written by: Thursday Bram•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 8/31/2009
An initial font provides particularly ornate characters that can be used in desktop publishing projects to highlight specific letters or start a paragraph. If you've ever seen a book where the first letter of a chapter is extra-large and decorative, you've seen an initial typeface.
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Initials were originally hand decorated by monks copying manuscripts. Goudy Initialen shows off those roots with highly ornate letters that have been illustrated with leaves, flowers, and curving vines. This type of initial is best used sparingly — once per page can be enough for most projects. While this typeface isn't particularly easy to read, it can lend a certain elegant style to any document.
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Decorated with curls similar to those often used in the Middle Ages to add artistic elements to documents, Vaticanian can embellish a variety of projects. It is similar to many Celtic-themed fonts and could be used in pairing with such options. Some letters of this typeface are easier to identify than others, making it important to review your project before finishing it. The font is limited to letters, which is typical of an initial font.
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Available in several varieties, Mosaic is easy to pair with a more legible font, because it comes with one. In addition to being able to download the initial font, you can download an unadorned version on the font to which you can easily lay out any text that needs to be more legible. Mosaic is also available with both black letters and white letters with an outline. The pattern on the initial version of the font mimics tiled mosaics on a simple level: you can see some details of patterns repeating throughout the initial.
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Behind each letter in the Mysterious Voyage typeface, you can see a small scene. Because of the size in which the letters are shown, it's impossible to make out all the details of each scene, but you can tell that some are indoors, while others are outside — they truly are mysterious and make you want to know more about just what is happening behind individual letters. The letters appear in white, superimposed on the scene.
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More Initial Fonts
While Dafont and other font directories maintain specific categories of initial fonts, you can also make use of the fonts you already have installed to add an initial to a project. Many decorative fonts, which may not be particularly useful for setting longer blocks of text, can be perfect for setting one letter — especially if you increase the size. Most desktop publishing programs offer special settings for initial letters.