I didn’t get to go to the Flatstock Poster Show this Spring because I was out of town, but Austin is always a great town for show posters and I regularly come across interesting examples of local design, as happened today when I was out shopping for Easter trinkets at ToyJoy and noticed a couple of interesting posters from shows earlier this week in a window next door.
The two posters I picked up couldn’t be much more different.
One is a poster for what I think is a local literary magazine issue release party. I’ve never heard of Foxing Quarterly, but the cover with its retro soviet look and animal human hybrid characters was certainly pretty eye catching with nice contrasting colors and use of graphic elements.
The other poster has a much more traditional, letterpress style look, which isn’t surprising since I surmise that it’s derived from an Austin show poster from the 1960s. It’s for an Elvis retrospective with local rockabilly revivalist Ted Roddy. The poster was produced on the cheap – black and white xerox on copy paper – bu the look design is just right for a vintage show poster look. I just wish they had gone the extra mile and printed it on heavy weight color coated cardboard stock so that the materials matched the design.
The streets of Austin are like a gallery tour for the poster fan. You never know what you’re going to stumble across, but there’s always something new and interesting if you keep a look out.
Last year we featured an overview article on pulp novel cover design, and since then we’ve continued to look for other resources on mass market book and magazine cover design from the 30s, 40s and 50s. In a recent search I stumbled on pulpcovers.com, a site which features hundreds of covers, tending towards the more risque and unusual, including vintage erotica, exploitation fiction and men’s magazines.
The collection is large and the images are of very high quality, but the blog-style format in which they are presented is cumbersome. That aside, there are a couple of qualities here which stand out. The first is the emphasis on quality cover art. The covers are picked for the excellence of the illustration and in many cases the featured covers include not only the cover as published, but variant versions and in some cases copies of the original art without titles. The second is that the collection is very strong on early science fiction, adventure, mystery and fantasy magazines, going back into the early 1900s. And, of course, if your tastes run to the salacious there are a lot more good examples of early erotica and “true crime” magazines than I’ve seen in other collections, plus a large selection of classic lesbian pulp.
For our purposes the site is mainly useful for research. It’s not as strong on outstanding cover lettering as some other sites, but it’s great as a guide to more obscure publications and even early out of copyright illustrated magazines which might be worth adding to our collection in the future, thought I suspect we’d have to be very lucky and very persistent to find copies of some of the magazines on the site in decent condition.
Visitors should be aware of some of the peculiarities of the site. Although the material is presented in a random chronological order, all of the postings are arranged into categories, which are quirky but can be useful. You may also notice postings following peculiar patterns, such as relationships of similar titles or themes.
One of our upcoming fonts is the result of an interesting project, developing original initials based on designs by Walter Crane. We recently acquired an obscure edition of French tales of Reynard the Fox illustrated by Crane with a series of square black and white illustrations of forest animals.
They were just the right size and shape for the backgrounds of decorative initials characters, so we are adapting them to be the basis of a new decorative initials font with the letter forms provided by our Crane Gothic font. The initial character designs look excellent and the font should work really nicely in conjunction with our other Walter Crane fonts.
Look for the new font to be released soon.
Since there seemed to be some real interest in seeing a fully developed font similar to the one used for the titles for the new Tarantino movie Django Unchained, I decided to take it on as a project. This kind of project always involves a lot of research, and in the process I learned more about Django than I ever expected to.
The new Tarantino film draws on a legacy of an entire genre of Django films with a long history which goes back to the original 1966 Django directed by Sergio Corbucci and starring Franco Nero. It was one of the most successful early spaghetti westerns and spawned over 30 unofficial sequels, including A Few Dollars for Django, a quick ripoff which appeared in the same year as the original, A Coffin for Django (1968) and Viva Django (1971) which both starred Terrence Hill, whose more famous Trinity films are very much in the Django tradition. The only official sequel was Django Strikes Again which has a script by Corbucci and in which Nero reprises his role 20 years later. Tarantino’s Django Unchained would be most accurately classed as a tribute to the entire Django genre, borrowing from many different films, including the original Django and They Call Me Trinity. Interestingly, it’s not the first first Django tribute film Tarantino has been involved in. He appeared as an actor in Takeshi Miike’s Japanese tribute to the Django genre, Sukiyaki Western Django in 2007. There were many other Django films and Django ripoffs and they became so iconic that in Italy and Japan the name Django came to be applied to the entire genre of spaghetti westerns.
I had originally thought that I’d have to go to the Tarantino film for source material for a font, but as it turns out, the main font Tarantino uses in the title and on the posters for his film is actually derived from hand lettered titles in the original Django. It’s actually one of several lettering styles used in the trailer and also for the main titles in the film itself. If you wait through most of the scenes in the trailer, it’s the lettering used for the names of the cast at the end, shown in a mustard color rather than the orangy red in the Tarantino film. It’s also the style used in the titles of the film itself, but the quality of the lettering in the trailer is much more consistent than in the film. The facts that the style of the titles predates the Tarantino film and that it was originally hand lettered actually add a lot of appeal to the project, because it makes it a much more interesting and original work of research and recreation.
You can watch the trailer for the original Django above and to the right. If you want to see the whole film you can find it on IMDB and most of the other Django films are on YouTube if you look around for them.
The next step is taking the images of the letters in the trailer and picking the best examples and expanding them into a full character set, using our Madding font as a guide for the general weight and shape of the characters.
Our customers include a lot of novices in the area of graphic design who may not be well prepared to work with images and fonts effectively and often lack basic software appropriate for desktop publishing and graphic design. Everyone seems to have Microsoft Word, but it just doesn’t do the job when it comes to even fairly simple integration of fonts and graphics in an attractive publication design.who want to use our fonts and graphics but don’t have a background in desktop publishing or graphic design or the need for advanced software like Adobe Creative Suite. There are some things which you just can’t do if you’re a novice at computer design and limited to programs like Microsoft Word.
Even fairly basic design projects require either an advanced image editor or some sort of desktop publishing software. The key break point where a text-oriented program like Microsoft Word comes up short for anything but the most basic design projects, is in not facilitating the easy manipulation and positioning of images. For example, to use the many borders in our collections you need to be able to resize and reposition them and most importantly superimpose type on them, and you just can’t do that practically in Microsoft Word which is not designed to handle complex two-dimensional manipulation of text and images.
In the past this has been a real problem because high end graphics or design programs have been prohibitively expensive and there have been few reasonably priced alternatives. For OSX users this has changed with the advent of the App Store. The pricing practices which became common with the App Store for the iPhone and iPad have carried over to OSX and this has brought down the price of many applications and even led to creative pricing solutions from the highest end software publishers like Adobe.
For many users the learning curve is less steep and needs are easiest to meet with desktop publishing software, but with premiere packages like InDesign or QuarkXPress priced around $700 they are not a realistic purchase option for novice or casual users, so what do you do if you just want to design a cool newsletter or invitation or the occasional brochure or business card? Here are three options which may fit your needs and let you do just about anything you would want to in document design, and one of these options is bound to fit the needs of any user from the novice to the professional and at a very reasonable price.
Swift Publisher 3.0
BeLight Software’s latest version of Swift Publisher is a strong entry-level desktop publishing application which offers pretty much everything a novice user needs for typical projects like designing invitations or holiday cards or simple brochures, and even includes templates for many of these projects to help out beginners right out of the box. It includes most of the features you would find in a higher end design application like the ability to flow text from page to page, multiple layers, scaling images and some control over the spacing and formatting of text, though not as much as some users might want.
The interface is relatively simple and designed for ease of use, but it is also very much oriented towards beginning users and focused on using templates rather than doing custom designs. This is good for those with no experience, but for more experienced users it may prove somewhat frustrating. The learning curve is very easy for simple projects, but for more advanced uses it may seem cumbersome and the focus on templates may become very limiting. But if you just have a flyer or simple card to do Swift Publisher will start you off ahead of the game and allow someone with very little experience to produce a professional-looking product very quickly.
At just $19.99 the entry cost is very low, just where you want it to be for the casual user.
Creator Express has actually been around for a very long time as a competitor to high end programs like InDesign and QuarkXPress, but it never really found the same status in the marketplace. This latest version has been released through the App Store at a much more reasonable price and may find its market in that environment, as a lower-priced alternative for publishing professionals in small businesses.
Creator Express is less of a beginner application than some users may want, but offers high end features which many will find useful. The interface is fairly complex, but will be familiar to those who have used Adobe products. It is very similar to what you find in PhotoShop or InDesgn, though somewhat simpler than the latter. It is tool palette driven and oriented towards blank-canvas design, assuming that the user has some idea what they want to do and how to use the tools. It is a full-featured design package with strong tools for controlling shapes, colors, images and also text. It’s really very reminiscent of earlier versions of some Adobe products, particularly PageMaker which was the predecessor of InDesign. For someone like me it was a snap to use because it was just like stepping back a couple of years and working with programs with which I’ve been very familiar for a long time.
It also offers some very nice higher-end features like highly customizable shapes in which you can insert images, drawing tools, texture tools, sophisticated gradients and text manipulation tools, including adapting texts to paths with a tool which may be superior to the equivalent tool in Adobe Photoshop.
Creator Express is a great alternative for those with some experience who want to do higher-end design work, but it may be harder for novices to just pick up and use out of the box. AT $29.99 the price is outstanding for the quality and versatility of the product.
Adobe Creative Cloud
Adobe’s approach to the problem of providing advanced software at a reasonable price is the innovative idea of the the Creative Cloud, which essentially lets you rent a very expensive program for a finite period of time, accessing key components through their server and never actually owning it as a complete piece of software resident on your computer. This is new technology and it may have shortcomings based on your internet speed and the capabilities of your computer, but cloud integration is being pushed very heavily by Apple and if you have a good DSL or Cable internet connection this may be a viable option for you. It allows you to access high-end programs for a monthly fee, starting as low as $19.99 a month for a single program like InDesign or Photoshop and at a still reasonable $49.99 a month for the full Creative Suite with InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Acrobat and more. This program includes a free 30-day trial and lets you save a lot of money if you just have the occasional project to work on. The pricing is carefully structured so that if you are likely to use the software for two years or more then you’ll be better off purchasing the full version rather than using cloud access. These are the best programs of their sort available, setting the industry standard, and the ability to access the latest versions for a short term at a low price is a major market innovation. Adobe’s main competitor in Desktop Publishing is QuarkXPress and though it is arguably superior to InDesign it is not available in any form other than as the full installed package for $849.
My daughter recently turned me on to TeeFury a website that sells original, limited edition t-shirts with a very clever marketing gimmick. It’s worth looking at here because good art and clever marketing are our bread and butter.
The concept of TeeFury is very simple. Artists submit t-shirt designs which they produce and sell at a reasonable price with a 10% payout to the artists. The clever twist is that each shirt is only available for 24 hours and then is never offered again. The limited edition of the shirts and the dedicated marketing for that 24 hours means that every design gets a chance to sink or swim on its merits in a mercilessly short period of time. It’s good experience for the artist and with the relatively low price fans come back again and again, buying shirts as a sort of vote on the designs they like.
Some of the shirts have done very well, selling over 2000 units in a single day. Successful artists then come back and submit new designs, doing what they can to repeat their success, and in some cases doing very well. Several artists have made over $20,000 with multiple shirts even though their share is only $1 per shirt. Obviously this also means that the clever folks who came up with the idea are making even more money, but they do take on all the risk and overhead.
Of course, the frustrating aspect of this for fans is that they never know what shirts are going to get picked and shirts they missed are unavailable after the fact unless the artist prints some for sale later. For the artist the question is whether you want to be at the mercy of the TeeFury staff as far as when or if your shirt gets picked to be featured. It’s kind of a gamble whether it’s worth waiting and hoping for the higher sales TeeFury’s model will produce or the hard self-marketing work and smaller sales over a longer period of time from Etsy or Cafe Press or one of the more traditional alternatives.
The two designs shown here are for the two most recent shirts. Of course, by the time most of you read this neither of them will be available anymore and something new will have come up in the cycle.
This article originally appeared on our site as a seven-part series of featured articles in 2004. It was recently recovered from an archive and is presented here as a complete article for the first time.
Sometimes when I’m working on new fonts I like to have a classic movie in the background. Recently one of the movies I watched was the great old film “Captain Kidd” starring Charles Laughton and Randolph Scott. While watching it with one eye and working with the other, I noticed that the film featured some very stylish piratically evocative title lettering – not to mention some lovely calligraphic maps. So I thought I’d take a stab at recreating the title lettering as a font and even document it in a series of articles showing how a font goes from an idea to final output.
The starting point for this font was a set of screen shots taken from the DVD of “Captain Kidd”. As is the case with a lot of old films the titles are extensive and show up right at the start of the film against a static backdrop. This makes them relatively accessible for screen shots, or in this case, higher resolution shots taken with a digital camera. It also means that a good selection of sample characters is available for reference. The example to the right is one of the best of these shots, because the lettering is particularly large. Many of the others are not as helpful because the print size is smaller, so some of the character details are harder to make out. However, using the best of the images as a starting point I can get enough bits and pieces to construct most of the other characters in high quality, using the lower quality images as a reference for the more unusual character shapes
Making functional and attractive maps is a very specialized skill, prized by game designers, roleplayers and artists. To make exceptional maps, you need to have the right tools. Our MapMaker font and art package provide the fonts, textures and emblems which make drawing floorplans and developing stylish world and regional maps a breeze. Our map resources are based on the designs of classic cartographers like Abraham Ortelius and Johan Hondius give your maps a unique antique look which will inspire the imagination.
The core of the collection is the extraordinary collection of more than fifteen original fonts specially created for cartographic design. They include fonts for mapping terrain, fonts of complete building plans, fonts for designing buildings and a selection of cartographic lettering fonts.
Basilica is a font of architectural elements fordesigning floorplans of churches, castles, houses and other buildings. It includes a variety of wall thicknesses, windows, doors, stairs and other essential pieces which you can easily assemble in any graphics or desktop publishing program to create impressive, easy to understand layouts for anything from a hut to a palace to a house by house map of a city.
The characters in Ortelius can be combined to make traditional geographical maps in an antique style. They include segments of coastline and rivers which can be combined in thousands of different patterns, plus city, town and fortification emblems, terrain symbols, compass symbols and everything else you need for a high-quality map of your world or key parts of it.
Our Landscape fonts are a pair of fonts containing landscape symbols, images and textures ideal for adding details to your maps and plans, such as trees, rocks, terrain features and other important elements of the environment. It’s excellent for architectural plans and building layouts.
Cityscape is mainly a decorative font, but it can add flair to your maps and plans. Each character is the silhouette of a building and they can be combined to create a complete panorama of a city. Samarkand is a decorative building silhouette font like Cityscape, but with a middle eastern theme. It includes mosques and towers and all the elements of a medieval islamic city.
The package also includes a selection of fonts for doing the titles and labels on your maps, plus several select highly decorative cartographic calligraphy fonts. The six main title fonts were selected for readability and for their historical accuracy for the era of exploration.
Brandywine is based on the lettering of Howard Pyle and is very clear and readable in small sizes, despite having a hand-drawn look. Queensland is a bold, hand-drawn italic font ideal for titles and captions. Windlass is a bold titling font with an antique look ideal for headings and large captions. In some of the alternate character locations it includes decorative map elements with a pirate theme. Buccaneer is based on hand lettering by Howard Pyle for his Book of Pirates. Walsingham is very similar to the lettering style favored by 16th century English mapmakers. Pavane is similar to the style of continental mapmakers like Abraham Ortelius. All six fonts are versatile and are similar to typefaces and lettering styles used on historical maps of the 15th and 16th centuries. Also featured in the package are the new fonts Platthand, John Speed and Hexmap.
The LITE version of the package includes just the fonts for only $59. The PLUS version includes all the fonts, plus a large selection of color design elements and over a hundred antique maps for only $89. The current release is the new 5th edition of the package. Just ORDER ONLINE. You can also order it in a discounted combo package with the Colonial Fonts for just $129 and save $20.
To get an idea of what our MapMaker fonts are like, try out the demo version of our Floorplan fonts. It combines selected floorplans from all three of our Floorplan fonts. You might also want to check out a set of sample maps or try our map design tutorial.
With the Dark Shadows movie in the early phases of filming and some production stills (let’s hope they improve the make-up on Depp) already appearing on the web, it’s time to step up work on the Dark Shadows font. At this point I have the basic character design done for a complete set of uppercase and small caps characters plus a partial set of more elaborate initials. All of this is still in hand-drawn form, but it’s at the pont now where I can put characters together to see how they look and move on to rendering them as outlines to make them into a functional font. See the image to the right for what they look like right now. Feedback and suggestions would be most welcome.
Also of vital importance is the name of the font. It’s down to Collinsport, Collinwood and Barnabas. If you want to contribute to the naming decision, vote in the poll below.
Dark Shadows Font Name Poll
I’m always mining the great graphic legacy of past eras for cool resources to use as the basis for fonts, and while I more typically go to antique sources, there’s a lot of great material to be found in the relatively recent past in vintage products of popular art like the covers and artistic content of pop novels and comic books.
With Halloween approaching, my attention was focused on sources for horrific fonts and so I went wandering the web looking for lettering from classic horror comics. They were a big element of the comics market when I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. As a teen I was particularly taken with the large-format black and white comics like Eerie and Creepy which defied the comic code, but there was also a lot of good material in the more crudely produced color horror comics of the 50s and 60s which were more conventional but still featured creative lettering and quality art.
My big disappointment in this quest was my inability to find good examples of interior lettering on the internet, requiring me to go rummaging in the garage for actual physical printed comics (see more on this later), but I did find excellent sources from examples of cover art and lettering, including coverbrowser.com which I previously used as a source for pulp novel covers, and some nice higher quality images at samuelsdesign.com.
With a lot of great source material to consider, what I was ultimately drawn to was the original title lettering from the first five issues of Vampirella, the most provocative and sexually charged comic from the publishers of Eerie and Creepy. Vampirella‘s concept and stories don’t always bear close examination, though they are better than the terrible movie based on them which was released in the 1990s. But Vampirella did feature some excellent art, including some of the best work of Frank Frazetta, and although I’m not so fond of the title design which was used for most of its run, the original title design was powerful and striking and would make a good basis for a font.
The Vampirella lettering is an interesting example of lettering with an outline which conforms to the countours of the letters, a style particularly popular in horror comics and psychedelic era poster design. I’ve done similar fonts like Hendrix and the effect is excellent for titles where you want characters to overlap and nest with each other. It also has characters offset at different levels relative to the baseline, something which is easy to do when hand lettering, but more challenging in a font. It’s best addressed by having multiple different versions of each character in different positions and kerned and hinted to fit with other likely characters in two-letter combinations.
Work has only just started on the Vampirella font and I’m also looking at some other vintage comic fonts, but it should be finished in time to be a special feature for Halloween.