Buying fonts is the greatest hangover cure in the world. Any good doctor will confirm this. Seriously. Call your doctor and complain about your New Year’s Day throbbing skull and the thick coating of regret on your tongue. If he doesn’t recommend that you purchase at least one display typeface, you should probably switch to another doctor because clearly, he or she can’t be very good.
And what luck! The folks at Comicraft are only to eager to ease your pain (and act as enablers for your debauchery) by holding their annual New Year’s Day sale again. Today, all fonts are $20.14. Even the font that sells for $395, even the ones that sell for $19.99.
Even if you don’t believe in the healing effects of font purchasing, you ought to take a look at Comicraft’s offerings. They specialize in stylized fonts used in comic book lettering and in product packaging. So no, they’re not likely to have an elegant, classical typeface for the 210,000 words of your heartbreaking oral history of the siege of Leningrad. But the perfect font for next year’s Christmas card, or the masthead for your blog? That’s right in their wheelhouse.
I’ve been buying Comicraft fonts since the sale price was $20.03 and wow, do these things deliver. Having a bunch of these fonts on my Mac is like having a pair of channel-lock pliers in my toolbox. I don’t use them every time but when I need one, there’s just no substitute. They put an end to the resigned sigh that comes with trying every script font that came installed on your PC and then going with the one that you hate the least, or the fatalistic indifference that compels people to use Arial in their presentation slides.
Three Pro Tips for navigating Comicraft’s sale. Most of these are available in international versions that contain lots of international symbols and diacriticals. Normally they cost extra. Today, you might as well get the extra stuff at no added fee.
Second: Do keep in mind that many of these fonts are uppercase-only. So only buy them if you don’t mind shouting. Usually they’re fonts specifically designed for comic book lettering … which means they conceal a neat secret.
“Monologous” only has uppercase letters, yes, but if you hold down the shift key you’ll get a slightly different version of that same letter. That’s a great feature when you’re setting a word like “MOONMAN”: using variations of the doubled letters helps make the text look hand-lettered.
Finally, scroll to the bottom of the page and download the PDF catalog. It contains samples of the entire collection and it’s the only way to come away with the sense that you scoured every shelf and storeroom for a great font.
And the wares are worth your diligence. The company’s type designers excel at a task that’s deceptively difficult: to create fonts that call attention to your text without calling attention to the type. A font like that is a force multiplier for any communications mission. Print a sign or prepare a presentation slide in Arial, and people will glance straight past it. Setting it in a well-designed (and well-chosen) font buys you at least a minute of interested attention that you can then build upon.
Here are 13 of my favorite Comicraft fonts. Not every font stands the test of time; these are among those that I keep turning to, time and time again. And remember, these are all $20.14 today.
Readable Handlettered Fonts
This first collection are handlettered comic book-style fonts that are useful for just about any kind of readable text. I use them a lot on presentation slides, where I want the message to look great but I don’t want to call attention to styling.
“Brian Talbot” (make sure you select the version with lowercase letters) has become my go-to Comicraft font for big blocks of text. It’s lively and interesting without taxing the reader’s eyes or wearing out its welcome, even in long blocks of text.
“Comicrazy” used to be my go-to. I still use it for shorter things when I want a looser, less constructed style.
“Letterbot” was one of my earliest Comicraft purchases and it’s still an important member of the team. I love how easily it fuses an angular, OCR-like tech style with analog, human lettering.
The Sign Package
Yup, sometimes you need to print up a sign. Yard sale, lost pet, if one of you ******** so much as touches my lunch ever again, I will ******** CUT you … postings of that nature.
“Brian Talbot” plus these three are tools for making any kind of sign. Talbot is a great default for the majority of the text. When you need one phrase or title to be loud and bold and unmissable, you set it in “Belly Laugh.” When you lay out the text and discover that you need to make a long run of words fit in just one or two lines, go for Marian Churchland. And to solve the opposite problem, there’s “Credit Extension.”
When you have a bunch of fonts of varying weights and widths, you have quick solutions to problems. And you never, ever, ever need to commit a crime against typography akin to “just have Word stretch these letterforms to new dimensions.”
I wouldn’t think to buy these fonts if they weren’t so cheap. They’re a bit too stylish; I’d only have bought them if I had a specific use in mind.
Which means that without Comicraft’s annual sale, I would never have learned how useful these things are. “Elephantmen” is a surprise clutch hitter. I can set any text in that font at any size, and dammit, it works. Particularly when I don’t have much room to spare and I want the text to be readable without looking like an afterthought.
I will sum up the need for “Spellcaster” in one word: “Christmas.” For bonus points, I’ll say “Invitation to a ‘Lord Of The Rings’-themed wedding” but this is a font for a specific purpose. It isn’t “almost the right font” … it is the right font.
“Monologous” is the star prize of the sale. Normally it’s $395; it’s very much designed for professional-looking comics and yes, it has that double-set of uppercase letters that tricks the eye into thinking it’s hand-lettered. Which means that it looks great at any size. It’s precise and technical, and doesn’t scream “I used this font because I thought it looked cool.”
As a comics fan, I also like how nicely it approximates classic lettering styles. Yes, I have re-written the dialogue in iconic comic book stories for my own amusement. I just think it’s funny to imagine Plastic Man as the secret alter-ego of the normally uptight Reed Richards.
(Don’t judge me.)
Look, it’s cheap fun for just $20.
Specialty Display Fonts
These fonts have their place: at the head of the parade. They’re too brash or bold or stylish for any purpose other than grabbing the viewer’s attention. Which means they’re great for just one line of text on a sign, or for a masthead, or for a block of text in a slide that’s meant to represent the title of your entire talk or somesuch.
It’s another “high value” purchase. None of the fonts that came with your Mac or PC can fulfill this kind of role. And the ones that are at least better than the others are so few that they’ve been ruined through overuse. You want to own the right tool for the job.
I like the friendly, bouncy nature of “Cheese And Crackers” and I still often use it for the title card of a presentation or the “one important message” of a notice or sign, if “intimidation” isn’t a necessary feature. “Sentinel” is its counterpart: slightly more serious. The first door sign I made to tell visitors “I’m recording a podcast; don’t ring the bell or do anything to disturb me” was set in “Cheese And Crackers.” When a lawn care salesman chose to ignore it and ruined my recording session anyway, I redid it in “Sentinel.”
Which isn’t to say that Sentinel is an aggressive font. I like its clean, “logo of a decent syndicated sci-fi series” look.
“Geek Speak” is one of Comicraft’s 2013 releases, and therefore my rookie pick this year. I’ve owned it for all of three hours so I don’t know where I’m going to use it … but I like it and that’s reason enough to buy it at this price. It has a trait I thoroughly enjoy in a Comicraft font: it has the surface appearance of a loose and free typeface, but the attitude of the people who designed it was anything but carefree.
“Spills” is another classic case of a font that you’ve been half-arsing your whole life. Three or four times a year you’ve been using something that was kind of a display script, and then you boldfaced it, and you hated it but it was the best you could do. Get the right tool for the job.
I love “Spills.” It’s practically the “I Love Lucy” font. And when you pair it with “Spellcaster” you can practically smell the gingerbread and mistletoe.
I’m in slight awe of type designers. A font is like a bridge. People want it to look beautiful, but it has a function to perform and getting it to work right involves lots of tedious math and adjustment. It’s as easy to drop a steel square wreck across a bay as it is to design something iconic that collapses in its first winter storm. Designing the Golden Gate takes a rare skill.
And Comicraft clearly works with a whole bunch of skilled type designers. You might as well browse through the entire catalogue today and make festive use of the “Add To Cart” button. It’ll add up, believe me. But also believe me when I tell you that this is a good investment in your future. Once you have Comicraft fonts in your system, they’ll be parked there forever, waiting for The Right Moment. And having a folder of Comicraft fonts means never having to say “Times New Roman is perfectly fine as a headline font.”