Font and the Evils of Trialware

I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about my artwork, writing and general research up to date however until I a month ago I’d given very little thought to one other integral aspect of the project: typography.

In the past I’ve gotten by using free fonts such as A.C.M.E. Secret Agent and Digital Strip from Blambot.com, which were all well and good for smaller efforts. Now however, it strikes me that it would be a shame to slap on ready-made text when I’m putting so much work into all other areas of the graphic. Indeed, in the professional world of comics where people are hired specifically for lettering I doubt any of them would be caught dead using something grabbed off the internet. So it was that I set about trying to create my own font.

This task proved more difficult than it initially seemed. I began by raiding Google in the hope of finding freeware suitable for converting hand written lettering to a digital font. Settling on Fontographer I figured the trial version might be good enough for what I had in mind. Not so. Rather than giving you a restricted period to try all the features, or removing some of the more advanced options the trialware version watermarks half of the font created making it more or less useless in itself. Trying again, I tested FontCreator, Fontforge and Typelight all with similar (or worse) results.

I can’t exactly complain, the internet has pretty much conditioned most of us to expect free content (legally or otherwise) and while it’s my knee jerk reaction to feel outrage in situations like this it’s ultimately only fair when I’m being a cheap skate. All the same, I can neither afford nor justify a price tag of over £100 for something I’ll only use a handful of times.

As a result of these issues I’ve arrived at this stop gap solution: rather than having my font mapped to key bindings, I’ve scanned in a basic set of characters and – having refined them a little in Corel  – collected them in a bitmap (below) to cut and paste as required:

Yes, pretty crude I know but it’s no worse than what letterers would have done before computers  at least. Even if I don’t find an alternative it’s hardly a back-breaking method, just a minor inconvenience. In terms of the style it vaguely resembles my own scrawl with a slightly beefed up look to give it more impact; I intentionally kept it rough and ready looking in line with typical comic text and to prevent it from appearing cold and overly formal though.

I also created a basic mock panel (below) to give a sense of how it looks in action:

Ignoring the rushed art, colours and bubble – sorry I realise they could have been better – the font works pretty well though it should perhaps be a touch slimmer. Either way, expect tweaking in preparation for production; its got some way to go maybe but at least I won’t be resorting to comic sans anytime soon…

2 Responses to Font and the Evils of Trialware

  1. demontales says:

    Good job on the lettering. Might be a tiring technique in the long run, but you can say all your comic is self-made, which is always nice.

  2. Ozy says:

    @demontales: Yeah, I figured that would be the payoff ;) Like I said though it may only be temporary if I can find usable font software that doesn’t cost the earth or come bundled with spyware…

    Thanks anyway :) My guess is that this version will be my bold font with a thinner one for most regular text but the basis is there at least.

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