This section is from the book "Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography", by J. B. Schriever. Also available from Amazon: Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography.
Restraint. The title must be perfectly legible and in harmony with the subject, yet it must be placed on the print with some restraint, both as to size and style. The letters should be just large and bold enough to be read at the distance from which the print is to be viewed. It is permissible, however, to have them smaller - never larger. Where the subject material is quite decorative the lettering and the title may be somewhat ornamental, but the utmost care must be exercised not to make them an object of attraction, for then they will detract from the subject itself.
Lettering. In making black letters on the print or the mount, Higgins' Water-proof India Ink will be found the most satisfactory medium, applying it with either a No. 1 or No. 3 sable brush, the size of the brush depending upon the size of letters desired. The No. 1 brush, however, will be the most serviceable one. The plain block letter, as a rule, will be the most satisfactory one for general use. Deviations from this form may be made to suit the individual.
703. If you wish to produce white letters on a black ground, prepare the following ink:
Water to make 1 ounce.
704. Apply this to the print with a brush. It converts the silver image into silver iodide, and then by dipping the print into the fixing bath the portion covered with this ink will be dissolved, leaving a white title.
Position Of Title. When the title is to be placed on the print, or even on the mount, choose a position which will help to balance the main point of interest of the composition. For instance, if you have a profile portrait in which the chief mass of the figure falls more toward the left half of the print, write the title somewhere on the right lower half of the mount. A central position will seldom be found a satisfactory one. A favorite position is the lower right-hand corner, and unless there is some reason for placing the title in some other place, this position may be adopted for the majority of titles. Leave considerable space between the title and the margin of the print and the mount, especially if the print is to be framed.
706. Occasionally the style of a portrait and its composition is such that the name of the subject or the name of the maker is worked in faint letters on the upper part of the background. Usually a long or old-fashioned letter - not too regular - is used, and frequently the year is inserted in Roman figures. This often helps to balance the composition of a large portrait.
707. The principal requisite of good lettering is that the bottom of the letters be in a perfectly straight line. It is equally as important that the letters be all precisely the same size, and it will, therefore, be necessary to rule another line to give you the size of the capitals. Use a medium hard pencil, such as an HH lead. These three lines should be ruled very lightly. If you are only using capitals it will,
of course, be necessary to use only two lines. The capitals should not be twice the size of the small letters, as your lettering will then look ungainly.
708. The distance from the centers of letters should be about equal. Do not make the mistake of spacing the letters so that the adjacent parts of each letter are equally distant from the adjacent parts of its neighbor.
709. You should not attempt to ink in the letters at first. Make sure that the lettering of the title will come exactly in the space allowed to it, by sketching the letters in roughly, and as lightly as possible, with a B or BB pencil. If any errors should occur the letters may be lightly rubbed out with a soft rubber eraser, without erasing the guide lines, which latter should have been drawn with a harder lead (HH).
710. When you have gotten the letters approximately correct with the pencil, proceed to ink them in, striving to improve their shape and the spacing upon the rough penciling beneath.
711. Do not attempt to make the lines with long single strokes. Each line should be sketched in little by little. It requires a very steady hand, good judgment, and some little practice, to outline a letter perfectly with a single stroke. For certain fancy styles of letters a firm, single stroke may result in beautiful effects, but such styles belong to the skilled draftsman, and they are only artistic when complete control of the hand is obtained.
712. If desired, various colors of inks may be used, yet sepia and the ivory black India ink will be the two most used colors - the sepia ink for sepia prints, and the India ink for those of colder tones.
Practice. Considerable practice should be given to lettering before you attempt to do any serious work on the print. You need not try to rival the letter-press printer, for evidence of the pen or brush in such work as this is not at all disagreeable, but try to form the letters carefully so they will appear neat and not ragged and not show carelessness on your part.