Wednesday, June 24, 2009

For Artists: A Brief Look at Title Fonts

Let’s talk covers and fonts. One of the most important parts of your cover is your font choice. I’m a bit of a fontaholic so this part is rather fun for me. You are going to want to choose a font that conveys the mood and general theme of your cover. There are plenty of good theme fonts out there, Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy. The one thing you need to keep in mind is readability. Having a cool font is great but it won’t do you any good if the person who picks up the book can’t tell the difference between a “d”, a “p”, and an “r”.

I now apologize in advance to the PaintShop Pro users out there. Photoshop is the industry standard and my program of choice and, while I know the same types of options described below exist in PSP, I don’t know enough about the program to tell you how to use them.

Aside from readability, there are no hard and fast rules for font choices. You can combine a number of different styles with very good results. There are a lot of great free font sites out there but the best I’ve found so far is com.

The font choices you make for your title will convey the entire mood and theme of the book at a glance so it's important to choose wisely. Font can make the difference between telling potential readers whether the book is a horror,

or a romance,

or science fiction.

Remember, the cover is the first thing people see and they really do judge a book by it's cover. It’s the artist’s job to sell the book at a glance and a well chosen font or combination of fonts goes a long way towards doing that.

Now you have your font choice made and you add in your title. Uh oh. The artwork is full of contrast and there are spots where the font just doesn’t show up. Something you have to remember is that you are creating text over a surface where the hue, tone and lightness shift and change. This means that what is quite readable at the beginning of your word might not be at the end.

OK, perhaps the above image is a little extreme. However, the perfect font won't do you any good if no one can read it. So how do we fix it? There's a lot of simple ways to fix readability. Photoshop has a number of layer styles available that will usually do the trick quite nicely. (Just double click your text layer in the layers pallet to get the dialog in the next screenshot.)

For the above image a simple outer glow layer style will work well. To make light text readable on light backgrounds, choose a dark color for your outer glow and set the blend mode to multiply.

To make dark text readable on dark backgrounds, choose a light color for your outer glow and set the blend mode to screen.

Play with all the layer styles, see what they do, see what different combinations do. Play with the different settings within layer styles to see the different effects you can achieve. Layer styles are easy to get rid of if you don't like them (Right click the layer and select clear layer style). I'll show you some of the different styles and style combinations I use on covers to make titles more readable.

Inner glow works much the same way as outer glow except the glow comes from inside the text instead of from around it. Inner glow works best on thick, blocky ragged fonts.

Drop shadow will also allow your text to stand out from the background. This one works especially well if the main colors of your cover or font are rather neutral and there is no good contrasting color.

I've found that combinations of layer styles can be used to good effect as well. In this next one I've duplicated the font layer and applied an outer glow to the bottom layer and drop shadow to the top one.

And the last example is Stroke which tends to work well if you want your font to be the same color (or close to it) as your background. As you can see from the small sample on Stroke, sometimes the width of the stroke will need to be wider for smaller text.

Remember to keep your font choices readable but make them fun and interesting while conveying the mood and theme of the cover. Practice makes perfect!

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