Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Comic Sans

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If you ask designers what their least favourite font is, often the reply will be Comic Sans. It is classified as a casual font and was initially designed by Vincent Connare to look like the fonts used in comic books. You see it frequently on fliers, posters and menus, and let’s be honest it just screams AMATEUR! There can’t be too many fonts that are the butt of a joke either: Comic Sans walks into a bar, bartender says, ‘We don’t serve your type.’

Logo Copyright Ban Comic SansThankfully, Comic Sans is not one of the fonts considered “web safe” or I’m sure we’d see it abused all around the web. There is even a web site dedicated to its outright obliteration. Ban Comic Sans, which has the excellent tag line “Putting The Sans In Comic Sans”, hosts an online petition you can sign to show your solidarity with the movement.

But enough about that font. This article is about alternatives to Comic Sans, and really about pointing out some excellent fonts that are much more in keeping with style of typography used in comic books. Traditionally, all comic books were hand-lettered, although the type was controlled and quite mechanical. The eight fonts I’ve picked out below are created in this style, and there are literally hundreds available. Most of the sites linked to below have more than one comic font for download. Some are more suitable for headings in web design while others could be used for small paragraphs of text on print material. In no particular order here are some of the free fonts for you to add some comic style to your web site or graphic project;

Blambot fonts are one of the best known type foundries for comic style fonts and they have many free and commercial fonts on their site. I’ve picked out two. Crime Wave is this month’s free font,
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and Letter-o-matic

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Onomato Shark is available from Sharkragon on DeviantArt

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Robot Johnny is the web site of John Martz, a Toronto based cartoonist and illustrator. John provides several fonts under the licence of “Toyware” i.e. the fonts are free for non-commercial use, but if you plan on making money using them, then he requests that you pay a license fee in the form of a toy, book, or something fun.

Turkey Sandwich by Robot Johnny

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Earth’s Mightiest from Iconian Fonts

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Helsinki is the font used in word balloons in the web comic Dubmarine by Vic Fieger. It is a refined version of the Vic’s own handwriting, altered to appear more similar to traditional ‘comic book’ lettering.-

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ZeroGene by Teabeer studios
Teabeer Fonts are free for non commercial or indie comics use. You will need a licence if you want to use them commercially.

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The Ray Johnson font by K-Type is free for personal use

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To conclude this article I’d like to mention one other site — Comic Book Fonts. I couldn’t find any free fonts on it, but the commercial ones on it are amazing. It includes fonts created by Dave Gibbons who did the lettering on the Watchmen.

Have you come across other comic fonts you really like? Have you used them in design projects before?

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  • Andy

    If all instances of Comic Sans get replaced with Turkey Sandwich, I’m coming for your kneecaps. Horrible horrible horrible!

  • Patrik

    Seriously, I’m seeing this nasty typeface everywhere. On flyers, on websites, on billboards and on invites for parties and… and..
    Can’t just realize that the font is “web-safe”. It should be banned.

  • Guest

    What’s wrong with Comic Sans? It’s easily readable and has it’s place for certain sites, or design work. A lot of those alternatives are much worse. Comic Sans is frequently referred to as a web safe font (although you better specify some alternatives), and you don’t have many other options with a similar style, and user base.

  • StevenHu

    “Comic Sans is the font that everyone loves to hate!” The fact that is is so often used tells me that we designers are not in tune with what the customer wants! “Everyone” obviously means designers only.

  • Nick

    Can’t beat free and pre-installed as Comic Sans is

  • Josti

    Comic Sans is not a bad font per se, it’s just used inappropriately by most (amateur) designers. Using Comic Sans for what it was designed typographically (Kid’s Party Invitations, Comics (!)) is absolutely ok.

    Replacing a badly chosen Comic Sans with a another comic type font is just as dumb as using Comic Sans.

  • Em Space

    StevenHu makes a good point – it would be the mark of a crazy good designer who could use comic sans in a styleguide, and still have it look good to designers and customers alike.
    It’s a challenge! I dare ye all!!

  • markfiend

    The problem with Comic Sans is not so much its ubiquity, rather that it is used in wholly inappropriate places. I have a friend who walked out of an expensive restaurant as soon as he saw the menus… printed in Comic Sans.

  • http://www.laughingliondesign.net jennyrusks

    @Andy LOL! I will be wearing my steel kneecap protectors from now on – although I don’t see Turkey Sandwich going mainstream.

  • http://www.evanbot.com ETbyrne

    Actually, one of my customers websites uses comic sans, and it looks quite nice! Stop the hating!

  • Stomme poes

    Comic Sans++ Unlike some more popular fonts, it’s READABLE and that will always beat out other fonts who look better, every single time. Typography is important but being able to read content is always always more important. Restaurant menus written in Comic Sans? Great– I’ll be able to order my food then. I care more about how good that food tastes than what font they used in the menu. Although I’ll admit French looks worse in Comic Sans, unless it’s an Asterix&Obelix-themed restaurant : )

    Quit hating. I’m getting a t-shirt stating “I ♥ Comic Sans” and down with the Web 2.0 Style Police!

  • markfiend

    Comic Sans? Readable? Can I have some of what you’re smoking?

  • paolodit

    None of the fonts that you recommend are suitable for those with learning disabilities, or yourng children, where it’s recommended to have rounded “a”s.

  • aemciv

    Comic Sans is not overly used in my area. Papyrus font is what is used on everything in central Illinois. Even TV ads for hospitals. Talk about readability!

  • markfiend

    Comic Sans walks into a bar. The barman shouts “Get out! We don’t serve your type!”

  • markfiend

    Oops. That’s in the article isn’t it?

    Shoot me now.

  • http://www.laughingliondesign.net jennyrusks

    @markfiend LOL. It’s an oldie but a goodie!

    @Stomme – here’s the t-shirt for you – http://www.printfection.com/Essential-Pop-Culture/I-Love-Comic-Sans-Ringer-T-Shirt/_p_1951725

    @paolodit I agree, these are not particularly accessible fonts. They are really intended for headlines or for use on posters. As with any decorative font, moderation is the key. You would definitely not use any of these for body copy, very tiring on the eyes.

  • ohyeah

    Makes me want to use it

  • Karma

    Wake up, people! Comic Sans gets hate for a reason. It’s amateurish. End of story.

    What kills me about Comic Sans is that it’s supposed to look like “comic book font” but actually if you look at nearly any real comic book, the lettering looks NOTHING like that.

    Comic Sans is corny looking, overused, amateurish, badly designed, is the font equivalent of a bad clown trying to host a birthday party and instead making the children cry.

    It deserves to be locked away in font prison and shivved in the stomach.

    Quit saying stupid things like “This post only makes me want to use it” just because you feel somehow sorry for it. Don’t. It’s just plain ugly and there are far, far, far superior alternatives out there.

    That’s what this post is saying and this post should be praised for that, not insulted.
    Webcomic artists and internet comic letterers NEED to have some creativity in the fonts they choose. Lord knows there’s not nearly enough of that as there is.

  • http://www.devlindonnelly.com devdonnelly

    I agree Comic Sans is way over used. If anyone is looking for another good cartoon style font, I like HVD Comic Serif by Hannes von Döhren, it’s a great free font. http://www.hvdfonts.com/freefonts.php

  • http://cydewaze.org cydewaze

    I prefer Webletterer BB for a comic-style font. The only drawback is that it’s all uppercase.

  • http://www.daniel-groves.co.uk dgroves

    Man, I really do hate COmic Sans!

  • ANON

    I’m also seeing papyrus being abused these days, not so much comic sans…

  • ricmo

    None of these eight fonts are viable alternatives to Comic Sans, because they don’t have lowercase glyphs. As Vincent Connare said, “If you love it, you don’t know much about typography. And if you hate it, you really don’t know much about typrography either and should get another hobby.” For real alternatives that aren’t ubiquitous, try Architect and Kristen ITC.
    Used appropriately (with the right amount of irony) and kerned properly Comic Sans can look great. In Jenny Rusks’s t-shirt for instance.

  • ccooke

    Am I on the wrong planet? If not I can’t believe what I am reading. I thought this discussion was about using a font on the web – though it might also apply elsewhere.
    I have no love for “Comic Sans MS” but according to Code Style it is available on 97% of Windows machines – which is a mere half percentage point below Arial and a full 5% above “Times New Roman”. On a Mac the figure is still above 90% where “Comic Sans MS” equals “Times New Roman” and is above Times. ‘Web safe’ may be a rather obsolete and ill defined term but “Comic Sans MS” looks a good contender for membership.
    I could find none of the alternatives on the Codestyle lists so anyone designing a web page based on any of these might find their visitors seeing the generic which in many cases would be – wait for it – “Comic Sans MS”.

  • Anonymous

    ccooke, you’re right about one thin. This does actually fall under Blogs » Web Design »
    If Jennifer meant that Comic Sans looks terrible as a font for graphical headings, then I’d tend to agree, because it’s used inappropriately and at large font sizes, really needs manual kerning, which people who use the font know nothing about. (I still think it looks great on her t-shirt though). Comic Sans is definitely web-safe, but if you specify a font in CSS that is not available on the user’s machine, it will default not to the closest visual equivalent, but to a serif font such as Times on a Mac or Times New Roman on Windows, unless you specify acceptable web-safe alternatives. So rather than p{font-family:"Architect";} you would have something like p{font-family:"Architect","Kristen ITC","Comic Sans","Comic Sans MS","Arial","Helvetica",sans-serif;} This would ensure that the hand-drawn-looking body text you were after would never look like newspaper text.

  • http://www.laughingliondesign.net Jennifer Farley

    Hi Ccooke, thanks for your comments.

    No, I’m not suggesting for a second that any of these fonts should be used for body copy on a web page. Really, the main thrust of this article is, “if you want a font that looks like it actually belongs in a comic, here are some suggestions.” Some may be suitable for headings, but I was thinking more specifically about graphics that could be used on a site.

    It’s correct, this is the “web design” section alright, but I think it would be blinkered to only ever look at design on the web. There is a lot to be learned from all other forms of design, and print is a major influence for many designers.