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Faux letterpress


Bill Tozier <[log in to unmask]>


Discussion of Type and Typographic Design <[log in to unmask]>


Thu, 17 Oct 2002 22:01:32 -0400





text/plain (43 lines)

Long ago, in the ancient days of digital type, I recall reading about
the Beowulf font family in a Wired article or some equivalent magazine.
As I remember it, the font was designed so that the characters were
dynamically restructured every time a character was drawn, so that no
two examples of the same letter were exactly identical. For whatever
reason, the notion never caught on.

I find myself thinking back with interest to the approach used in the
Beowulf font. At the moment I'm trying to create an image of a page
(using Photoshop, as a necessity for other reasons) that has "the look
and feel of a (sloppily) hand-set letterpress job, using both lead and
wood type." To whit: heterogeneous character forms, some skew lines,
uneven baselines here and there, the occasional upside-down "u" as an
"n" or a "!" as a "j", a simulated tipped or split letter here and
there, irregular word spacing, and so forth. I may even get a little
letterpress in-joke by making the "mistake" and substituting an
adjacent slot from the California tray....

That said, I'm finding the first entry on that list surprisingly hard
to do. My original plan was to set the piece (it's a faux newspaper
page) in InDesign using Scotch Roman and various other period faces
from c. 1890-1910 (I needn't be too exact about the choice of fonts,
since the subsequent distressing is much more important for this
exercise), render that as a high-resolution bitmap, and make the
necessary modifications in Photoshop. But as we all know, digital type
is *extremely* regular.

Can anyone recommend an approach to "heterogenize" the outlines
themselves before I go to the bitmap stage? WHat I'm looking for is
enough of a visual difference between, say, the two e's in "between",
such that the digital nature of the type is masked -- without
distressing the type so much that it looks worn out or grungey.

Any advice would be gladly welcomed.

Bill Tozier
[log in to unmask]

"All models are wrong, but some are useful."
   -- George Box

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