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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2018

    Default questions on creating a font, general processing and software used

    Not sure where to post this, but I just started creating my own fonts, and needed some guidance, help and advice on what
    the typical process is in building or creating a font. In other words, how do you start out or begin the process? Do you
    start drawing the letters, glyphs, etc. first, then move onto the software programs? If so, what software or computer
    programs are normally used for creating a font? I've started creating fonts using FontStruct, but it uses blocks to build
    the fonts, and I was hoping for something else where I could just either handwrite my letters/glyphs or draw them out. If
    anyone here can offer some feedback and/or advice on what I should do, I would gladly appreciate it. Thank you!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2000
    Placitas, New Mexico, USA

    Default Re: questions on creating a font, general processing and software used

    Welcome to TalkGraphics

    We have a few folks here who have created fonts and will be able to answer your questions. Check back.
    Gary W. Priester
    Mr. Moderator Emeritus Dude
    , Sir

    gwpriester.com | Custom-Stereograms.com | eyeTricks on Facebook

  3. #3

    Default Re: questions on creating a font, general processing and software used

    There really isn't a truly typical work-flow. How I go about things changes depending upon what I am beginning with.

    When making my fonts, most often I am resurrecting designs as drawn and/or printed in the late 1700s, early 1800s. So I would begin with existing scans of pages from manuscripts, though I have also scanned original drawings. I'll then bring in the scans into Xara Designer Pro or CorelDraw and trace over them and then refine the shapes, especially the angle of the serifs and their length/thickness.

    Then I'll export as SVG files and import them into Font Creator from High Logic. Because in a drawing application a curve doesn't really have to be on a grid, there will often be curves I need to fix once imported because a font has to adhere to a grid based upon font units (don't worry about what that means).

    Then in the font editor, I'll run through the basic glyphs I draw to make stem thicknesses equal and curves taper at the same angles, etc.

    Once that is done I'll copy the various glyphs to other code points, draw the accents, make composites of the base glyphs and accents and ... and ...

    At some point I work on setting what are called the side bearings. The goal here is to lessen the amount of kerning work. Then I'll kern the font, then work on writing the opentype feature code.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Lam, Bavaria-Germany

    Default Re: questions on creating a font, general processing and software used

    As Mike has already written, there is no special workflow. Everyone has their preferences and works differently.
    For example, I first sketch the glyphs and then trace them in vector. I prefer to using the "FontLab Studio" for years to create a font from it. It also has a tracer to create vector paths from bitmap.
    Quite useful for some artistic glyphs.

    Like Mike, I set kerning pairs and then finalize the font. A special area is the OpenType future for ligatures and special characters.
    When all this is done, the font is first tested and then written as TTF/OT and then is ready to use.

    However, I have to admit that I created my last font about 7 years ago. I haven't bothered since.

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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Liverpool, N.Y.

    Default Re: questions on creating a font, general processing and software used

    Hi avil1972—

    I've been making typefaces since 1992, using CorelDRAW, which has a font export filter, so there was no need back then for a drawing program and a font editor. Sadly, within the limitations of a forum post, I can't do better than my own set of steps. I hope this provides something:

    Take a big pause before you create or finish your set of characters. Draw however many glyphs you want in your typeface, but you’ll want to keep these things in mind as you work:

    • You really should have a few “master serifs” on the Guides layer. IOW, if you’re drawing a serif font such as something like Times Roman, your font will look awkward unless the serifs, the endstrokes, are all the same size, the same shape, the same degree of concave-ness (concavity?). You position the guide, mand then draw over it to complete a character. Consider using the Add Shapes command to more easily add the serif to the body of the character.

    • Don’t overlap paths. An “X” is the best example of a character that might have an overlap. First, a character is only a single path; combined paths are fine, but not two objects, and not two objects that are combined so that the path segments cross each other. Just don’t do it, or I’ll have to write a book here. And you’ve have to buy it. The best way to make an “X” is to combine two horizontally mirrors slashes using Add Shapes in the Arrange>Combine Shapes menu.

    • Be Concise. A character that has 100 control points probably doesn’t need to. Eliminate control points that do nothing for the shape of a character. Example: a period, whether it’s a gothic sans serif, or a serif Roman character probably has only four control points. Only when an extremely ornate typeface is desired would you use more than four points. Every control point adds a byte of character information, a font, for example, that has a 210 node character might not display properly because typefaces are actually little runtime programs, not just a bunch of paths. And programs misbehave and sometimes fail if the data is too complex for a single object.

    • Be consistent. If a capital “A” is 550 points tall on the page, the capital “H” should be exactly 550 points tall and have the same baseline—the point at which capital characters and most lowercase characters touch. Q, P. G, J, and Y characters always screw up this explanation (!)

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Depending on your host program you use for making the font from outlines, choose that output file type in Xara. Now, if you’re exporting to Illustrator (myfile.ai), you must export a single character on a single page. So as you build up your characters on the same page (suggested), one at a time, copy and then paste a character (a glyph) onto a new page and then export it. Why? Because Adobe’s Illustrator file format is a page descriptor language, and whether or not you have anything additional on a page, it will export it along with your character.
    Font Forge is free and although I use an older copy of FontLab, I use FontForge as a last step before using or selling a font. It’s free, it’s open source.

    At the risk of being a jerk, the rest of the process is trivial compared to your setup. You paste your glyphs in the corresponding slots you see that are marked A, B, C and so on. Then you let the font creation program compile the font in TTF or (my preference) OTF.

    Two more small thoughts, the only kind I have:

    1.) On your maiden voyage, consider making a Picture font (a Pi font) rather than a Latin alpha-numeric font, such as most of them on your system. Why? You’ll occasionally need a custom symbol; I have an interrobang in a lot of home-brew typefaces. Also, you don’t have to be God-Awful precise with a picture font; baselines, x-heights, and all the other nitty-gritty stuff you’ll want to learn about.

    2.) Consider making all the little punctuation and numbers for your typeface. Swearing out loud is the inevitable result of making a typeface that doesn’t have quote marks, parentheses, a question mark and so on. You will need them, I swear you will need them at some point in your designs. Me? Only when a typefaces is of extraordinary design, a must-have, and I’ll only use it for headlines—will I forgive the author for lack of extended keys.

    May the Forced Justification be with you.

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