I Love Typography

So you want to create a font. Part 1

So you’re a brilliant designer, a master calligrapher, and you’ve learned all about serifs, side-bearings, and kerning. Now you want to create your own font. (What! You haven’t learned all about serifs, side-bearings, and kerning? Well, make sure you read all of the articles on iLT before you embark on font creation! You’ll need all of the knowledge you can get if you plan on being successful! And if you’re not a brilliant designer or a master calligrapher, well, don’t worry—you can still create some beautiful fonts with a little hard work, a lot of knowledge, and a little inspiration.)

The Crux: Font Editing Software

All the brilliant design, precise calligraphic work, and deep knowledge of kerning won’t mean anything if you can’t translate your work into a computer-friendly format, which is why you’ll need a good piece of font editing software at your disposal. Font editing software comes in a variety of strengths and prices, and works on a variety of platforms. The major players are listed below:

Font Editing Programs

  • FontLab Studio is what I use to make my fonts. It is more or less the industry standard, and, as such, isn’t exactly cheap, coming in at $649 (US). A 30-day free trial is available, if you want to try before you buy. It’s available for both PC and Mac. I’ve used FontLab Studio pretty extensively, and can vouch for its excellence, and the vibrancy of the user community.
  • FontForge can ostensibly do everything that FontLab can, and it’s free and open-source. That said, installing FontForge (at least under Windows) is not exactly a simple matter (you’ll need to install Cygwin first). Also, the program is not as well documented as FontLab. There was an interesting thread recently over at Typophile about FontForge that you might want to read, if you’re considering taking the open-source plunge. FontForge is available for PC, Mac, and Linux. (If you’re a Linux user, FontForge is more or less your only choice.)
  • For those rolling in cash, DTL FontMaster can do everything FontLab can, and more, but it’s quite expensive. FontMaster comes as seven different modules, which I find altogether cool and intimidating. It’s available for PC and Mac.
  • FontCreator is another choice, more affordable than FontLab. The program works only with TrueType and OpenType fonts—no Type 1 fonts—and is for Windows only.
  • TypeTool from FontLab is a more entry-level product along the same lines as FontCreator. The company says that TypeTool is “for students, hobby typographers and creative professionals who occasionally need to create or customize fonts”. PC and Mac.
  • The original king of font editing software is Fontographer which languished in non-development purgatory for years until FontLab bought the code and recently updated it for the Mac. The last version was really showing its age even in the late 1990s, so I’m hoping that Fontlab did an impressive rewrite for its new version. It’s half the price of FontLab Studio, but I can’t vouch for its new user interface, not having tried it. Fontographer is available for PC and Mac, though only Mac users get the latest version.
  • [update:] Glyphs app for Mac.
  • [update:] RoboFont (Mac OS X 10.6.6+).

All of these programs operate on the same principles, differing in specifics, interface, and levels of options and power. So do some research before you buy—download and try some demos, read the rants and debates of other font creators out there, and figure out which font editor works best for you. One path I’ve read about some people taking is to start with TypeTool, see if this whole font-creation thing is something they genuinely love, and then eventually upgrade to FontLab Studio once the limitations of TypeTool become an issue.

Once you have a good font editing program, there are three basic routes to creating a font.

Method 1: Draw it on paper

Tools You’ll Need

Are you artistic? Have cool handwriting? Well, get a good pen, a stack of good paper, and start drawing your alphabet. (Don’t overlook your choice of pen. Is your font going to be something thick and juicy? Try using a Sharpie. Or will it be calligraphic? Break out your calligraphy pen set. Will it be thin and delicate? Pick a fine-point precision pen for your work.) Draw big, so there’s plenty of detail to capture, and make sure your characters are all the appropriate height (you might want to add ruled lines in pencil to your paper before you begin). Don’t forget to draw all of the characters a good font needs! That means punctuation, tildes, accents, parentheses and brackets, and numerals. You’ll also want to include obscure characters like the thorn and eth. Create a new font in your font editor before you put pen to paper, and look at the standard glyph table it presents you with. There will be characters there you’ve never heard of, but there are typesetters out there who will be expecting to see those characters in your font!

Scan your beautiful work into Photoshop, and then turn your image into a bitmap (black and white—no shades of grey).

Almost there. Open your bitmap image in FontLab’s ScanFont. This nifty little program (which comes bundled as part of the Mac version of FontLab Studio—lucky Mac users!) allows you to take bitmap images and convert them into font glyphs. (Font editing programs work with outlines, which are basically vectors like those used in Illusrator. Scanners and programs like Photoshop work with bitmaps. ScanFont bridges the gap between these two media.) Once this is accomplished, you can either save your font in ScanFont, or copy individual glyphs from ScanFont into FontLab Studio. (Hey, nobody said this would be easy!) And once you have all of your glyphs in FontLab, you can begin the long, arduous, fun process of editing your font towards perfection!

Method 2: Draw it on a tablet

Tools You’ll Need

You can skip many of the above steps by using a Wacom tablet to draw your font glyphs directly into a vector graphics program like Adobe Illustrator. FontLab Studio, for one, supports copying and pasting directly from Illustrator. One cool thing about using Illustrator to draw your alphabet is that you have a wide range of brushes to choose from, so that you can change the style of your entire alphabet with a couple of mouse clicks. One thing I’ve discovered is that, as good as tablet technology has gotten, there’s really no substitute for pen and paper—an alphabet drawn on a tablet will be different from the same alphabet drawn on paper.

Method 3: Draw it in your font editing software

Tools You’ll Need

  • Mouse
  • Font Editing software of your choice
  • The Steady Hand and Patience of a Deity

I’ve created a couple of fonts entirely in FontLab Studio, with just my mouse, a steady hand, and a healthy amount of invoking the Undo command. It can definitely be done, and you’ll potentially be able to generate more precise fonts this way, as opposed to drawing your glyphs outside of your font editor and then importing them. There are, as you might expect, lots of tools in font editing programs that are geared to this process: tools that generate straight lines and perfect curves, and guides that help you align everything with the utmost precision.

Coming Up Next…

Now you’ve got the tools of the trade, the desire to create a font, and a basic idea of the process involved. Of course, the devil is in the details. In the next installment I’ll address some of the specifics of font creation and editing. Read So You Want to Create a Font--part two.

[Alec Julien is a web developer and amateur typographer living in Vermont, US. He dreams of someday living somewhere warm, and typesetting a novel.]

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  1. No doubt this series will be a great addition to your blog!

    If I had the patience, and time, I might try designing my own font, although I’ve yet to read all your articles, so my priorities need looking at. ;)

  2. David
    It certainly does require time, though as you’re pretty good with a pencil, then that’s a great place to start. You can then—at a later stage—scan your glyphs and get to work on them. Now that you’ve said that re font creation, you’ll probably have one of your clients ask you to create a custom font for them.

  3. “Now that you’ve said that re font creation, you’ll probably have one of your clients ask you to create a custom font for them.”

    Shhhhhhh.

  4. MarkeeO

    I myself have created a few typefaces for some clients—though mostly incomplete with only the basic character set—and I personally use a mixture of the first and third techniques.

    I basically draw the set and then scan it. I trace each character through Illustrator and import them to Fontlab Studio. Since I do vector illustration most of the time, I find it easier to do it this way. I admit that I’m a bit paranoid about automated bitmap2glyph converters—it just seems to good to be true.. And although the Live Trace feature in AI CS2 made vectorization easier, I still believe that nothing beats an old school ninja’s hand-drawn vectors.. ^_^

    Looking forward to the next installment..

  5. Really great article. I messed around with the free versions a few times. I believe it was font lab. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing but it was very interesting. Eventually I want to make my own typeface, but I’m not sure what style I’m going for yet. :-)

  6. Markeoo
    I know a number of people who use Illustrator. If you’re comfortable with Illustrator it’s a good way to it. I must say, I’m surprised that Adobe haven’t tried to acquire FontLab; would be an interesting addition to their present suite; and they could add some more Illustrator features….

    Robert
    I think most are more comfortable starting out with a handwriting style or brush script face. Let me know how you get on with it.

  7. @MarkeeO:
    Illustrator’s tracing used to be sort of a mess, so I’ve shied away from it for years. But, coincidentally, I used it in CS2 just yesterday for a design project, and it was pretty nice. Of course, as you say, hand-drawing ninja skills can’t be beat! (Wish I had some!)

    @Robert:
    Glad you enjoyed the article. There’s nothing like creating your own font. Hope you nail it down some day…

  8. Alec
    Good to see you here. Looks as though we posted our comment within about 3 seconds of each other. Thanks.

  9. I actually made a font back in design school that was a slab-serif version if Din.

    I never actually stuck it into FontLab and made it a usable font, but I designed A - Z and ligs.

    Looking forward to the more in-depth version of this series.

  10. Very nice article. Even though I consider myself a typophile, I have never attempted to create a font myself. Ought to be interesting…

  11. Cody
    Wouldn’t mind seeing that. I’ll come up to Osaka and pay you visit once things calm down a little.

    Squawk
    Keep us informed of your progress, please. I like squawkdesign.com, btw.

  12. Nice intro! Would be nicer if the contours had the right directions/points types/starting points in the last pic :)
    I would personnally never use Illustrator as a basis for drawing outlines that will later be tamed in a font. Illustrator’s precision is too high for FL and rounding errors occur, just to mention this. But I understand why one can start with it.

  13. Jean-Baptiste
    Thanks. Have you recently redesigned your site, typographe.com? It’s looking great; and inspires me to brush up on my French, pas que, je n’ai pas parlé français pendant une longue temps.

    Please forgive my French.
    Perhaps Alec will have something to say about those direction points.

  14. [Alec hangs his head in shame.]

  15. Heya,
    I’m just an admin copy editor on the site, not the designer, nor the founder :) Redesign occured in 2003, since then it hasn’t moved a single pixel. Its gorgeous outlook is from http://jeromev.net/
    And if you’re hesitating about getting into French lessons, there’s still Google here to translate!
    Cheers, JB.

  16. But contour quality should be nothing to hang oneself for!

  17. SallyYi

    I downloaded the trial soft. I will try it. Thanks, it’s a great introduction.

  18. Alec
    Don’t hang yourself before part 2! ;)

    SallyYi
    Let me know how you get on with it.

    Jean-Baptiste
    Just a side-note, but you are (with your last comment) iLT’s 1000th commentator. Congratulations. I guess you deserve a prize….

  19. A handwriting style or brush script face does sound interesting John. Theres no handwriting like my hand writing. This should be fun ;)

  20. Prize? Did anyone here wrote “prize”? :)

  21. Robert
    I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

    Jean-Baptiste
    I said “prize” very quietly. Do you know IDEA Magazine? Perhaps I could send you one of those.

  22. This is, I hope, going to be a series, as I’d love to follow along as someone goes thru the process of designing a typeface family. I became interested over the summer. I’ve installed FontForge and Potrace (an open-source auto-tracing tool) and done 5 minutes of tutorial. But then I got busy on a coupla books and put it aside.

    For me, it would be a bigger project, I bet, than for the rest of you. I cannot draw a lick. And, as a book designer, rather than someone who does adwork, I’m interested in text fonts. So brush scripts and handwriting fonts are not a direction I want to go.

    But I did think that calligraphy might be something to explore, to get the sense of thick and thin elements in individual letterforms. So I went and got a book or two on calligraphy and pen points. Oh, yes, here’s a monkey-wrench: I’m left-handed. So now I have to pick up pens that will accommodate these left-handed points from Speedball. I also think a sense of calligraphic characters would help in creating a matching italic—italic, of course, being more than merely a slanted version of the roman face.

    But this is all what I would like to see in a continung series.

  23. C’mon… just kiddin! I spend my time looking for sites with 999 comments, how do you think I filled my bookshelves?

  24. Interesting topic Alec.

    One thing I’m curious about and hope you address in the followup is how you make all of the letters in a typeface look like they really belong together.

    Is there some kind of mathematical formula you follow and measure the various aspects of each individual character, or is it more just a matter of having a good eye and good taste?

  25. @Steve — The next installment is more general than what you’re thinking. (It’s mostly about the basics of vertical and horizontal metrics.) But I love the idea of a documentary of a font family being designed. I could actually detail some of that with my latest family. Or maybe someone more experienced could step in here. If John’s interested?…

    @Chris — For me, and from everything I’ve read, making a coherent font is very much a matter of the good-eye/good-taste factor. There are certain mathematical factors at work (coherent vertical metrics, like how tall the letterforms are, and where different parts of the letterforms cut the plane; having the same and/or similar serifs from letter to letter; etc.), but even with the most geometrical fonts, the eye is the final arbiter of correctness. (One of my latest fonts — Sinn — was an experiment where I had some very strict geometrical guidelines at work, and it surprised me how many decisions came down to some sort of intangible aesthetic.)

  26. Great job Alec! You’ve got me hooked — can’t wait for the next one.

    I’m going to have to try this myself. Hopefully sooner rather than later. :)

    One question for ya, how long does it usually take you to make a Font? (From start to finish)

  27. Johno - I’m in Tokyo not Osaka! I just sent you an e-mail with the Din Edit.

  28. Cody
    One day I’ll get it right. It’s not as though even the kanji are similar:
    東京 / 大阪 :)
    Or perhaps I should just get some sleep. Thanks for the mail. I’m off to take a look.

  29. Yeah the kanji is no where near the same! Haha! I could understand if you got like 八王子 and ハチ公 wrong. Or 大丈夫 and 六本木 wrong. Haha even though one of those isn’t a place.

  30. Great little article and I look forward to the rest of the series!

    For those who are interested in creating a font from their own handwriting, I discovered a great little service that helps you create your own. It’s by no means as comprehensive as some of these packages that you mentioned, but for the casual user looking to quickly get their handwriting into the computer, have a look at:

    Fontifier

  31. Nice work, Alec and Johno! Great start to the series. Loved the reference to patience and more patience. It’s a pedant’s art, but isn’t it amazing how time flies when your entire focus is on a single contour. Always a pleasure to see this kind of quality in my feeds.

  32. Ko

    Alec, thanks for a great article. I have tried making a font of my own handwriting a long time ago, but I abandoned the idea; it takes up a lot of your time. At least from my point of view. However, this article has rekindled my interest and I am going to have another look. I am looking forward to the next installment.

    This is the great thing about this blog and site, here’s yet another aspect of typography, that is worth delving into.

  33. So are most types display faces, as opposed to text faces? I never really thought about it. But seeing how many folks here are talking about handwriting, and looking at Chris’s Sinn font, got me thinking about this.

    Being a book designer, I tend to think of text faces first. And that raises a whole other issue, because just how many new ways can there possibly be to think about setting straight text for, say, a book environment? But this, too, is a question I would love to see explored in the “Create a Font” series.

  34. @Hamish — good question. For my handwriting fonts, drawing the letterforms is pretty quick (a couple of hours, tops), but often coming up with something interesting in the first place can take a few days of doodling and scheming. Once I have something on paper, I scan it, and then it’s a couple of hours of tweaking things in Photoshop. Then the fun begins. I do a first pass getting every character into FontLab, and then it’s a lot of work getting things all the same height and width, and making sure the angles are coherent, etc, etc. Then (and this comes up in the next article) there’s the joy of kerning, which can take as long as the rest of the processes combined. I’d say, now that I know my way around FontLab, a font will generally take me a week of working several hours a day.

    @Kurt — thanks! Yeah, I’ve run across Fontifier before, though I’ve never tried the service. Maybe I should shell out $9 just for an experiment. I imagine they might provide a decent foundation for a font, but I’d think you’d still have to go into FontLab and do lots of work.

    @Jon — thanks! Oh, the time does fly!

    @Ko — thanks! Font creation can take a lot of time, but for typography nerds like us it’s worth it. I hope you give it another try.

    @Steve — I haven’t done a scientific analysis, but I’d venture a guess that a hefty majority of fonts out there are meant for web and illustration use, rather than text body use. Certainly my fonts were developed with that audience in mind, because (a) I come from a web design background, and (b) designing good text faces is HARD! (I’ve tried and failed many times to create the next Minion.)

  35. Stephen Tiano
    I’m going to have to agree with your post completely. I would love to see this series go in the direction of creating a family of fonts. Proper italics, bolds, lights, hairlines, ect. ect.

    I have already read quite a few articles over the past couple years on this and would love to see one totally flushed out on this site! MAKE IT HAPPEN JOHNO! Haha.

  36. Cody
    Oh boy! Someone’s going to be busy. Well, I’m only paying Alec in candy bars (actually paying him nothing at all), so if you guys can persuade him, bribe him, buy him gifts, or offer him favours (keep it clean, please), then he might be tempted back.

  37. Well, considering he hasn’t designed a family, it would benefit him as a learning experience too. Then again, it would be nice to have someone who has actually done it before to write about it too. I believe some of the guys over a typophile have some threads about it, but I’m too lazy to go digging. Haha.

  38. I think having kind of a “program” for designing a whole family of types would really be a hit. Hell, it could end up being the kind of textbook I’ve been searching for. (Maybe the closest thing would be the book on FontLab—sorry, I don’t remember the title; i can almost picture the author’s name: same guy who did the Font, Logo, Letterform Bible [something like that].

    Only thing is, for economy, I’ve already thrown my lot in with FontForge, as it’s open source and free. I mst say, tho’, I’m impressed with DTL FontMaster, from the little I’ve read on it. All the modules. But, as Alec already stated, we’re talking a boatload of cash—makes FontLab look cheap by comparison.

    Basic question: anyone ever see—in all the reading I’ve done I remember it from somewhere—some rule of thumb of the ratio from character thickness (don’t know whether of thin or thick “pieces”) to character height?

    Unrelated question: I’m wondering whether it’s time to consider a redesign of my ite and blog, as I screwed something up that I can’t fix, which may cause me to pay for some work anyway. I’d be interested in a full-width page—not the look of, but the page width (as opposed to my strict narrower column) like John’s got. Considering all my pages, what are any of you web designers likely to charge? Can’t say I’m likely to have the cash anytime soon, but I need to make a plan that I can try to budget for. Thanks.

  39. Stephen Tiano
    You might mean this book:

    Logo, Font and Lettering Bible
    Author: Leslie Cabarga
    Publisher: David & Charles

    That’s the first book that popped into my head when I read your post.

  40. Cody
    Thanks. I couldn’t for the life of me remember that title.

  41. Is that book worth picking up? I was thinking about it, but from the cover and inside pages I can see on Amazon… I’m not too convinced.

  42. Cody
    I don’t own it. I was tempted to buy it, just to take a look, but there are about 40 books higher up the list than this one. I’d also like to know if anyone has read it, and if they’d recommend it. Might be something on Typophile about it; I’ll have a dig later.

    It’s not the prettiest of books, is it. The cover almost gave me a migraine.

  43. What a perfect article for me to read on my first visit here. I’ve added this to my “design” feed list in Bloglines and I’ll keep my eye on you guys! :)

    I’m pretty weak in terns if knowledge in this area of design and look forward to improving my typographical skills in the future. Thanks for posting a “recommended” list in your sidebar. It seems like a great place to get started. Can you suggest any other type-related blogs?

  44. Brooke

    Welcome to iLT.
    Typophile is another great site.
    Let me know how you get on. If you have further questions, then leave another comment, or contact me through the contact page on this site.
    You might also want to take a look through the Recent Articles listed in that same sidebar. I look forward to seeing you here again.

  45. Ko

    Stephen

    I have never come across a rule of thumb for the ratio of character (piece) thickness to character height. Would that be due the wildly varying shapes of typefaces as we know them, especially in today’s digital world? Would there be different rules of thumb for thin, regular and bold faces? Looking at the fonts listed at the top of this page, examples like Snickers and Sinn would have quite a different ratio from the others to achieve their bold appearance. Also, fonts with different x-height to character height ratios might have different rules of thumb again, to maintain legibility, and so on.
    Quite a complex subject, I think. Perhaps well worth looking into at some stage, Johno?

  46. Cool, now I can create a font with my mothers hand script :D

  47. Ko
    Yes, it’s a fascinating topic, and a complex one. Definitely worth a closer look.

    Dumitru
    Look forward to seeing the results. I’m sure your mother will too.

  48. Well, Cody, sort of. Logo, Font and Lettering Bible is actually an interesting book and better than the cover would lead you to think. Particularly if you don’t draw, like me. But my point in bringing this book up is that the author, Leslie Cabarga, whose name I couldn’t remember, wrote another book, a detailed how-to on FontLab.

  49. Stephen

    Learn FontLab Fast. I just found it on Amazon. Never heard of this book before.

  50. Yup. That’s the book. I heard about it on either Typophile, or while noodling around on FontLab’s website. Which brings me to how even I came to mention it on ILT. I was wishing for such a book for FontForge. Various searches revealed nothing along those lines, however.

  51. lica

    Yess!!! I’ve been waiting for this article. Thanks!!

  52. Alec
    Thanks for the breakdown, sounds like a really fun project. (albeit a bit arduous at times)

    Johno
    That book looks very interesting. Too bad the only available copy is $150 bucks. Probably because it’s signed by the author, hehe.

  53. Lica
    Good to see you back in the comments. Alec’s second part is coming soon.

    Hamish
    $150! For some reason your comment was marked as spam—guess it thought you were peddling Viagra or something (for $150 bucks) ;)

  54. Great site and good comprehensive article(s)!

    I can vouch for FontLab. It has everything going for it… the only drawback can be the prize :-) (I find the drawing tools for creating character shapes far better then Illustrator).

    About the book:
    I ordered ‘Learn FontLab fast’ directly from the authors site: http://www.flashfonts.com (for about 25 bucks).
    If you’re new to FontLab I can recommend it.

  55. @Jos — good find! The book is several years old, though, so I assume it covers FontLab 4, not 5. But probably a lot of the basics are the same.

  56. There’s more info on the book on http://www.logofontandlettering.com

    The author says “… I’ve revised the first 50 pages of Learn FontLab Fast so it is native to FontLab Studio 5. The remaining two-thirds is the original book (which includes some Studio5 and is still 95% relevant say the FontLab people)…”

  57. k

    lovely tutorial. makes me want to create my own stuff asap. hv already downloaded scanfont and fontlab (demo, of course:)).

    doubts: 1. 1st step says, convert scanned image to bitmap in photoshop. how does one do that? are u referring to the save as .bmp format?
    2. how did they make fonts when there was no fontlab or any digital help around? pls spare a chapter for this one. :)

    thanks ilt.
    k

  58. k: Sorry to burst your bubble, but if you aren’t sure how to convert to bitmap format, then this might be a little advanced for you? I don’t mean to be offensive.

    Here is what you should do though.
    Open your scan.
    Image menu ——-> Mode ——> Bitmap

    I believe that is where it is. I’m too lazy to open Photoshop, but I’m 95% sure it’s there.

  59. k

    thanx cody. 100% right, on both counts.

  60. No worries! Best of luck in the font journey, it’s going to be a rough one. Haha.

  61. k
    Remember there’s nothing to stop you though. Pencil and paper is still where many great typefaces begin. Later when you’ve got the hang of software like Fontlab, you can turn your beautiful sketches into beautiful type. Good luck!

    And, yes, for Bitmap, just go to Image >> save as / format >> BMP.

  62. Johno
    Ah, yes — your spam filter seems to pick up the odd false positive here and there. Are you using Akismet? (Kind of a stupid question, since it’s really the only good one I know of)

    Also, just another question from the uninformed. Is there a proprietary source format for programs like FontLab, and so on? Or do you just edit the font itself? (e.g., the .ttf)

  63. I started to type a comment to recommend a book I find to be wonderful. But the comment quickly grew lengthy. So I turned it into an entry on my blog. Honestly, I do get into more than a few specific points that make the book—by my lights—a must-have.

    For me, the item about a strict (recommended) ration for stroke thickness to cap height cinched it.

    Oh … and I had to take down my compare-and-contrast two page designs entry. It was trying to kill me.

  64. Patrick

    Good article I just thought I should mention that there’s metafont too! Looks super fun.

  65. Hamish
    Yes, I use Akismet, and on the whole it works pretty well.
    Not sure what you mean by your second question?

    Stephen
    Your comments—however lengthy—are always appreciated. That’s a good review, and yet another book to buy.

    Patrick
    Thanks for mentioning Metafont, developed by THE Donald Knuth. Have you used it?

    In the preface of each of his books and on his website, computer scientist Donald Knuth offers to cheerfully pay a reward of “$2.56” to the first finder of each error in one of his published books, whether it be technical, typographical, or historical. Knuth explains that $2.56, or 256 cents, correspond to one hexadecimal dollar.—Wikipedia

  66. Thanks, John.

    The real nub, for me, in what I note about Letters of Credit in the review on my blog, is the concrete talk about a relationship between character height and stroke thickness.

    That and the fact that Mr. Tracy sometimes takes on a gossipy tone in his critical analysis of some of the work of a few of the real giants of type design.

  67. @Hamish — FontLab uses a proprietary format: .vfb files. From there you can generate .ttf, .otf, or .pfa/.pfb files.

    @Patrick — Metafont is cool. There was talk, a while back, about having an article here on TeX/Metafont, and the differences between Metafont and outline fonts. Maybe someday…

  68. Alec
    Thanks, just the answer I was looking for :)

  69. Patrick

    @ John: Unfortunately I don’t think I have time to design fonts, but if that day should arise I would go with Metafont. To me (and I think you’ll agree) there’s something strangely appealing about TeX, Metafont, and Donald Knuth in general.

  70. I have just gotten my hands on the “Logo, Font and Lettering Bible” mentioned earlier in this post.

    Johno, let me know if you want a full review, or a short one. Haha!

  71. Patrick
    There certainly is. Let us know if you ever do dabble.

    Cody
    A review sounds good. Send it in. I don’t own this title, so would like to know a little more about it.

  72. Cool! If I have some time tonight after work I will sit down and take some notes as I really look through the book. I’m separating into a few sections: content, layout, typography, and usability for designers and beginners.

    Don’t expect a massive article because I hate writing ;)

  73. Cody
    Great. Short and sweet is good. The way you’re thinking of approaching sounds good, so I look forward to seeing it. Hail iLT’s new Tokyo correspondent.

  74. HIP HIP HORAAY HIP HIP HORAAY

  75. Cody, John: excellent!

    I rather stupidly returned that book to the library without even taking any notes. I did, however, copy two or three pages—but more on that in a sec. Then it’s time to get the hell back to bed—almost 3:30am here, as I type this.

    So, yeah, I figured I’d use my combined birthday gift—from my wife and her mom—Border’s Books, etc. gift cards to get the aforementioned type, logo, and lettering (not picturing the exact title) Bible. Instead, I’ll get the dvd, Helvetica, when Borders gets it in on Nov. 6. Geez, how great for me!

    Leslie (or is it Lesley?) Carbarga’s Bible … I copied a coupla pages showing some step-by-step Adobe Illustrator tips I could stand to bone up on for drawing letterforms. Just in case I can picture new letterforms for the same old 26 characters (and all the other necessary glyphs, of course—numerals (both lining and non-lining, naturally), punctuation marks, accents, etc. In which case I may just knock out a typeface family.

    But it would need to be something along the lines of a typeface I’d like to use for making a book, that I don’t already see out there. Which brings me back to more reading and research.

    Goodnight.

  76. Stephen

    All sounds pretty exciting. Looks as though you’re winding up for type creation. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to set one’s own book in one’s own face. Happy type dreams.

  77. Well I think I have all my glyphs written out the way that I want them. Now time to turn it into font. I’ll post a picture of a few my letters later.

  78. Cool, Robert! Can’t wait to see what you’ve come up with… (Love your domain name, by the way.)

  79. Sorry guys, I had a rather alcoholic night out tonight! Expect a review of the book this weekend. 5:25am is a way too early / late time for myself. Sleep calls me. Until then! Cheers!

  80. I have to admit, it would be a kick to design and set a book with my own family of types. I’m a long, long way off from that.

    Speaking of books, John’s listed Simon Loxley’s Type: The Secret History of Letters above as one of the recommended. I realize we’ve kicked around enough books lately that we’re establishing a fairly pricey list of must-haves. Me, I managed to borrow the Loxley book from the public library here. Buy it or borrow it, whichver, it’s worth reading.

    First, there’s the cool Gutenberg story. But then there’s this. Speaking of Baskerville, the man—the way his work wasn’t always appreciated in his own time and place—and Caslon the designer of types, Loxley writes:

    … Baskerville comes across as an eighteenth-century Brian Wilson to Caslon’s Beatles, driven to creative heights by a sense of rivalry of which only he was aware.

  81. Robert
    great stuff. Can’t wait to see them.

    Jos
    Thanks for those links.

    Cody
    Let us know when the Aspirin kick in ;)

    Stephen
    The Secret History of Letters is wonderful. I’m pleased you’re enjoying it. Looks like you have a good library. That reminds me: I really should review that title some time.

  82. this articles encourage me to create my own font
    thanks for sharing it

    Angelina Mina
    happy-funtime.blogspot.com

  83. this really made me to have my own font for my banner
    thanks for sharing
    bhaktapur girl
    mazzako.blogspot.com

  84. Angie

    I’m in my second year of the visual communications program at Arizona State University and we’ve been working on letterform for almost a year now. As I go through the program it’s interesting to me to see the difference between what we’re learning in school and how things are “really” done. I’ve spent about four weeks now working on a lower-case “o” that matches my HEAO and nh. We draw our letters by hand and make changes in millimeters. It’s timeconsuming and frustrating. So far, though, I’ve been really proud of the letters I’ve made.

    I know that this might not be realistic in a graphic design firm (unless I get a lot quicker at reading my letters), but I think the skills I’ve learned (balance, spatial relationships) will be invaluable to me in the future.

  85. Angie—That’s so cool. If I could go back to school, it’d totally be to do the kinds of things you’re doing. I hope someday you’ll post some of your work for us to see.

  86. So, I was just thinking “I’d like to try my hand at designing a font” and..poof! Here comes this series. Good timing. But, stop reading my mind, okay? It’s kind of freaking me out and not very polite.

    Heh heh..

  87. @Tellie — I can’t promise anything, as my amazing mind-reading powers are kind of hard to control. My friends and loved ones have had great success blocking me out with aluminum foil hats, though.

    Your site is very cool, by the way.

  88. Dude, this is the best site about fonts ever! No kidding. Putting up a link now…

  89. This site is outstanding!

  90. Really great article, thanks for sharing….

  91. Deron

    Is Scanfont a necessary part of the process or can I use some alternative means?

  92. @Deron — If you’re going to go the route of hand-drawing your glyphs, then you’ll need some way to get them from raster (pixel data) to vector (the format of FontLab). ScanFont is definitely the easiest way. If you have Illustrator, you can try importing your scanned work and running AutoTrace on it. Or you could try Vector Magic, though it might take you a while (and a lot of tokens) to vectorize an entire alphabet online that way. Maybe some other reader knows a better way?…

  93. it seems cool to create new fonts. i will try it as soon an possible.

  1. Para crear tipografias—May 19, 2008
  2. Nas—Oct 12, 2008

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