ATF Brush

Typeface Review

ATF Brush

Reviewed by Tal Leming on May 9, 2016

I’m not ashamed to admit it: I love Brush Script. You secretly love Brush Script, too. We all secretly love Brush Script. It’s like ice cream. Sure, it’s not great on every occasion or in unlimited quantities, but at the right time and in the right amount, ice cream is … amazing. Brush Script is just like that.

But! Lots of us turn our noses up at Brush Script. We sneer, “That typeface looks … amateurish.” And we dismiss it with a curt, “It’s so … overused.” The thing is, we have to separate the typeface itself from the things that have been done to and with it. For decades, Brush Script has been mistreated by font bundling marketers who lumped it in with 9,998 other fonts and sold it for fractions of a cent. That is what has led to it being overused. That overuse is what has given typo-intellectuals1 an aversion to it. None of that has anything to do with the design of Brush (as it was originally named).

The reality is that Brush is a marvel. Scripts are tough to get right even with all of the contextual substitutions, elastic spacing and sophisticated drawing tools that we have to throw at them today. A fluid, brushy, animated script cast in little metal blocks in 1942? My goodness, that sounds impossible. Yet, Brush totally works and is completely beautiful. Robert E. Smith was a magician.

ATF Brush is a loving revival of everything that is great about the original. It has those graceful curves, the playful bounce, and the gutsy capitals that we all cherish in the most private parts of our hearts. ATF Brush brings lots of new stuff as well. It has a range of weights from the surprisingly spry Light to the pull-no-punches Black. It has some clever alternates and ligatures delivered automatically via OpenType substitutions. It supports a bunch of languages and has the latest and greatest monetary symbols. It’s also drawn really well (that can’t be said of that “Brush Script” that already shows up in your font menu). ATF Brush is Brush Script, but better and new.

It’s time to show how we really feel about Brush and start using it with care and respect. Don’t just trot it out when you want something to feel nostalgic. Use it because it still feels fresh. Don’t hide behind irony when you use it. Use it because it looks great. Use ATF Brush because it’s all of that and so much more.


  1. Hi! That’s you. And me. I’m writing an essay about Brush Script. You are reading it. We’re probably overthinking this.

Tal Leming, formerly a designer at House Industries, established Type Supply in 2005 where he makes fonts and lettering for clients like Sundance, WIRED, and US Soccer.


  1. On our first day of Grad Type class at MICA, Tal asked us to bring examples of types we love and hate. I had Brush in my hate list to which Tal said “Kid, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” Haha, how I agree with him now.

  2. Charles Mulliken says:

    I was a salesman who’s employer had a dealership for ATF type in the late ’50s. I was hired as Western Regional Manager of ATF in the early ’60s as phototype was taking over display types. Brush was a constant seller. Most printers had a few sizes in their California Job Cases. I was too late to meet Robert Smith, but knew the artist of Ad Lib Century Nova, Americana and others as well. Metal went to bed when Visual Graphics came out with the VGC Display Setter. Now I’m ready to go to bed.

    At 92, I am one of the few who knew metal typesetting.

Post a Comment

Comments at Typographica are moderated and copyedited, just like newspaper “Letters to the Editor”. Abusive or off-topic comments are not published. We appreciate compliments, but don’t publish them unless they add to the dialog. Thank you!