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Font Friday: Ten of the best letterpress, stamped and printed fonts for authentic vintage design

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 Printed

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.

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Butternut

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.

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Roper

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!

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Lulo

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.

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Appareo

Appareo has been featured here before, but worth including here again since it gives a different take on things to many of the others featured here.

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.

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Microbrew

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!

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Nexa Rust

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.

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Gist Rough

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!

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Emblema Headline

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!

emblema

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.

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Details

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)

Design Work

Folding Book Invitations for a Literary-Themed Wedding

One of the things I enjoy most about working on bespoke invitation designs is the variety… Everyone has something different in mind for their day, and I love the challenge of carrying that across into print.

Laura & Peter’s wedding is taking place deep in Hardy Country, the picturesque corner of Dorset where Thomas Hardy spent so much of his life. With so much rich literary history surrounding their venue it’s no surprise they decided to adopt this as a loose theme for their wedding, which gave me the chance to come up with something suitably book-inspired for their invitations!

The design takes late 19th century book-printing as the starting point, with grained linen and leather covers, hot-stamped gold lettering, embossed details, and precise, immaculate typography on the pages within. The irregularly-sized folds of the final printed piece allow the faux book cover and spines on the front to unfold into an info-packed invitation, complete with detachable RSVP, custom map and plenty of information to help guests get around on the day.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about that bee-autiful copy of “Far From The Madding Crowd” peeking out from under the invitation on the first photo, that’s one of the amazing Coralie Bickford-Smith’s Penguin Classics range – well worth a nose through the rest of her cover designs if you’re not familiar with them. Only of course after you’ve scrolled down and had a look at the rest of the details below…

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Details

Paper: 340gsm Splendorgel Extra White
Design: Swash and Fold
Fonts: Garamond Premier Pro (Adobe), Modnoc (Borutta Wood Type Collection), Appareo (Kimmy Design), Aphrodite Slim Pro (Typesenses)

Design Work

Logo Design: The Library

An artisanal, craftsman-like approach to drink preparation from head librarian Joel Whitmore and proprietor James Fowler has swiftly positioned The Library as one of the most respected purveyors of fine spirits and cocktails in the country, despite still being in their first year of opening…

The Library is an unassuming venue, tucked away on the first floor of Fowler’s restaurant. But once up the discreet flight of stairs visitors find themselves in a unique but immediately comfortable space, combining manor house drawing room, speak-easy and public house into the perfect environment to enjoy a quality tipple. Whilst keen to keep things understated and refined, James and Joel nevertheless wanted to give The Library its own identity unique from the restaurant below. So we set about exploring some ideas together, including period details, maps, books, and assorted distillation ephemera.

One thing I kept returning to was the idea of the bar globes. The Library has several of these iconic pieces of library furniture, first made popular in Renaissance Italy during the 16th Century. To me they summed up everything James and Joel were trying to achieve with The Library – discovery, a sense of exploration, a nod to history… That and the fact that they were a handy way of discretely stashing away bottles of your best booze for a sneaky sip in the drawing room.

The final logo takes two forms – a simplified text only version for situations where things need to be kept professional, and the full “ornate” version for those occasions when only the best will do. Keep an eye out for a future post with the various implementations of the brand in situ, but for now take a look at some examples of the logo below.

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Details

Client: The Library / Seasoned Spirits (website)
Design: Swash and Fold

Fonts:Hoefler Text Engraved No.1 (Hoefler & Frere-Jones), Garamond Premier Pro (Adobe), Vulpa Italic (Schizotype)

Design Work

Print Design: Oxfords Bakery School of Bread

Oxfords has been baking bread across the South West of England since the start of the last century, so working with them gave the perfect opportunity to really explore some period design

The Dorset-based bakery have been producing bread since 1911, with current owner Steven Oxford still using the same proven recipes and techniques established by his great grandfather over 100 years ago.

Steven has made some innovations though, not least being the introduction of his School of Bread – an opportunity to learn some of the key aspects of bread-making and baking in a hands-on environment from Steven and his team. Oxfords were finding that many of their customers were wanting to give these courses as presents, so they needed a great-looking gift certificate producing to sell in their stores.

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We decided it needed to be a premium printed item that reflected the quality and tradition Oxfords have come to represent. Additionally Steven needed some scope for customising the design, as there are several different classes available within the School of Bread. The solution was to design a basic certificate using a high-quality, heavy-stock bonded card. This would then be supplied with a set of gold-metallic stickers with unique designs for each of the three courses, allowing the stores to create their own selection as-and-when needed.

In terms of design, I wanted to reflect the print design of the turn of the 20th Century. The fonts of type foundry E-phemera are a great resource for anyone looking to create antique-style text, specialising in reproducing old printed and hand-lettered materials for TV and film props. One in particular caught my eye as rather appropriate: “Shipley” is a worn and weathered face based on “Kennerley”, a typeface produced by Goudy in 1911… the same year Frank Oxford first fired up the oven! This was combined with some scanned engravings dating from the late 1800s to create the final design.

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Details

Design: Swash and Fold
Fonts: Shipley Smooth (E-phemera)