Twenty years ago I ran a Sex Pistols fan site and, taking a cue from the punk-rock DIY aesthetic, designed the home page to look like it was crudely produced by sticking labels on paper. I actually used an old-fashioned embossing label maker to produce labels, scanned them in, and hyperlinked them via an HTML image map to produce the site's main menu:

Website menu produced with punch tape

Needless to say, this was a somewhat laborious process. I'm wondering if nowadays it would be possible to more easily simulate this look using vector graphics.

I see there are a number of TrueType fonts resembling punch labels (Impact Label, Punch Label, etc.). However, these fonts alone aren't sufficient to replicate the look of real punch tape. For example:

  • TrueType fonts are monochrome, whereas real punch tape is glossy. It crinkles and shines when bent (such as when tearing it off of the label maker), and even in flat areas the colour isn't completely solid.
  • The embossed letters are raised off the surface of the tape and cast noticeable shadows when scanned or photographed.
  • The ends of the punch tape are crimped.
  • As with old typewriters, the vertical alignment and horizontal spacing of the letters on punch tape isn't always consistent.

How can I use vector graphics software (possibly by processing text set in an existing TrueType punch label font) to simulate the above characteristics of punch tape labels? The letter positioning and spacing is probably not hard to do, but I am much less sure about how to reproduce the glossy, crinkled look of the tape.

I want to work entirely with free software such as Inkscape; please don't respond with solutions which depend on proprietary software.

  • 2
    What have you tired? This seems like you're asking for a step by step tutorial on how to create specific artwork without putting much effort into creating it yourself other than looking for a font. – Scott Aug 31 '15 at 9:26
  • There are too many ways to do this. For some tips on getting started, see this and this for similar effects to what you are trying to do. Please update this question with specific parts where you are getting stuck. – Scribblemacher Aug 31 '15 at 12:32
  • There's a few techniques mixed together to get that effect. As Scott mentioned, you should give it a try and merge each technique together to get what you want (eg. how to create embossing, how to create gloss, what is kerning/space between letters, etc.) There's no one-step solution for this but it's that hard to achieve with basic. And frankly, if you want to work with vectors, you cannot expect to get the same finish as with a Gimp or Photoshop type of software; it's not impossible in vector but not always easy though! – go-junta Aug 31 '15 at 19:41

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