I am wondering if there is a name attributed to this type of old poster / burlesque / carnival style (lots of ink lines).

Here is an example: http://ink-n-iron.com/

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Their header has a lot of close together ink lines, while the typography is very carnival / old style / wanted-poster like.

I am wanting to find more material like it, but I'm not having much luck with these terms in google search.

Thanks for any assistance!

  • NOTE ALSO: "leatherworking" is probably a great source for designs and material relating to the aesthetic. – horatio Feb 3 '12 at 19:14

The typical method of producing those posters (and money) is known as intaglio printing; this process used etched copper or zinc plates. This allowed for much finer lines and longer print runs (since the plates lasted longer) than woodcut printing. The downside to this method was that it was an "all or nothing" type of thing - ink was either applied or it wasn't (think of a rubber stamp). Because of this, if you wanted shading you had to use rows of etched lines - closer together for darker and further apart for "lighter" shading.

You can get brushes for both Photoshop and Illustrator that emulate this - do a Google search for "intaglio brush" or "etched brush". You can also get similar results with some of the Photoshop stroke filters (specifically the Artistic and Brush Stroke ones).

The font in the main banner looks like Barrelhouse or similar; again, take a look through some of the font sites out there to see if you can find similar fonts.

The ornaments can either be made or purchased; I personally like Letterhead Fonts a lot since they have a good selection of both period-looking fonts and ornaments, but there are others out there.

Finally, it appears that they've added a grunge look by overlaying a distressed texture over the entire design. Again, a GIS for "distressed texture", "weathered texture", "crumpled paper", etc. will yield plenty of results.

  • letterhead fonts distributes some really nice typefaces, but they do have a bit of a history in terms of customer relations: typophile.com/node/30452 – DA01 Feb 3 '12 at 17:51

The lines is a form of shading technique used when etching. (See your money, for an example).

While the example of the lettering is clearly a form of Tattoo lettering, Art Nouveau, as Stefan points out, is an applicable term for the broad style: https://www.google.com/search?q=Art+Nouveau+lettering

However, the particular lettering used for Ink-n-Iron I'd put into the circus type/wood type categories.

  • 1
    etching yes, and alternatively "engraving" for another search term. – horatio Feb 3 '12 at 17:17

Try the term "art nouveau posters" or "vintage (insert type here) posters" in our favorite search engine... vintage and art nouveau are the terms I think you want

  • These are not quite what I'm looking for. These types often have colorful illustrations of people. What I am looking for is more of a unicolor 'typography with ink decorations' style. Thanks for your answer though. – Vigrond Feb 3 '12 at 4:56
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    A lot of the old letterings are hand drawn, It's a dig looking through old poster sites for the look you want to design. You won't find a particular font on your favorite font site that matches these. As DA01 mentions about the money, it's a retrace then decorating and manipulating the font. Good Luck in the search. – Stefan Thomas Isaia Feb 3 '12 at 5:35

Hmm, using words like vintage, parchment and circus/carnival get a few things similar to what you're talking about, as well as maybe burlesque. It seems the reason they are two tone is because they were printed in newspapers etc. I searched "1880's vintage advert" and "burlesque advert 1880's" and they're mainly two tone and have the ink lines.


Look for "cottonwood", "rosewood" (adobe), "zebrawood" typefaces. The wood refers to woodcut. These are typically "wild west style."


this make me think of the steampunk look... even though its a modern movement, "steampunk graphic design" searching may give you more of the overall feel of what you are looking for.

  • although steampunk borrows some of these elements, it does not define the style in this particular image. – Luciano Mar 2 '17 at 8:56

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