Just My Type is a book of stories about fonts. It examines how Helvetica and Comic Sans took over the world. It explains why we are still influenced by type choices made more than 500 years ago, and why the T in the Beatles logo is longer than the other letters. It profiles the great originators of type, from Baskerville to Zapf, as well as people like Neville Brody who threw out the rulebook. The book is about that pivotal moment when fonts left the world of Letraset and were loaded onto computers, and typefaces became something we realized we all have an opinion about. And beyond all this, the book reveals what may be the very best and worst fonts in the world – and what your choice of font says about you.
Today we can imagine no simpler everyday artistic freedom than the pull-down font menu. Here is the spill of history, the echo of Johann Gutenberg with every key tap. Here are names we recognize: Helvetica, Times New Roman, Palatino and Gill Sans. Here are the names from folios and flaking manuscripts: Bembo, Baskerville and Caslon. Here are possibilities for flair: Bodoni, Didot and Book Antiqua. And here are the risks of ridicule: Brush Script, Herculanum, Braggadocio and Comic Sans. Twenty years ago we hardly knew them, but now we all have favourites. Computers have rendered us all gods of type, a privilege we could never have anticipated in the age of the typewriter.
Yet when we choose Calibri over Century, or the designer of an advertisement picks Centaur rather than American Gothic, what lies behind our choice and what impression do we hope to create? When we choose a typeface, what are we really saying? Who makes these fonts and how do they work? And just why do we need so many? What are we to do with Alligators, Accolade, Amigo, Alpha Charlie, Acid Queen, Arbuckle, Art Gallery, Ashley Crawford, Arnold Bocklin, Auriol Vignette Sylvie, Andreena, Amorpheus, Angry, and Anytime Now? Banjoman, Bannikova, Baylac, Binner, Bingo, Blacklight, Blippo, Bebedot Blonde, Beach House or Bubble Bath? (And how lovely does Bubble Bath sound, with its thin floating linked circles ready to pop and dampen the page?) There are more than 100,000 fonts in the world. But why can’t we keep to a half-dozen or so familiar faces? Or perhaps we should just stick to the classic Garamond, named after the type designer Claude Garamond, active in Paris in the first half of the sixteenth century, whose highly legible Roman type blew away the heavy fustiness of his German predecessors, and later, adapted by William Caslon in England, would provide the letters for the American Declaration of Independence.
Typefaces are now 560 years old. So when a Brit called Matthew Carter constructed the now-ubiquitous Verdana on his computer in the 1990s, what could he possibly be doing to an A and a B that had never been done before? And how did a friend of his make the typeface Gotham, which eased Barack Obama into the Presidency? And what exactly makes a font presidential or American, or British, French German, Swiss or Jewish? These are arcane mysteries and it is the job of the book to get to the heart of them. But it begins with a cautionary tale, a story of what happens when a typeface gets out of control.
Forward: The post to just the finished artwork of Mortem3r can be found HERE.
For those who might be curious, this is an mild tutorial on how I deal with my scans of my illustrations. I use a Canon LiDE 110 scanner that was around $30 and recommended on amazon.com. I use a custom set up of Color Photo, no auto-adjustment, and 600 dpi ALWAYS. The scanner does pretty well, but it really makes things yellow and washes out reds a lot.
Images 1: This is what the raw scan looks like. Sometimes I’ll work on tinted paper, but Suzy most certainly was not so you can see how dramatic and frustrating scanning traditional work is! Luckily I own Photoshop.
Image 2: Image<Adjustments<Color Balance After pulling the image into Photoshop CS5, first thing I do is is crop and reduce the image size by around 40-60%. Color Balance is great to reign in that yellow tint. What’s pictured is the main adjustments in midtones, and althought I will sometimes adjust the highlights and shadows.
Image 3: Image<Adjustments<Curves Curves is used to adjust the value balance (white, grey, and black) and the saturation (how greyed out or righteously overblown a color is) of an image. The easiest way to learn what manipulation the curves does is to move it to an extreme. Making it super wavy blows out a color or can make is really grey. Curves is tempermental so for my work usually gets a very slight adjustment. Basically this made the skin tone more true to what the illustration looks like when you’re holding it in your hand.
Image 4: Image<Adjustments<Levels Levels is basically a simplified Curves. While you can skip Curves and use Levels, Curves really is a better tool for balancing color. Nowadays I use Levels just to get the background to be more white.
Image 5: Stamp tool! My artwork is always very dirty with speckles and smudges on it so I use the clone tool to find a spot and clean it up. This is definitely the most time consuming part, but it’s worth it for a nice even background without affecting the color of the artwork.
Image 6: Finished artwork and watermark I always put a watermark on my work that’s very simple. In this case it’s just “Artwork by smiling-grouch.tumblr.com” and put in a spot where it can’t be cropped out but won’t be distracting. I use Gotham as my typeface of choice and put the color usually to a grey, but it really depends on the image. I also make sure that they watermark’s layer transparency is set to around 15-30% so it’ll show up but not dominate the image. If it’s a dark image, the watermark will be white. If it’s a light image, black will do. Since Suzy is both black and white, I used a grey color.
So that’s pretty much it! I hope this helps you fellow artists out there. Please feel free to shoot me a message if you have questions, and don’t forget! The worth of art is completely subjective so don’t worry about making “good” art or “bad” art. Making art is the important thing! As my friend @thegorgonist told me, “Done is Beautiful”. Once an artwork is done, the imperfections don’t matter. You made a thing, and that is beautiful!
PS: Yes, I was watching Game Grumps, and Dan and Arin, if for some reason you see this, people in Portland say “Cheers” all the fucking time. I can’t tell you how many guys would say that to me after I handed them their latte.