Any advice on typeface for a gravestone ?

EileenB's picture

I'm charged with designing my father's tombstone, and I have very little time to select a typeface. Any suggestions would be helpful.

His name is (was) Francis G Burke, and I find both the B and the K to be a challenge when the whole name is capitalized as required by the graveyard regulations. I just don't want Times New Roman, and that's what the engraver uses most of the time.



Thomas Phinney's picture

A couple of possibilities:

Trajan Bold
Waters Titling Semibold, Bold, or Bold Semicondensed



cuttlefish's picture

If you could, please tell us something about your father, e.g.: his career, hobbies, interests. Not all of that can be expressed through a typeface, but it would give us something to go on in offering selections.

There are considerations in lettering design for monuments to forestall erosion and such, but with modern techniques that usually involve sandblasting through a computer-cut template into very hard stone such as granite, those considerations don't really apply.

Miss Tiffany's picture

You might like Perpetua or Golden Cockerel. As they were both designed by someone who was originally a stone carver.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Here are a few lovely examples. None are typefaces, per se, but they show you what is possible if you were to use something such as Thomas' suggestion of Waters Titling. All were taken in various graveyards in Ditchling.

bamaurer's picture

First off, quite sorry for your loss.

You should keep in mind, that some of the most beautiful stones are done by hand-lettering... even though the above examples are quite nice in their own right, they are some examples of less refined hand carved lettering... or rather, very stylized versions.

A good stone letter carver letterforms can be as nicely refined as formal typefaces... with those small idiosyncracies that make them amazing. Granted, it is pricier... although I do not think that it is prohibitively so.

If you choose a font / typeface, it will most likely be sandblasted on the stone... giving perfection and a flat back... whereas with hand done lettering, you get those really nice V cuts within the letterforms.

I am sure, whatever you do, it will be the right + nice solution for you, however, I would keep solid hand carved letters in mind if it is a priority to get the most beautiful results possible.

bamaurer's picture

Sorry, I segmented my posts a bit... but this is the piece I did back in school (horribly lit btw)... first shot at hand lettering, or carving, but it really is a beautiful process. True professionals do INCREDIBLE work... just thought I would throw this stuff up since I had it handy. Good luck and God bless....

loremipsum's picture

There's a lovely new typeface on, you can even use swashes:

You can also use

or search for “trajan” at which will return many monumental typefaces to choose from.

Alessandro Segalini's picture

Condolences, Eileen Burke, his name is (not was) Francis G Burke, that's also why you want to design a gravestone.
Good luck with the choice.

William Berkson's picture

Two more fonts by stone carvers:

Perpetua and Octavian.

crossgrove's picture


Condolences on your loss. If you let us know your general region, we might be able to point you toward some lettercarvers in stone. There are shops in Vermont, Berkeley, and various UK towns.... And I do recommend hand lettering over machine, simply for its quality.

Alessandro Segalini's picture

"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."

EileenB's picture

Thank you all so much for your condolences and great suggestions. So far, I rather like Aichel.

To answer the questions thus far ...

My dad lived his entire life in the Boston area, but I'd love suggestions for stone carvers anywhere in the northeast. I've only visited one monument shop, and it wasn't memorable.

I'd love hand carved lettering, but I'm not opposed to a well crafted sandblasted stone. The photos posted above are gorgeous, but are too flourished for my dad -- and the stone will have my mother's name added when she dies, and she prefers a more simple, somewhat stoic look.

About my dad? Well, his parents came over on the boat, literally, from Ireland just before he was born. I'd love the stone to have an old world feel with just a touch of Ireland implied. He was a very simple, understated man, often quiet, and exceedingly kind. I don't think he had a single mean thought in his entire life. His obituary.

blank's picture

Eileen, sorry for your loss, and kudos to you for taking the effort to put good letters on the tombstone. Given your mothers desires, I have to agree with Thomas on Trajan.

Sharon Van Lieu's picture

I'm sorry to hear of your loss, Eileen. I love what you wrote about him...someone who never had a mean thought in his life is a rare human being.


John Hudson's picture

Michael Harvey's typefaces stand up well to being carved, not surprisingly since Michael is a talent carver in both stone and wood.

Note that these pair nicely as serif and sans companions, so you could vary styles depending how much text will be on the stone.

Mentor Sans might suggest 'stoic'.

jupiterboy's picture

Aichel would be truest to German traditions—the caps are somewhat less colorful than the U/lc.

Possibly more international and workable (but still Czech) would be Maiola

and Garda No. 2 or even No. 1 could be a less Roman alternate to Trajan.

One more—Wellsbrook Initials

EileenB's picture

Well, I printed out about 10 samples for my mother, and with no influence from me, she likes Aichel the best, and P22 Lindum second best.

We both enjoyed reading about Aichel, and love his church architecture. Dad was a devout Catholic, and he'd like the connection.

Mom also likes the idea of a subtle Irish influence.

I'm still on the fence ... opinions?

crossgrove's picture


They are in Newport, Rhode Island. VERY renowned shop, and absolutely unparallelled lettering. Not sure of their rates but they are the best. There's also the Stonecarvers Guild, which might yield other sources:

David Rault's picture


Condoleances, and good luck.

You might want to take a look also at Adobe Penumbra Flare and Cronos.


Florian Hardwig's picture

Munc? Or is that ‘too uncial’?

akma's picture

My extended family gathered to inter my cousin Daniel last Friday; his gravestone was prepared by a distinguished New Haven-area stonecarver, the son of the carver who prepared the gravestones for my grandmother and grandfather. I might be able to track down his name, if you would like.

EileenB's picture

I've been unable to see a sample of Adobe Penumbra Flare since the Adobe website keeps stalling out on me. Munc is a lovely uncial, but my mother (an elementary teacher) says it looks "too much like a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters."

I'd love to know if anyone has ever seen Aichel (or similar) carved in stone, and if so, did it work well or look awkward? I've never designed for stone carving before.

I'm also still searching for a Boston area stone carver. My mom really wants to pick the actual stone personally, but doesn't want to travel too far out of Boston.

Thanks to all the comments here, I've learned a lot about what to look for. It's important to me that I'm proud of it when it's finally installed, and you've all been a great help.

ebensorkin's picture

If you are in the boston Area you might want to use Douglas Coffin who carves letters in stone. His work is really wonderful.

check his QT movie too.

Stephen Coles's picture

A late suggestion: Matthew Carter's Alisal. It's going on my father's marker.

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