Full Color Type? Yikes!!!
There’s simply no easy way to implement color fonts today. It’s easy enough for designers to think of ’em, though. “Hey I wanna see a font made out of different colors of jellybeans!” Yes, it would be great, jellybeans are fun to look at. And yes, it’s pretty easy to imagine how a jelly-bean font might look on an iPad or a postcard. But there’s just no easy way to do it. Lots of clumsy workarounds for the diligent designer, but no simple way to do it.
In the old days of printed words, when people got most of their information from books, magazines and newspapers, there was a cost factor involved with getting your words in front of readers. Four colors of ink were more expensive than just one. So the vast majority of words people read were presented in just black ink on white paper for economic reasons. One color of ink on paper was the cheapest way to get your words out to the people.
Now you don’t even need paper to show your words to millions. There are so many more ways to read type. On tv, on your computer, on a phone or a tablet. And in all of these new media, there is no added cost involved with rendering type in your choice of color. In fact, it turns out with lighted electronic displays, white on black is easier to read than black on white. But you don’t need to use black or white, you can use any color you can think of. Designers have an infinite array of colors to set type in. Yikes!
There are at least three problems with full-color fonts:
- For designers, there’s no convenient method to use full-color fonts.
- For the font creators, there’s no industry-standard format for creating full-color fonts.
- They are hard on the eyes. Full-color type needs to be used sparingly. Even if there was a way to easily use them, it takes a keen eye and advanced typographic skills to use them in a tasteful manner.
There is a technology called Photofont, developed by Fontlab, which allows you to type with photographic fonts using a plug-in for Photoshop, InDesign or Illustrator. I’ve tested it out and it seems to work pretty well in all three apps. But it is really optimized for web use, and it is somewhat clumsy to have to install a third-party plug-in to use photofonts. I’m glad they made this app, and I hope they continue developing it, but it’s really frustrating that it still doesn’t help with high-quality print images at all. If you want to make your letters even 900 pixels high, you can’t do it. Full-color fonts for billboards are out of the question.
Another way for websites to implement color in their type is to start with a good strong font and then apply your own text effects using new CSS3 text-shadow property to add your own flavor of colorization. But fancy CSS3 properties aren’t gonna help with your print job much.
So I don’t know where I’m going with all this, but I thought I should get my thoughts out there to spur discussion and development on the subject. I really enjoy making full color fonts, even though few people ever use them. That’s all.
Do you have any full-color font success stories? Do you know of new developments in the world of color typography that I should be aware of? Send ’em on to me! You can tweet me @chankfonts on Twitter, or send me an e-mail. My contact is on the bottom of every page at chank.com 😉
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