The centuries have been filled with music that lifts the soul and elevates the mind, tranquilizes or energizes. Seven little notes have been rearranged in numberless configurations allowing a full spectrum of emotion to overtake us. Musician Frank Zappa famously said, “all the good music has already been written…” Thankfully, he has been proven wrong time and time again.
We could say the same of lettering. Type is the basic method of communication and can evoke many of the same feelings as music. Yet we ask how many ways 26 little alphabet letters, 10 numerical figures, and a handful of punctuation marks can possibly be executed? With a vast library of fonts numbering over 500,000 and counting, it seems there is no end in sight. There are literally thousands of font designers pumping out new styles faster than graphic designers and artists can keep up with them. Many famous, hand-written or hand-drawn lettering styles have been converted to fonts, which include numbers and punctuation as well. Two such examples are the Coca-Cola emblem and the iconic Cadbury signature – both typographic and highly recognizable, and both have been converted as full fonts because of their popularity.
Standard typestyles you will often find in the body of printed work include two major styles; serif and sans serif. Serif fonts are those with a finishing stroke at the tips of uprights and descenders, adding balance and formality to their character. Times Roman, Baskerville and Garamond are serif styles that have been used for decades. Some newer versions include Minion, Caslon and Georgia. Serifs create a running edge at the baseline of the text and it is said that makes it easier to read.
Sans-serif fonts are those that are simply a letter stroke that ends bluntly and with no-frills. You may be familiar with many of them, including Helvetica, Arial, Calibri, Impact, and future. These fonts are seen most often on the internet. Websites find them universally readable and consistent. They are clean and work well in many different applications.
But what happens when you want something special – a font that jumps off the page and helps tell a story? Fonts are not just utilitarian; they can be beautiful and creative as well. There are many decorative or artistic fonts that range from vintage to futuristic and flat to three-dimensional. We see artistic fonts dressing up all kinds of logos, posters and other printed matter. Let’s take a look at some of our favorite artistic fonts.
Tattoo artists require a special breed of lettering. Many people prefer a bold lettering with a bit of an edge to it. Swirls and extra serifs are standard issue and add a lot of flavor and attitude to a typographical tattoo. Angilla Tattoo is a bold, italicized script-like font. The uprights have “thorns” on them and the tops are squared off.
A bit more decorative, Featherography Decoration is an edgy font. The capital letters have string-thin scrollwork on ascenders and descenders alike, creating an overall fancy disconnected scripted look.
Sometimes you just want to have a little fun. Children’s books and illustrations, party invitations, birthday cards and other lighthearted events may call for something a bit less formal. So what are some of our favorite artistic fonts to use in these instances? Monstah Regular is a playfully hand-written non-serif font that kids love. The simplified shapes have an irregular baseline and the counters are solidly filled.
For something a little more feminine, try Girls Are Weird. This font has descenders that curve into curls with rounded serifs. An irregular baseline and slab serifs on the r, m and n as well as the ascenders. The rounded letters, such as the lowercase s, g, e, o and a, have fun curls and curves that add to the cuteness of the font.
Chalkboard fonts have become increasingly popular in the last several years. These typefaces are very useful for cards, posters, invitations, scrapbooking and other events where a casual, easy-to-read lettering is needed. Return to Sender is an all-caps non-serif font that looks like an outlined letter filled with chalk-drawn crosshatched shading. When you fill this font, it leaves the spaces in between the crosshatches open. Chalkduster is another chalk font, but this time it is a sans serif handwritten text. The lettering has rough and irregular edges as if it had really been written by hand.
When a project requires a font that adds to the feel of motion or speed, and action font is the best choice. Doedel is a modified vintage sporty font. This bold lettering with a large alternate glyph library brings basketball or baseball posters to life. It is equally at home with classic cars as with sports.
If you’re looking for a good old earthquake, Fake Empire Font should do the trick. This bold, blocky text with decayed edges has an irregular baseline and is riddled with cracks and crevices to rock your world.
Life in the fast lane could be illustrated by this typeface, with its motion lines indicating movement. For a little more speed, try Fast Track in italics. This is a bold, sans serif font, similar to Arial narrow bold, with wide kerning. It could also fit under the vintage genre.
It was tough to decide whether this font belonged with the vintage fonts or the action typefaces, because it is a bit of both. Zelda is a vintage, art deco style that sits on a bit of a slant and has an offset midline shift to add movement and interest.
Disney movie lovers, rejoice! Many fonts have been created based on the movies made by the man behind the mouse, including one of our favorite artistic fonts in the just-for-fun category: Mouse Tags. Although this technically operated as a font, it is actually a set of dingbats featuring some of your favorite Disney icons.
Anyone who is a fan of the movie Maleficent will be familiar with the now-famous font Upon a Dream. This typeface has dramatically curved and pointed descenders on the right side and small serifs on the left. The uppercase M's have a menacing twisted center point that adds character and a sense of foreboding to your piece.
Incredibles is an unassuming, straight non-serif font – until you use uppercase letters – then things get exciting. Each letter is encircled by the famous Incredibles swash (recognizable from the movie promos). By placing a colored oval behind the open counters on these illustrated letters, you can achieve a two-tone look.
Created to look like the Disneyland logo – the one that shows up over the famous castle in the credits of all of their movies – Enchanted Land is a font for lovers of all things Disney. It is a calligraphy-style black letter font, and the lowercase letters are just as magical as the uppercase.
Flexiletto is a vintage, twenties-looking Roman-style text and comes with extra dingbats and flourishes. The uprights have small thorn-like points mid-way and the bracketing and serifs are on the small side.
Take it back to the 1800s and enjoy this Victorian era typeface that looks like hand-drawn poster lettering. This lightly shadowed lettering of Sea Horse is charming and evokes an old-fashioned feel.
In an homage to the fifties, A Hometown Glory places you at a Main Street drag race or an old-time baseball game. This scripted typeface features tall, narrow cursive letters with plenty of swashes in all the right places.
Clarkson Script is a versatile calligraphy font that hales back to mid-century America. It is pleasingly balanced and well spaced to be easily readable. This typeface is bold and attractive with a steady baseline complemented by uprights with swashes and capitals with exaggerated curves.
Come sit in the Parlour a while and enjoy a sip of vintage lettering. This is a tall, narrow, all-caps font with small serifs and a slow decay toward the lower third of the letters. It looks great in either a small or large font size and comes with a harmonizing script font.
Drift away in a flight of fancy with this sweet and swirly font. Calligraphic in nature, and loaded with alternate glyph swashes and flourishes, Marthina Script is perfect for creating Valentines, and as a bonus it comes with its own coordinating sans serif font.
Hello Lary! No, that was not a typo – it is the name of another of our favorite fonts in the romantic genre. This mid-weight script is of fairly standard height and baseline, and features a minimal change between x-height and cap height. The alternative glyphs include preceding and succeeding swashes, which turn into little hearts. You can’t get much sweeter than that.
Next is a flirty and whimsical type treatment that is easy on the eyes and swirly enough to feel fancy, without making it difficult to decipher. The Slowbird is a script font that also looks good in all-caps – a true feat among calligraphic styles.
Decayed and Grunge Fonts
A block-style sans serif with decayed edges, Old Lithography is a great font that works for titles and sub-headings as well. Appropriate for either tattoos or print jobs, Inked God is a decadent roman style with unexpected majuscule swashes and ink splotches. It has a borderline grunge feel and yet maintains a solid Roman look. Many Weatz is a swashy ink-spotted cursive style that lends a worn feeling – like shabby chic.
For a simpler look, we like Megeon, a straightforward bold Roman style with no definite edges and a rough interior. This font almost feels like a woodcut or linoleum cut stamp, making it perfect for rustic labels, as well as popular wildlife silhouettes.
A long time ago in a design studio far away, a clever artist came up with Death Star, a throwback to the Star Wars series title font. The letters are all-caps and outlines – no fill, so the background shows through. There are a few ligature combinations, such as “ST” and “TH” to add interest to your layouts.
For a more modern, galactic look, try Centauri, a futuristic font that has clean, thin lines and wide kerning. This typeface is uppercase only and features partial spines and missing crossbars here and there to keep you guessing. This font looks fantastic in white on a dark background and pairs well with a shorter, block style font, such as Helvetica bold or Monotype Sorts semi bold.
While we are on the topic of deep space artistic fonts, let’s talk about Voyager. You will recognize this font from the title screen of the show by the same name. This one is more versatile than Death Star, so it offers more variety. This font is a thin, sans serif form, again in capital letters.
We have only scratched the surface of the artistic fonts supply. There are many more categories and genres (called families) filled with a plethora of styles. The choice of lettering can make or break your design. As an artist, there is more to your communication than the words on the page. Imagine a soft, romantic valentine filled with butterflies and flowers, with grunge block font Navy Queen stating “Happy Valentine’s Day,” or a basketball poster with the formal Chopin Script confusing the message. You may have to try a few on for size before you get the right feel. Most people instinctively know when they hit “the one.”
Start with tried-and-true choices until you become more familiar with them. Experiment with different ways to use them. Fonts can be converted to outlines (vectors) using popular computer software and treated as individual shapes. This allows each letter to be shaped, stretched, scaled and sheared to fit the needs of your various projects. That effectively means another new font has been created. Try a gradient fill or a drop shadow to make it pop off the page. Let the creators of some of our favorite artistic fonts do the hard work and take credit for the great results.