Friday, May 6, 2011

The Curse of Futhark

After slaving away for hours you're finally ready to reveal your pièce de résistance- a beautiful eldritch scroll covered in arcane images and writing. You've lovingly tea stained the paper, deckled the edges by hand, and used a mixture of wax and powdered chalk to distress the entire piece. It's gorgeous.

And when you finally show it off the first thing you hear is "Hey, I love that font!"

A bit anti-climactic, eh? While the ease of desktop publishing makes creating paper props easier than ever it also means the average person has probably seen a popular font hundreds or thousands of times. That problem gets amplified in niche applications like propmaking. There's a good chance your intended audience is just as familiar as you are with the go-to fonts for fantasy props like Futhark, Quenya, and the ever popular Enochian. When it comes to Lovecraftian props you can add Cthulhu Runes and Lovecraft's Diary to the list of immersion-breakers.

Luckily, Blambot has some interesting free fonts available under a non-commercial license that haven't been overexposed. They're designed to be used as fantasy scripts by indy comic artists, which also just happens to give them the right look for propmaking. Browse around and you'll find some other cool resources as well.


elmo iscariot said...

I admit, I find all fonts distracting on props that are supposed to look handwritten. The regularity of the characters sticks out like a sore thumb, and breaks the illusion instantly. I know it's grossly unfair to somebody who's making a prop with a substantial amount of writing, but my instinctive reaction is "what, you're too lazy to do it by hand?"

It's also possible to take this too far in the other direction: I've made props for games that involved building my own translation of Rongorongo, and even creating a language and writing system from scratch. It was rewarding, in an obsessive kind of way, but I missed the deadline each time, making it a clear priority-fail.

Propnomicon said...

@ elmo iscariot

Handwritten will always look better, but as you point out it can require hours upon hours to get it done right.

One small trick I've used is to use a print out as a rough tracing guide for the master prop, but that requires a light table or some creative use of a computer monitor as an illumination source. It's considerably faster than hand lettering everything, but you still get enough natural variation in characters to avoid the desktop publishing look.

elmo iscariot said...

I've done something similar for drawing images (which is not my forte), by scrubbing 8B pencil lead onto the back of a source printout, and tracing it onto the prop, like with carbon paper. Similar principle, but again, much more work. ;)

CoastConFan said...

You should have labeled this blog entry “The Curse of QWERTY”. The net has made highly esoteric and rare works commonly available where before they were the preview of antiquarians, advanced book collectors, and scholars with high level access. This part you can label The Curse of Google. Browser burnout can easily be achieved with high-speed connections and your terabyte drive fills up much more quickly. But it’s not what you have; it’s what you have done with it. Attention to detail is still paramount to make a good prop, but you don’t have to overdo it.

josefk said...

I'm very grateful to all those who create and share fonts. but I do like the handwritten look. I'm thinking maybe a print out using a very light gray font and then inking over it to give it the irregular quality desired. Now here's a project for those computer experts out there; a font variance randomizer that will make each letter slightly different.

Phil said...

Well if you have the patience, you can always type them out in Photoshop and use the tilt, and resize tools to add some variety to the script.

If nothing else though, these serves as a good reference for when writing/carving your own.

Anonymous said...

Fonts are very useful when you work on several documents with a short limited time.


Shannon said...

Aww the links are broken now. Oh well, that's what I get for looking at 2011's posts. Thank you for tracking down interesting fonts for us.

Anonymous said...

One of the ways to get around the regularity of Fonts is to set the Capitals in one set of characters as a standard set, but then create the small letters as slight variations of the Capitals, i.e. some letters slightly higher/lower, larger/messier, even use the numeric set and shift key sets to generate a third variation on the same letters so that a more authentic and less regular look can be achieved.