How To Make Your Own Fonts

How To Make Your Own Fonts

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A Letter

This is a guest article from Sonia Mansfield*.


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So you want to be a Fontographer—boldly traversing a sea of letters, mapping new alphabets with naught but a pencil and mouse for companionship. Or maybe you simply have a vision for that special project, and you want the typeface to be “just so.” Creating your own font has never been easier, so set forth and learn how to make your own font.

Step 1. Start by reading

Thinking With Type Book

You’ve been writing for most of your life, so by now you’re a master of crossing t’s and dotting i’s. Yet making a deliberate typeface is full of secret perils, such as spacing issues you’ve never considered unless you’ve had formal training. For example, round forms (like o) must fall closer to each other than straight forms (like N). The letter O should be ever so slightly taller than the letter H.

These points seem subtle, but if you skimp on the scholarship, you won’t like the result. Your typeface will look incoherent, like Print Shop fonts from the dot matrix days. Train your eye and your mind. It’s an investment.

For a crash course in some form concerns for the beginner or for a great introduction to global form and style concerns in typography, try the following resources:

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Step 2. Get the full picture by sketching

Sketching Letters

It’s true that some font designers work entirely on the computer. For your first font, this isn’t a great idea—you learn so much more about the feel and interplay of letterforms by drawing your first alphabet on paper. Get your tweaking finished now while you can see the big picture. Make major corrections to your font in pencil rather than editing on software.

Keep it neat—your sketched alphabet provides the graphic skeleton of your finished digital font. At this point, the quality of your letters’ line and geometry matters more than the spaces in between letters and lines. You can edit the spacing later. When you’re satisfied, ink your font to get it ready for scanning!

Step 3. Scan and convert to vector

Some guidelines for the beginners out there: Scan in grayscale; 300 dpi should give sufficient detail. Clean up the letters, first using Photoshop’s Curves tool, or a similar program, to remove stray lines and smudges, and then editing with brush and eraser tools as required. Convert the alphabet to vector art before continuing.

Step 4. Learn a Font Software

Font Software

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Today there are many great font tools, but the best for beginners may be that old standby, Fontographer. Why? It’s been around the longest, has the largest number of Internet experts, and the web is full of great tutorials. For example, Sitesource has a lively tutorial. If you’ve mastered Photoshop, font software should give you no pause. You should have your font in working order post haste!

Creating your first font is often a hard odyssey born of necessity. Your second should be an exploratory expedition—stretching your graphic design abilities to create something beautiful. There’s a high learning curve, so keep at it—your third foray into fontsmanship will be a cruise.

Also be sure to check out these typography resources.

*Sonia Mansfield is the content editor for PsPrint and editor of PsPrint Printing and Design Blog. PsPrint is an online printing company, which you can follow on Twitter and Facebook.

23 thoughts on “How To Make Your Own Fonts”

  1. Thanks this tip was useful for me, I was always intrigued by the idea of creating a font, but the amount of work has scared me away.

  2. @Tanner Uhm, nice link. But:
    a) Who “owns” the font after using Fontifier? Do they get my font licensed?
    b) Why should I pay 9USD for my own font?

    Very interesting article, Jacob, thank you.

    Martin.

  3. There are so many areas of design that are so very time consuming…but I want to tackle them all eventually. Font creation is one. There have been occasions when designing logos that I wish I knew how to create my own font from scratch rather than modifying an existing typeface. It’s on my list of to do’s.

    Thanks for the article. I had never heard of Fontographer. Fontlab is the one I see thrown around quite often.

  4. Thanks for sharing this post, iv been putting off designing type for a looong time, because i just did int know where to start, but this has helped me to have an idea.

  5. that looks so simple and easy I never had this idea or thought of creating my own font but this post has made me think about it now

  6. Awesome article! At my school it is a requirement to create a typeface from scratch in our second year during the first typography class. The process we follow is very similar at one you posted here. It was an amazing experience!

  7. Best stuff & is essential for the people who were the professional designers which is pretty interesting & impressive. Thx a lot for your instructions.

  8. I recently created my first font using Illustrator and Fontlab Studio. Took some getting used to, but Fontlab makes things pretty easy once you have the outlines done in Illustrator (or any application for that matter).

  9. Haven’t used Fontographer for ages, great product though.. mainly use a combo of Illustrator and Fontlab. Though I really must do as suggested and use more scans for my font designs.. great idea

  10. The information provided here are completely new to me and informative. I will try my hand in one of these techniques. Thanks for the post.

  11. This is very useful information for me. I’ve been lurking for a long time now to develop my own font for my new web design and I wanted each detail to be unique. Hope to see more tricks and tips from you soon.

  12. Hi Jacob,
    your blog came up when I googled car wrap solutions. And I just got stuck! LOVE it. So many helpful and inspiring articles and great work. I’ll definitely come back on a regular basis. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Very good article, good points. William.. are you that sad full of envy that you come here and make ridiculous comments? I can see why.. you’re webpage is awful. 🙂

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