Hatch Show Print Wine Labels
While wandering through the wine aisle at Target (not normally known for its cool wines or artistic experiences), my eye was caught by the striking label on a bottle of Argentinian Malbec from The Rebels which features a design by Brad Vetter of Hatch Show Prints, produced in their unique style and featuring many fonts, especially on the back label, which are similar to those preserved in our Letterpress Font Collection, including Big Show, Letterpress Gothic and Caelian. Hatch Show Prints has been doing amazing posters using traditional letterpress for about 150 years in Nashville and for customers nationwide.
It turns out that this wine is the latest in a series called “The Show” with Hatch Show Print labels. Each label is different, but they all feature a characteristic bucking mustang. The series goes back to 2007 and includes some very eye-catching designs on a wide variety of vintages. The Rebels or the Three Thieves who market the wines are a group of wine experts who find interesting wines from around the world, import and package them in this unique style and sell them under their label. I haven’t tried the wine itself yet, but if you can judge a book by its cover and a wine by its label then the wine ought to be a lot of fun. At Christmas time a bottle of wine under the tree makes a pretty good present.
Fonts With Style
At the Scriptorium we’re celebrating our 20th year designing original fonts and unique revivals of antique typefaces with over 600 fonts in circulation and new releases appearing twice a month. For those who aren’t familiar with our products — which include not only fonts but also unique collections of vintage illustrations and graphic arts resources — this is a short overview of some of our interesting recent releases.
Two of our newest font releases are Vambrace and Letterpress Gothic.
Back in March we held a poll to see which of five fonts we should put at the top of our development list and we ended up with three close contenders. Coming in third in that race was the design which we used as the basis for our new Vambrace font. Vambrace is basically a display and titling font which features a heavy outline style design. It’s very regular, but the characters are in a style which you might create with a Speedball style pen with a rounded nib for a poster or display card. The look is unusual and appealing and works well as a font. You can download and try the demo version of Vambrace in TrueType format for Mac or PC. The full version of the font is available from our ordering site.
With all the coverage we did of the Hatch Show Print exhibit it seemed only appropriate to develop a font which embodied that design look. The result is our new Letterpress Gothic font which embodies one of the quirks of letterpress printing, the occasional combination of characters which are very similar, but don’t quite match. To do this we took characters from a number of different letterpress gothic style fonts, distressed them to give them the look of being printed from old blocks, and combined them together to form two complete alphabets, along with some special characters, particularly filled-in Em and En spaces for crude line balancing. The end result is surprisingly effectrive, with a lot of character and a good representation of the feel of primitive printed posters. It’s actually aimed somewhat below the sophistication of a lot of the fancy letterpress work Hatch produces, but it’s an excellent example of what you might have found on an early 20th century playbill or show poster from a smaller press. You can download and try the demo version of Letterpress Gothic in TrueType format for Mac or PC. It includes a mix of characters from the different variants of the font. You can also order the full version online for immediate download: BUY IT NOW.
One of our most popular new collections is our Steampunk font package. It’s a new set of 10 fonts, many of which are new or in no previous collection, plus more than 20 original high-resolution metallic textures. It’s everything you need to create unique graphics with a grungy, retrograde, victorian low-tech look characteristic of the Steampunk movement. The font set includes a combination of art, decorative initial and display fonts with an edgy art nouveau and victorian looks and specialized features. One of the key new fonts is the Gears font which is a brand new font created specially for this package which features more than 60 different gear silhouettes based on clockwork and old machinery ready to be combined with textures to create a great retro-mechanical look. Another new font is the Jules Verne title font, a heavy-weight title font which combines the look of wrought iron with elements of gears and clockwork. The package also includes our classic Goodfellow font is included because it fits so well and was featured on the cover of the James Blaylock’s recent steampunk short story collection The Adventures of Langdon St. Ives. If you want to download a sample font from the package, try our our Jules Verne font. In addition to the fonts the collection includes a great selection of new and original textures which include samples of pure and oxidized and extremely deteriorated metals, including silver, gold, copper, bronze and iron in various states and with different sorts of finishes. Combine them with the fonts as we’ve done in the title graphic here (which uses Verne and Gears) and you get an amazing look. If you want to try a sample texture, try downloading the Heavy Rust texture. For more information on this package just Click Here.
Also worth a mentionm among our recent releases is the unusual Posada font based on the lettering designs of José Guadalupe Posada, Posada is best known for his Calavera cartoons and illustrations which satirized his fellow Mexicans as skeletons in the tradition of Dia de los Muertos. Many of Posada’s cartoons were published as single-sheet handbills and included original hand-lettered captions and titles in a style reminiscent of period newspaper headlines. We’ve previously collected many of Posada’s Calavera lithographs in our Macabre Fonts and Art Collection and now we’re releasing our first font based on Posada’s lettering, somewhat unimaginatively tagged with his name. It’s a rough and bold all-caps character set with alternative caps on the lower case keys, with an offset positioning which Posada used in a number of his cartoons, as demonstrated in the sample to the right. You can try out the free demo version of Posada for either MacOS or Windows. It features just the characters of the standard set. The full combined version of Posada is available on our Ordering Site.
We also recently released a new edition of our very popular Valdemar font, which is a big hit at Halloween. Valdemar started as a set of embellished uppercase characters with bits of clockwork and odd design motifs worked into the character forms to give them a unique, archaic look. Eventually we developed two companion fonts, one a version with a lowercase character set and the other a set of alternative uppercase characters. The set also includes small-caps and foreign language characters. Valdemar has been very popular for book designs, movies and merchandising. It was selected as the official title font for merchandised products for the Harry Potter movies, but the similarity between the name Valdemar and the character Lord Voldemort is coincidental. The name Valdemar actually comes from a story by Edgar Allan Poe and the font was released before the movies came out. You can download and try the demo version of Valdemar. The full Valdemar family set is available from our ordering site.
There’s a lot more to see on the site. Try some of the links from the pull-down menu at the top of this page and you’ll be amazed at what you can discover.
Letterpress Font Collection
Click any font to see more.
Letterpress printing is one of the oldest and simplest forms of printing, using letters carved into wooden blocks or cut from a rubbery material and attached to the blocks and then printed as a whole page composed of multiple elements. Today it is used primarily for poster printing by presses like Hatch Show Prints which have preserved the old type and presses and continue to print the way they did a hundred or more years ago.
Stylistically, letterpress printing is characterized by the use of large, block type, simple printer’s ornaments and sometimes limited attention to making all of the characters match in exactly the same style. Substitution of letters from a vaguely similar font into a line of type by accident or intent is quite common. Because of the primitive printing methods and the age and wear on the type flaws like nicks and faded areas are also quite common, plus there are rarely sharp corners or small serifs as they tended to degrade or tear off. It’s also common to see Letterpress posters where the type has been set with virtually no white space, with the entire printing space filled with type or with solid blank spaces. Because the technology is old, a lot of the font styles are also antique looking, reminiscent of those found in our Wild West font collection.
Our new collection of letterpress fonts is based on type commonly used in letterpress printing, derived from old posters and in some cases directly from letterpress type blocks. It includes a variety of weights and styles and many of the fonts are brand new releases developed specifically for the package. In addition to several of the typical bold sans serif fonts like Caelian and Letterpress Gothic, it includes a couple of “circus” style fonts with Boomtown and Big Show, a couple of heavy weight serif fonts with Plymouth and Bastion, a couple of lighter weight fonts with Stampwork and Atkinson Egyptian and finally two more ornate fonts from the German tradition popular in the midwest at the turn of the last century with Plakat and Wolfram. It’s a nice variety of fonts and everything you need to make good letterpress-style designs like those we’ve features in our recent articles on Hatch Show Prints
All of our letterpress fonts are available individually – just click on the image shown here – or you can get the complete package with all the fonts for an introductory price of only $49. The package is available for Windows or Macintosh, including both TrueType and Postscript fonts. The special introductory price is only going to last only through the end of November. You can order our Letterpress Fonts collection online and dowload it immediately. Just CLICK HERE TO ORDER
Poster: National Day of the American Cowboy
In a moment of pure serendipity I went down to our local feed store to get scratch for our chickens and discovered that they had changed their Sunday hours and I was out of luck, but stapled to the wall was the charming poster you can see to the right. Since the event was over, I couldn’t resist taking the poster and adding it to my collection.
It’s a poster promoting the National Day of the American Cowboy a nationwide event recognizing cowboy heritage, with associated events all over the country. It’s the seventh in a series of posters from the Hatch Show Print Company, many of which can be mailordered from Hatch for $15 each. It’s classic letterpress work, with all the quirks and character that entails, including a great cowboy woodcut and outstanding use of classic western style fonts . Of the past designs I think this is one of the best, though not as striking as the standout 2008 poster.
It’s a very appealing addition to my collection and I think it’s just a little bit better because I found it in its natural habitat rather than ordering it. It’s also inspiration to plunge on with my own letterpress printing projects.
Letterpress Printing I: Project Research
I have a commission to do an event poster for a festival coming up this fall. Rather than do the obvious and design it on the computer and then print it by any of the obvious high-tech methods, I thought I would look into what it would take to set up a homemade letterpress printing press and print the posters myself using relatively primitive technology similar to the methods used by poster printers like Hatch Press but on a more modest scale. I figured this process might be of interest to others so I’m writing it up.
My basic plan is to try to produce a press capable of printing in sizes up to 17x22in using inexpensive materials and basic carpentry and mechanical skills. The objective is to do this in a low-tech way with minimal cost and moderate quality with high volume and high speed not really priorities. I only need to print short runs of maybe 100 posters at a rate of maybe 10 copies an hour. What I need is the extra size which you can’t get cheaply for short runs by other methods and one of the goals is to keep the price competitive with silkscreening while using letterpress-style technology.
The first step was to do some basic research and the internet proved to be rich with resources. I clearly was far from the first person to have this idea and so I can benefit from the experiences of others. YouTube provided a number of excellent videos. Two of the best accompany this article. The first is a good overview of a small homemade press created very much using the kind of low cost and low tech methods I had in mind. The second is a DIY video on making your own polymer plates, which was very helpful in assessing whether that was an option I wanted to pursue. Also very useful was the letterpress community at briarpress.org which is a gathering place for letterpress fanatics and an excellent resource if you need advice, equipment, supplies or services. It’s got a large user base and though the site design is awkward the community is strong.
Now at this point I’m not even sure if the project is worth doing., but I’ve identified the two basic necessities. One is to build a press, which ought to be low cost and within my skills. The other is to produce usable plates for the press by some method which is both practical and inexpensive.
Given my past experience working with antique presses and my mechanical and woodworking skills I’m confident I can build a press. In fact I’m pretty sure that if sufficiently motivated I could build a mechanical press which used movable type and printed at a reasonable speed, though that’s way beyond my level of need or commitment for this project.
The bigger question is what do I print from? Movable type is right out unless I have some sort of windfall. Complete sets of the kinds of fonts I would want in wood or metal are prohibitively expensive and would take ages to find and acquire, and I’d still need to have custom pieces made for artwork and images. Worst of all I’d be stuck with the fonts I could find and wouldn’t be able to use any of my own designs. The alternative is to print from a single plate custom cut for the purpose. This can be done by hand. I could cut a whole plate myself in wood or rubber or linoleum if the job were simple and I had the time and patience, and I could do it from an original design which used my fonts, but it’s too much work if I want it to be of decent quality.
For speed, convenience and quality the third and most appealing option is to have a plate of some sort photoetched. Because of price and the fact that we don’t need the plate to last forever metal plates are out and the best option is a polymer plate. This is not something I’ve done before except on a very small scale, and my expectations (even after watching the accompanying video) is that doing the chemical etching myself to create a polymer plate is an iffy prospect. I’ve worked with photo silkscreening materials and had mixed and dubious results and I’m afraid the same concerns apply here. I’m still intrigued by the cost savings of doing it myself, but I lack confidence.
The easy alternative would be to spend some money and send a PDF of my design off to a professional platemaking company to be produced in polymer. This is a lot like the process for making a custom rubber address stamp but on a larger scale. The problem is that it’s not cheap. To be workable it needs to be around the same price it would cost to have the posters silkscreened and that means no more than a couple of hundred dollars, and even that is stretching the budget given the cost of paper, printing and the materials to make the press. Nonetheless this is the best combination of convenience and quality if the price is right.
In looking for sources the one which everyone seemed most pleased with was a company called Boxcar Press, but their prices were just too high. For the proposed 17×22 size their price was well over $200 just for the polymer plate and we’d be adding in another $25 or so for a film positive. More research turned up Elum which could do the plate for a tiny bit under $200. Really still too high, but getting into range. The final option was Nagraph which could get the price down a bit lower to about $170 including the cost of a film positive, with the apparent catch that the plate would come in several pieces – not really an issue since they would be reasonably large and easy to assemble. $170 wasn’t ideal, but it at least brought this option to within the realm of possibility, though it would mean a total production cost of perhaps as much as $3 per poster.
Thus far the accumulated research suggested that the project was at least feasible, but because of the cost it was necessary to go back and consider the question of whether I could successfully make my own polymer plate and save about $100 in the process. The next step was clearly to see if I could find materials either locally or online from a company like Boxcar Press and try making a polymer plate and see how painful the process was and what kind of quality I could produce. If I could do as well as the example in the DIY video I found on YouTube and with similarly low tech materials, then I’d be on my way.
New Font: Letterpress Gothic
With all the coverage we did of the Hatch Show Print exhibit it seemed only appropriate to develop a font which embodied that design look. The result is our new Letterpress Gothic font which embodies one of the quirks of letterpress printing, the occasional combination of characters which are very similar, but don’t quite match. To do this we took characters from a number of different letterpress gothic style fonts, distressed them to give them the look of being printed from old blocks, and combined them together to form two complete alphabets, along with some special characters, particularly filled-in Em and En spaces for crude line balancing. The end result is surprisingly effectrive, with a lot of character and a good representation of the feel of primitive printed posters. It’s actually aimed somewhat below the sophistication of a lot of the fancy letterpress work Hatch produces, but it’s an excellent example of what you might have found on an early 20th century playbill or show poster from a smaller press.
You can download and try the demo version of Letterpress Gothic in TrueType format for Mac or PC. It includes a mix of characters from the different variants of the font. You can also order the full version online for immediate download: BUY IT NOW.
The Hatch Show Print Exhibit
At the risk of overpromoting something which I’ve already given some attention to, I did get a chance to go to the last day of the Hatch Show Print exhibit at the Austin Museum of Art last weekend. Although it was certainly not the largest poster exhibit I’ve been to, for the specialized subject which it covered it really did exceed my expectations and the preview I published here earlier. I’ve also found more useful resources, including a video about the show (below) and the main page for the show at the Smithsonian which is the main sponsor. Their site also has the schedule for the show, which is going to make its next appearance at the Boston University Art Museum in November. Apparently the schedule is open between now and then, which I find surprising, because it’s an excellent show for a small museum or even a large library to host.
The show was had much to offer which I hadn’t expected. It included not only an excellent variety of posters spanning more than 100 years of history, starting with a poster for a speech by Lyman Beecher in the 1870s and ending with a section of posters for contemporary bands. The posters were accompanied by sample print blocks, including some of extraordinary size and some which had clearly seen a lot of use. There was also an interactive section for kids to try out some basic block printing techniques.
What really stood out to me among the many posters were some of the state fair posters and posters from shows at the Grand Ole Opry which demonstrated the creative combination of set type and wood block art to great effectiveness. From a historical perspective I was also intrigued by the several movie posters included in the show, particularly the two-tone poster for Island of Lost Souls, because they were made for movies from the 1940s and 1950s which certainly had regular four-color posters available, but for which Hatch was commissioned to make simpler letterpress posters, presumably to cater to the southern market. From a historical perspective the most surprising thing was a beautifully preserved poster from the 1920s advertising the “Rabbit Foot Minstrels” with a fantastic illustration of dancers in minstrel garb and black-face. That’s the kind of historical artifact which really grabs the imagination, and which (not surprisingly) I couldn’t find on the show website.
If you have an interest in printing and graphic arts, this is a show you really shouldn’t miss, though opportunities to see it may be rather limited. Go to your local museum curator and tell him or her to call the Smithsonian and book the show. You won’t be disappointed.
If the show doesn’t end up coming to your town, Hatch sells their classic posters online through their very impressive website. Or if you want to make an oldstyle letterpress poster on your own, we can at least help you with the right fonts. We have a lot of fonts in that same letterpress tradition, particularly in our Wild West and Colonial Fonts collections.
Hatch Show Print Exhibit in Austin
Austin Museum of Art for a month to see the Hatch Show Print exhibit. It’s a collection of historical posters from one of the most famous poster printers in the world. Hatch has been producing show posters since the 19th century and is still printing using traditional letterpress and hand-cut woodblock art. Their posters are iconic in the history of country, blues and rock music and have inspired generations of designers. I haven’t made it down there yet, but Sunday is the last day and I’m going to drag the family down with me one way or another. It’s a touring show and while they haven’t got other tour dates up on their site yet, keep an eye out for it coming to a museum near you.
If you can’t get to the show, Hatch sells their classic posters online through their very impressive website. Or if you want to make an oldstyle letterpress poster on your own, we can at least help you with the right fonts. We have a lot of fonts in that same letterpress tradition, particularly in our Wild West and Colonial Fonts collections.