A Note On Handwriting Fonts

By | Sunday, January 15, 2012 Leave a Comment
The idea behind handwriting style fonts is to provide text with a more naturealistic, less machined feel. Helvetica, while an elegant font, tends to look a bit stiff and awkward when it's completed surrounded by and embedded in a full page of hand-drawn illustration. So handwriting fonts provide a nice middle ground, where they're still clean and recognizable letterforms, but their more organic design blends better with comic book style illustration.

There are, of course, any number of handwriting fonts out there, which can provide different nuanced voices and add to the flavor of a comic. Some creators make their own based on their personal lettering styles. On the whole, these work well. Easy reading and comprehension, but not as static as your typical serif or san serif. Here's a quick sample using Nate Piekos' Letter-o-matic...

Looks pretty good, right? That's in part because of the wording in that sentence. There's a good mix of letters there, with no double vowels or consonants. Now take a look at my name typed out in the same font...
Doesn't look quite as good. It doesn't feel like handwritten text any more. In large part because of the character redundancy. I've got three "E"s there, two right next to one another. The "E" form is very obviously identical across all three figures, making it come across as more planned, less spontaneous. And you notice this more because it's the only word you're looking at. You're not reading a full sentence and trying to process the meaning; you just need to understand the short blurb, so you can afford to spend more time looking at the individual letters. Because of that, the natural quirks that come with doing things by hand are more evident by their absence.

What if you made some substitutions, though?
The first "L" is an upside-down "7", the second "E" is flipped upside-down, and the third "E" is a backwards "3". All of the figures are now unique. A couple of problems remain, though. The "3" looks stylistically different than the other two "E"s, and the upside-down "E" doesn't feel quite right either.

What about actually modifying the letters, once they're put down?
Here, I've actually gone in and tried tweaking the characters more subtly. Changing the angle on crossbars by a degree, or shortening them a few pixels. It's not perfect by any means (I spent all of 90 seconds on it) but each character now has a unique form, but they still all look good as a whole. And the subtle changes prevent it from looking as machined as the first example above.

Obviously, doing this could be a tedious process, depending on how much you get into it. But for headlines and short exclamations, especially those with double letters, it makes a world of difference.
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