How to Make a Font
Level of difficulty:
When talking about creating font types, there are generally two categories wherein everything else fits in. These are the original fonts (which are made directly from scratch) and the modified fonts (which are the result of enhancing currently existing font sets). Although creating modified fonts is widely considered as an easier task, opting to do an original font will surely be a testament to the user’s creativity and design skills. Regardless of whether the fonts are original or modified, some properties like sizing, spacing, kerning, and others need to be explicitly defined by the user in order to allow the proper display of the created font both on the computer screen and on paper. In creating modified fonts, make sure that the source font set is not covered by any licensing or copyright agreement which may result in legal problems once you modify them.
- Pen & paper
- flatbed scanner
- font creation software
- vector drawing software
- other image editing software
The first step is to create a sketch of the letterforms to be included in the font set. Simply draw on paper using charcoal, pencil, ink, or whatever writing material to have a precise image of the final output you want to create. For users that are well-versed in using software drawing tools, skip to Step 4.
In drawing the letterforms, make the both the size and the spacing consistent to have an accurate image of the final font appearance.
Set the scanner to 300dpi using gray scale mode and scan the completed letterforms. Clean up the scanned image if necessary to remove any smudges or imperfections. Save the scanned file using the TIFF image format.
Open image editing or conversion software capable of handling raster or bitmap images. Load the saved TIFF file and convert it to vector art format. If using Adobe Illustrator, use the EPS format to save the vector shapes.
Open the converted file in Adobe Illustrator and make the necessary adjustments not only in cleaning up the image but also in separating and scaling the letterforms. Scale the characters to a common height as well as align them under a horizontal grouping.
Make use of the guides and clean up or move any stray points that can be found. Edit anything you need to in this stage including the shape and size of the letters.
Open a font software application like FontLab. Click on the 'File' menu and select the 'New' option. Make sure to check the 'Do Not Rescale EPS' function under the 'Preferences' category.
Under Adobe Illustrator, open the Preferences window and modify the units to points to make 1 point equivalent to 1 unit under FontLab. Turn off PDF and make a 1000 by 500 point box.
Add the x-height line, baseline, and other guides necessary. Strike or fill everything.
In FontLab, open a glyph window and paste in the Outline Layer the EPS format shapes. Use the 'Import' from 'EPS' option of the Glyph menu.
Clean up the glyphs by using the settings found in the 'Outlines' option of the 'Tools' menu. In the 'Tools' menu, make sure that the 'Connections and Optimize' option is checked.
Click on the 'Window' menu and select the 'Transformation Panel' to scale the letterforms. Anything can still be modified up to this point.
Click on the 'File' menu and select 'Font Info' to provide a name for the created font. Select the 'Save' option under the 'File' menu to save the font file using the VFB extension.
Space and kern the font by using the options found under the Tools and Window menu. Generate the font files.