As designers we spend a long time trying to make things look authentic, and nothing says ‘authentic print’ like worn, weathered, irregularly-inked type…
We don’t all have access to letter-press machines or screen-printing facilities, and the effect can be time-consuming to create digitally from scratch. Fortunately there are many many typefaces that perfectly capture the rough, inky, tactile look of hand-printed lettering. Thanks to the power of OpenType many automatically vary their textures as you type to keep things organic, while others come packed with alternative shapes, shadows and effects which when layered with colours can give some satisfying print effects
I’ve rounded up ten of my favourites here, which between them should cover every eventuality and satisfy even the most demanding hand printing fans!
Brandon Grotesque has been something of a runaway success for designer Hannes von Döhren since it was launched back in 2010, so its no surprise he should consider creating a hand-stamped version of the font. Not to say HvD hasn’t got previous form in this area of course, as the foundry behind the equally successful Cheap Pine, the 2011 wood-block effect font so beloved of craft breweries and wood-fired pizza restaurants up and down the land.
As you might imagine then, Brandon Printed is an expertly produced, detailed and stylish example with loads of extras, ornaments, lined options, shadows thrown in to the mix.
Ryan Keightly is a fairly new addition to the type world, but he proved himself to be bang on-trend with his warm and endearing Sparkle Script, released back in September. He’s added to this with his latest font “Butternut“, which takes a hand-drawn old-style italic serif font and passes it through all manner of print processes. Butternut’s hand-finished style would make it perfect for packaging, and works well with chalky colours on a darker background.
Roper from Andrew Footit is a Western-influenced font, with crossbar spurs giving it that distinctive American feel. Available in both serif and sans serif versions, each has a solid and letter-pressed style. The solid versions are nice enough, but to my mind the font really comes alive with the letter-press alternatives. While not as flexible in use as some of the others here, sometimes that Wild West look is the only thing that will fit the bill!
Yellow Design Studio are another foundry with a solid track record in producing weighty, ink-heavy stamped fonts. Their Veneer regularly gives HvD’s “Cheap Pine” a run for its money, and their iconic Thirsty script family fast became the professionals’ preferred “Lobster” alternative.
Lulo is a new offering from the designers and takes a slightly different approach to some of the alternatives, with a fabric-based texture giving more of a screen-printed effect to the lettering. A subtle difference, but one that changes the feel of the characters completely. Clever layering options and well-realised shadows give a great 3D effect when combining colours across the full font family, and a good value combined price for the full set makes it a commercial font worth adding to the toolkit.
Where most are clearly display fonts – that is, fonts that are really only intended for small blocks of text and headlines – Appareo takes a lead from period book-type and vintage printing presses. This makes it perfect for slightly longer passages of text, labelling, menus, and works perfectly when going for a more “antique” style. The font does an expert job of reproducing the quirks and ink-flows of vintage mechanical printing, and some advanced OpenType trickery means textures are automatically varied as you type to keep things looking authentic.
Microbrew from Jay Hilgert of Albatross is one of my favourite fonts to have been released this year. With 16 font styles, extras and quirky retro ornaments at under £30 it represents great value for money and the combination of shadows, inline versions, different textures and different printing techniques makes it far more versatile than might be expected for a type family like this.
The condensed shape of the characters also gives a nice contrast to the wider letter shape of the likes of Brandon and works well alongside other families, and the canny font buyer could always download some of Jay’s free alternatives from the complementary “Signyard” font to further extend possibilities!
Fontfabric’s Nexa Rust is a vast, sprawling font family of scripts, slabs, ornaments and sans serif faces, all designed to work alongside each other in a cohesive, structured way. With over 80 fonts in the family, acquiring the whole set is an eye-watering prospect and probably best left for commercial projects. But individually there are some great options in there not found in other families, and Fontfabric’s professional expertise guarantee an excellent finish, flawless execution and high detail at large sizes.
Back to Yellow Design Studio and their increasingly popular 2014 Gist font… Gist Rough is the printed, textured version of the typeface, and retains the monoline, swirling, late 70’s/early 80’s-influenced aesthetic of the original. While the texturing is a bit on the rough side compared to some of the other fonts featured, the distinctive shape, ligatures and style of the lettering makes this ideal for poster design, packaging, T-shirt logos and anywhere you fancy a blast of retro-contemporary chic!
Corradine Fonts have taken a slightly different approach to many of their peers with their Emblema Headline font. Where most have gone down the 1800’s wood-block route with simple shapes and uniform dimensions, Corradine have opted to take the Deco path. The now-standard layering, shadow and inline effects are all present and correct, but paired with elegant proportions, 20’s-style vintage curves, small caps and a range of aesthetic quirks that set it apart from many of the alternatives.
Emblema is currently on offer with the full family of 52 for under £10, which represents outstanding value!
Core Circus Rough
Lastly (but my no means leastly) we have Core Circus Rough from the consistently innovative S-Core foundry. S-Core have taken layered font combos to new heights with their ‘Core’ font systems, with a sense of fun and playfulness not always obvious elsewhere. Core Circus is no exception, thriving on colour, packed with entertaining alternatives and options, and perfect for bold, celebratory designs.
Fonts: Brandon Printed (HVD Fonts), Microbrew (Albatross), Roper (Andrew Footit), Nexa Rust (Fontfabric), Lulo (Yellow Design Studio), Gist Rough (Yellow Design Studio), Emblema Headline (Corradine Fonts), Core Circus Rough (S-Core), Butternut (Ryan Keightley), Appareo (Kimmy Design)