Ok I don’t have anyone to talk to right now, I just had to be socially trans in person for an hour while signing legal forms, and I’m strung out and tired. SO I’M GOING TO RANT ABOUT CONSTRUCTED LANGUAGES AND MAGICAL SCRIPTS.
Look, I get it. You want your conlang/magic script to look mystical, cryptic, special. You want it to look different than any other language while still looking like a language people write in. If you’re a spiritual person or magic-user this may even be a language you’re channeling and that you believe to be ancient in nature or otherwise pre-existing. But 95% of conlangs and magical scripts look totally fake and made-up, and this is not a judgment I’m casting on their actual grammatical structure or language theory or the languages they were based on. The thing that makes a language look like one people ever actually wrote in for hundreds of years, that makes it look like the letters/characters are all from the same language, is that it looks like a language that’s been written in whatever tools you are claiming or feel like it was traditionally written in.
Let’s take cuneiform:
Looks super-neat, right? Man, who’d ever think of having those wedges in an alphabet! It’s totally different than most modern languages out there and very distinctive, and the wedges are consistent across the letters, so it makes them all look like they’re from the same alphabet. This wasn’t just arbitrarily designed as a font style. There is a reason for this!
Cuneiform writing was pressed into wet clay with these shaped bits and that’s why it looks like that. It got stamped with wedges. That’s how (this type of) writing was done at the time. It’s a technological solution and that’s what makes the lettering get that peculiar stylization. You’ll get variants based on craftsmanship and tools, but basically the method is the same across various implementations. Once someone tried to write that in pencil, you could imagine it’d look different, and you’d see evidence of people’s hand-motion between strokes, becoming more of a tilt between letters.
For instance, English looks like it does, even in tumblr’s sans-serif fonts, because it can be constructed with a pen. When it gets fancy with a variable-width pressure-sensitive pen nib, you can get more complex and flowy, but notice the flow and arc still go with the movements natural for a hand to make:
Those little trails between letters exist today because nib pens were drippy and left ink trails. The written language adapted to the tools to incorporate the trails and still make it look legible, and that’s why we have cursive writing at all. This is a simplified history but it’s basically there to make you think about the letter shapes in various traditional ways of writing in English and why it looks like it does instead of like cuneiform.
Which brings me to conlangs. If you want your brand new ancient-looking language to truly look like people have used it for eons, write it out with the tools you think those people would have used, and keep adapting the letters if you find that, say, a brush or nib pen can’t construct the weird arcs and whirls you’ve designed the language to have. Languages by and large are made to be convenient to write. If you don’t know how to write kanji, Chinese words probably look complex and arbitrary to you. But their shapes are logical when you see them written with a brush:
So if you have some arcane-looking swooshy script but it still looks kind of fake, think about where the weight should really be. It should be where the brush presses down heavier and the trailing marks are where the brush lifts up (and usually leaves the paper and ends the stroke). Where the stroke is wide on one end is where the brush initially met the paper. Above, you can see how one swish immediately flows into another, the strokes are like arrows leading across the page when you understand how they’re created. Pick up a brush and figure out an actual stroke order for your symbol. If logically the stroke seems like it’d leave someone’s hand smearing it trying to follow its arc, then logically that symbol would eventually get redesigned if it were in an actual language. Someone would figure out a better way to write it and everyone would adopt that way over time.
So practice writing your language with different tools. Consider a calligraphy course or even just a kit with a guidebook (or youtube training videos!). Written language is a tool that people use, magical as it can be. And if you’re using it for magical purposes such as woodburning it into tools or painting it onto things or writing it onto paper, consider that your symbols will change a bit according to the tools, just like with mundane languages. A wedge-shaped wood burner will get you something a bit closer to cuneiform. A brush will get you something flowy and not super-precise. Pencil will not leave ink trails and will get you something more technical and practical. Your written language logically should shift for that and adapt like a proper tool. And if you do that right, if you really use it, then it will look much more genuine because it will have experienced an actual evolution of form adapting to the physical tools it’s been worked with via.
And if you’re not using it for magic but are just using it for a fantasy setting where people use it for magic in the story, all the above would still apply to them.
Even with just one symbol not meant to be in a greater language, think about the tool you’re creating it with. It’s hard to make a realistic brush-style symbol in pencil. Use the tool that fits the symbol and you’ll produce something much more genuine-looking.
That’s it! I’m not a language expert, this is not meant to be A Real Factual History Of All Language, it’s just a rough primer in How To Make It Look Like A Language Is Actually Written With. It’s not meant to be a critique in whether your magical language is “real” enough or “magical” enough either. It’s simply some pointers in how to make a magical/constructed language that’s actually reasonable to write with and suits the tools you’re writing it with and the purposes you mean it for. Hundreds of years of written language evolution is hard to replace, but I believe in you.
Here’s a small collection of buildings with sans serif fonts on them
1. Post Office, Kitty Hawk, NC
2. C.L. Lupton Roofing Co., Greenville, NC
3. Benchmark Autoworks, Raleigh, NC
4. East Carolina Supply Co., Plymouth, NC
Dragging Sans around. My pc was being slower than molasses but I managed to finish this for ya’ll. They are my favorite ship of all time. I love the idea of Frisk growing up around Sans and the others above ground in the pacifist ending, it’s so sweet and gives so much wiggle room for the pairing 0~0.
Sans: Senseless violence. He’s not naive enough to be 100% pacifistic, and is down for violence when it’s necessary. Though, this is rare. He’s typically content with chosing psychological tactics before physical ones, so violence where it doesn’t needed feels like a waste of energy for him. Seeing others resort to it can range from annoyance to pissing him off based on severity.
Asriel: Harmful pacifism. Not pacifism in general; he’s all for a pacifistic lifestyle! His best friend is a pacifist. But something he can’t stand - and maybe it’s from his time as Flowey - is pacifism to the point where one’s doing more harm than good by not enacting necessary force to get positive results, DAD/ASGORE.
Frisk: People fighting over her gender, because seriously, it’s a difference between an ‘s’, a lack thereof, or just using they, and she honestly doesn’t care which one you use, and she sees it happen and it’s just so stupid.
hey there, i'm making a photoshop guide, but i'd like the fonts to be readable but aesthetic/fun at the same time would you have any recs? I could do with 5-6 different ones that would all look nice together for the header/titles/sub headers etc, thank you!