Between the late 1930s and mid 1950's the era of Film Noir produced not only some of the most gritty, contrasty cinematography ever shot (someone referred to them as starring "blackness as a character") but also introduced a new breed of hand-painted, 3D typography for these film's titles (3D in the old sense of the word "with dimension").

The largely uncredited, studio staff artists who created these typographic compositions were true graphic design renaissance men, who not only painted the scenic backgrounds, created portraits of the stars, but in their own anonymous way, gave birth to a new, pictorial typographic style forever associated with noir. Interestingly, the "lighting" on these typographic forms is consistent with the stark lighting within the films themselves (high key and contrasty).

This stuff is a personal favourite of mine, and for an incredibly comprehensive taste of some of these movie title cards (still paintings that the movie camera would film) you must spend some time on Stephen Hill's Movie Title Screens. Noir is only the tip of the iceberg. Steven has dedicated years to collecting title screens from almost every genre of film going back to the silent era, right up to today. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for recently opening up his collection on the internet. Thank you Steven!

Here are a few noir titles with some great hand-painted, air-brush rich, 3D titles.