-drawn comic-book lettering, check out Monologous ($149). The font file only contains uppercase characters, but that’s actually a feature: the upper and lower-case contain slightly different versions of the same letter. So if you’re typing a word like “GOOD!” the two “O”s can be distinct from each other, which makes the lettering look less machine-generated.
Before you buy
This is the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Honestly, nobody in your office is getting any proper work done so you might as well go ahead and spend some time browsing through the whole collection at ComicBookFonts.com. You can also download the catalogue as a .PDF file.
One or two warnings, though: not all of these fonts contain both upper and lower-case characters. Check the type sample to find out. Many are also available in “International” editions. These contain the usual suspects plus all of those weird characters that can only be typed by holding down four or five keys on your keyboard at the same time. On every day but January 1, you can save a few bucks by getting the version without the...well, whatever you call the one that looks like a letter “A” balancing an open book on its head. On New Year’s, everything’s the same price and it doesn’t really matter.
Despite appearances to the contrary, I’m not a paid spokesperson for these people. I’m just a satisfied repeat customer. Whenever I finish writing a new presentation, I scroll through the thumbnails to make sure I’ve covered everything and I usually take a moment to appreciate how pretty it all looks, thanks to Comicraft’s fonts.
The title card and the rest of my slides appear attractive, professional, and well-thought-out. So if the crowd is ever going to come to the conclusion that the presentation is none of those things and that they’d made a colossal mistake in bringing me in to give a talk, it definitely won’t happen before Slide #4 or #5.
As anyone who’s given a presentation to more than 15 people will agree, that five-slide headstart is worth many, many times the cost of two or three discounted Comicraft fonts.