Instant Lettering
October 28, 2020 1:16 PM   Subscribe

 
I've built many a custom meter face with letraset sheets. When you have an existing physical thing that you need to "print" on, there's nothing else that'll readily do!
posted by introp at 1:24 PM on October 28 [2 favorites]


A second-hand art supply place in downtown Providence, RI, got a shedload of Letraset stuff a few years ago, and has been slowly selling it off for a dollar or two per sheet.

I think most of it has been bought out of sheer nostalgia by old fogeys like me, since the RISD students don't seem to know what the heck it is. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 1:25 PM on October 28 [7 favorites]


Loooooved this stuff back in the day. It was so cool.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:26 PM on October 28 [4 favorites]


This s quite pleasantly nostalgic. Thanks!

But I feel he really missed an opportunity here.
posted by sjswitzer at 1:26 PM on October 28 [16 favorites]


This takes me back.
posted by meinvt at 1:28 PM on October 28


When I was a kid, my mom used to buy me what I assume was just a cheap knock-off of this stuff, because I loved rubbing the letters off on things.

It wasn't until I was much older that I understood that it had a purpose other than as a children's toy.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:33 PM on October 28 [6 favorites]


I remember using letraset to create wording to use on television promotions. This was before our major metro tv station bought a $1m computer for graphic design (that any laptop could do today). Geez, 1987. So near and yet so far.
posted by Thella at 1:37 PM on October 28 [4 favorites]


The stuff was expensive and I hated buying a whole sheet just because I needed an “e”.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:42 PM on October 28 [11 favorites]


Fuck I'm old.
posted by ouke at 1:48 PM on October 28 [5 favorites]


This sheet spawned a thousand fake-Irish pub menus, and probably a couple of Renfest announcements.

The really clever bit would be to try to work out what could be spelled from the letters that were rubbed off and used.
posted by gimonca at 1:55 PM on October 28 [7 favorites]


Instant nostalgia
posted by ook at 2:00 PM on October 28 [2 favorites]


The original Desktop Publishing (and we liked it!)
posted by Fupped Duck at 2:14 PM on October 28 [2 favorites]


My dad was in charge of ordering Letraset for his workplace and when I was maybe 10 years old, instead of just tossing the previous year's catalogue when the new one arrived, he brought the old one home for us kids. I REVERED that thing and it was one of my prized possessions. I would spend hours tracing/learning to free-hand copy the various letters from various style examples. It was super handy because each typeface included a page or two featuring an example of the whole alphabet plus various symbols. It certainly helped enhance my steady stream of creative projects with fancy title pages. I don't even think I understood that you could actually get the transfer sheets, which would have blown my mind!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:26 PM on October 28 [28 favorites]


When I was a child I played with these in my dad's office a lot. He was a cartographer and did other drawings at the geology dept. of the local uni. When he was retired he occasionally still did stuff for professors. Last time was after I learned to use a computer and I got to do some of the 'typography' (I would not really want to call my work that) for him. Probably on some 286 or, who knows even a Quadra at the local youth centre's graphics dept..
A bygone era...
posted by stFire at 2:44 PM on October 28 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of making the church programs as a kid. Some typing, a lot of rubbing down big things and border frills. Then going to copy a couple hundred copies and fold all of them. Probably could have made a fortune if DP was around back then.

But curse that site for the light grey text.
posted by zengargoyle at 2:55 PM on October 28


Flashing back to using Letraset and knockoff brands to make flyers for band gigs in the late 1970s & early 1980s. I may still have a couple of sheets stashed away with various other old art supplies!
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 3:02 PM on October 28 [2 favorites]


Oh man, these fucking things. I hated them. Every letter was a commitment, a risk, a consumable that you could do correctly or incorrectly, and there were so many chances to fuck it up and only one chance to get every one perfect. So god damn stressful. Hated them and my BP is rising just looking at the catalogue.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:24 PM on October 28 [14 favorites]


I have fond memories of using the Algerian Letraset to carefully label all of the brown paper bag covers of my Dungeons and Dragons books, and the binder for all my campaign notes.
posted by MrVisible at 3:32 PM on October 28 [7 favorites]


These were already obsolete when I got hold of some in art school 20 years ago, but they were super fun for making zines and cards and mix cd covers! I still have a stash of the stuff.
posted by oulipian at 3:34 PM on October 28


Ooh! Yes very nostalgic, working on community newspapers etc. way back when. And the Letraset catalogue, now there was a thing of beauty.
posted by carter at 3:35 PM on October 28 [1 favorite]


Should be integrated into Electric Zine maker (mentioned in a nearby FPP).

There are precisely 0 scanned Letraset catalogues findable on the Internet, and that makes me sad.
posted by scruss at 3:42 PM on October 28 [2 favorites]


Don't forget that special Letraset burnishing tool, for getting the letters flat.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:55 PM on October 28 [5 favorites]


I still have my 1977 Letraset catalog, which is a great reference on fonts, as well as a window on the 1970s idea of cool.

I don't think I kept any actual sheets, but I do have magazines I made as a teenagers, the headlines carefully Letrasetted, the text handwritten.
posted by zompist at 4:22 PM on October 28


Oh yeah, in art-school we used to hoard cast-off partial Letraset sheets with the intention of creating epic Dadaist-style caco-typography works, which would eventually be lost over the course of many household moves...

In vaguely related, my brother scooped piles of discarded ugly 70s t-shirt iron-ons, cut them up and made some interesting weird collages ironed-on purple/pink-dyed t-shirts. They were pretty cool. I don't think any of them survived time.
posted by ovvl at 4:22 PM on October 28


instead of just tossing the previous year's catalogue when the new one arrived, he brought the old one home for us kids. I REVERED that thing and it was one of my prized possessions. I would spend hours tracing/learning to free-hand copy the various letters from various style examples.

This describes my own experience exactly!
Except I would get annoyed because my father would occasionally cut out individual letters from the catalogue itself to paste up on his own personal projects.
posted by Kabanos at 4:32 PM on October 28 [2 favorites]


Thank you! this is up my alley. I grew up with Letraset. My mother used it and I used it in early college before Photshop came out.
posted by Liquidwolf at 5:06 PM on October 28


Oh, yessssss, one look and I'm back in 1987 perfectly smoothing down junior high school newspaper headlines letter by letter!
posted by BrashTech at 5:32 PM on October 28


For me, Letraset was all bout the pictorials, I can remember one with dinosaurs in particular; stuff like this (which website I just found, and is awesome).

It was years of Letraset love before I knew they did...letters.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 5:36 PM on October 28 [1 favorite]


I would get annoyed because my father would occasionally cut out individual letters from the catalogue itself to paste up on his own personal projects.

*feels faint at the idea of Kabanos’ dad cutting up the actual catalogue*
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:55 PM on October 28 [2 favorites]


OK, that took me right back to 1974 high school newspaper. The articles were set with a justifying IBM Selectric, but the headlines were all Letraset.
posted by lhauser at 6:06 PM on October 28


I miss Letraset, and it led to a couple of compliments years ago that I'll probably always remember. One was at a museum where we applied it directly to the gallery walls for titles/artists/years etc. for each piece in a show; the person I worked under was thrilled that I could do those multiple lines perfectly straight and true without any drawn guidelines. The second was when I was told that my architectural hand lettering should be turned into a Letraset font. I really, really miss working with my hands. And Letraset.

And of course, being a design and music nerd, it was essential for labeling mix tapes.
posted by vers at 6:07 PM on October 28 [2 favorites]


in art-school we used to hoard cast-off partial Letraset sheets with the intention of creating epic Dadaist-style caco-typography works

See also: Kelly Mark's incredible Letraset Drawings.
posted by oulipian at 6:13 PM on October 28 [11 favorites]


Oddly, despite years on high school and university newspapers, I never used Letraset for that. I did, however, some five years after I finished school, have my mom mail me some overseas along with my university student card so I could change the validity dates on the back and get an ISIC under false pretenses. Letraset thus has a tiny frisson of criminality for me.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:37 PM on October 28 [2 favorites]


Wow. So much nostalgia over here for Letraset. Thanks for the memories. ♥♥♥
posted by skye.dancer at 6:52 PM on October 28


I was kind of expecting these to be converted into usable font files.
posted by Merus at 6:52 PM on October 28 [1 favorite]


See also: Kelly Mark's incredible Letraset Drawings.

(not mentioned in the bio, KM can also DJ spin a decent dance party)
posted by ovvl at 6:59 PM on October 28 [1 favorite]


Wow. This is one of those things I never thought I would ever see again.

Thanks.


I think.
posted by freakazoid at 7:02 PM on October 28


Oh wow, I remember using these for ad layouts back in my newspaper days. : )
posted by SisterHavana at 7:07 PM on October 28


Don't forget that special Letraset burnishing tool, for getting the letters flat.

There's one in the pencil tray of the desk drawer I'm sitting in front of as I type this. Yeah, I'm old too, and also have issues letting go of things.
posted by mikelieman at 8:10 PM on October 28 [4 favorites]


In the late '80s, I needed a set of these for some project, so I went to a local store that was likely to sell them.

I told the young saleswoman, "I need some rub-off letters."

She looked at me coldly, as if I had said something dirty. "Do you mean transfer letters?"

"Yeah," I replied meekly.

I don't recall going into that store again.
posted by bryon at 9:26 PM on October 28 [2 favorites]


Oh gawd, I just stumbled upon my beloved Letraset burnishing tool yesterday when looking through a box of obsolete items I dragged home from work when I retired last year. Even though I haven't used it for Letraset burnishing for about 35 years, it's still my favorite tool for making a CRISP fold in paper.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 9:33 PM on October 28


I'm a signwriter. I started my business 30 years ago. For a long, long time I've used a Letraset catalogue and a photocopier to create large sized alphabets, that I used to trace the desired text on a piece of tracing paper, which I then used to hand-trace (using carbon paper) onto the surface that needed lettering. I would then proceed to paint these outlines by hand with a red sable brush.

Only the first steps of this process have changed; I now print the letters in the needed order, and trace them directly from the printing paper.
I have done away with my file cabinet full of photocopied fonts in different sizes. And I no longer visit the copy shop (is it even there anymore?) to pave the floor with sheets and sheets of copied letters, each batch progressively larger than the last one, until the correct size was reached.

My Letraset catalogue may have seen more use than most. Yes, I still have it. Some of the fonts in there feel like old friends to me.

I have definitely also used the actual transfers for... something. I can't remember what it was. But I sure got a lot of mileage out of that catalogue.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:13 AM on October 29 [9 favorites]


When I noticed the beautiful girl next to me paging thru her letraset catalog in advertising class (mid 80’s SVA) I immediately became intrigued. When she told me she worked at letraset I nearly lost my mind. Those catalogs were crucial to both learning about fonts and for the design process (I remember not only enlarging them on the xerox machine for tracing, but slowly sliding the book along the glass as it copied to condense or expand the letterforms). Learned that trick form Ed Benguat - sadly he died last week). Not only did she get me a catalog, she brought me a 10 pound box of flawed transfer type maybe 1000 sheets. The best thing she gave me tho, was my daughter. Married her in 93 and still going strong. All b/c of that catalog.
posted by pmaxwell at 5:30 AM on October 29 [26 favorites]


Sooooooo........ Anyone else remember line tape?
posted by wenestvedt at 10:13 AM on October 29 [3 favorites]


I've still got that one sheet I bought in... hmmm. It's here in my special papers file.
posted by rustipi at 12:01 PM on October 29


Sooooooo........ Anyone else remember line tape?

Line tape is exactly what I thought of when I saw this post. I used line tape and letters to layout one-off electronic control panels for projects. My model rocket launch controller was over the top. A sloped console with a bracket on the back to wind the cables. Master power and a keylock safety, which activated a warning tone. There were 4 controller channels, each with it's own arming switch, indicator light, and fire buttons. I'm thinking, 1980. Something you probably couldn't do in shop class today.
posted by mikelieman at 4:30 PM on October 29 [2 favorites]


I sort of knew what this stuff was because I'd play in my dad's office in the 70s but I was mostly obsessed with the adding machine (oh, and running paper through the postage meter set to 0.00).

In 3rd year of engineering school (1994) we had a professor take off marks because our freshly laser printed and comb-bound lab reports had discontinuous page numbering because we had to insert a figure sheet manually, and when we complained he pointed out that we could buy letraset and rub the number on the sheet. Then he took marks off because the fonts didn't match. In 4th year there were a few sheets stuck to the side of the study room fridge with a magnet.

The year I left my job (2006) in the corporate engineering department of a major multinat. chemical company I found, in the back of the mail room, a cabinet full of letraset (also, 2 jugs of ammonia for a long departed blue print machine and several packages of thick staedler leads in red, blue and green for figure markups in drafting). I still regret I didn't grab a mittful of the stuff, I can't think anyone would have cared.

There's an art store here in town that has a shelf full of vintage on sale although mostly graphical elements vs fonts. A surprising array!
posted by hearthpig at 3:58 PM on October 30


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