Typography, for many designers, is not only a very useful tool of work, but also a passion. Such passion drove some professionals to venture into trying to create their own types and sources. The creation process, like any other, is quite peculiar, but some steps may be important in defining your own process. Below are some tips to kick-start and extract the best result from this experience! Ready to discover a step-by-step 10 key tips on how to create a font?
1. Start with a briefing
Designing a font can be a long journey, so it is wise to have a clear view of its purpose. You can start with something purely self-expressive. However, the usual practice is to create a type in response to a briefing. Developing your own briefing will require research and reflection. Is it necessary to consider whether it is a specific project or just for personal use? Is there a problem you can solve? How can your font fit into a landscape next to similar designs? What makes it unique? Many sources have been created, for example specifically for academic texts, to provide better number systems for engineering documents or as a one-off for public lettering. Only when you know what your typeface will actually be used for you can really begin to understand how to make a font.
2. Fundamental choices
There are a number of initial options that you need to consider. Will it be serif or sans serif? Will it be based on a “handwriting” or be more geometric? Will your created font be comfortable in small sizes and suitable for long documents, or will it be a display font with an imaginative style, which works best on larger size?
3. Initial pitfalls
Two initial pitfalls to avoid:
You can choose to start by scanning your own letter, which can be a useful practice. However, because the letters are so individual, without much refinement your source may be restricted to personal use. Do not base your project on outlines of an existing font. “Helvetica with wings” will not produce a better source or help you develop your skills as a type designer.
4. Use your hands
Try creating graceful paper forms for the first few characters before you digitally refine them. Other characters can be built on the screen by combining key features such as terminations and widths.
5. By what characters do you start?
Designing certain characters first can help define the style of your type and can be used to bring harmony to others. For this, the “control characters” are used, in the case of lowercase letters these would be the N and O, and in the upper case, H and O are used.
6. Going to the computer
Most software requires a well-defined design to work effectively, so when you are satisfied with the sketch character, try delineating it with a fine-tipped pen and then fill out the form.
7. Choosing the Software
Many designers use Adobe Illustrator to start creating their types, but this is not the most appropriate tool for creating a font. You will benefit from working in an environment that makes you think about letter spacing and word creation. New software like Glyphs and Robofont are gaining more popularity with type designers, but the standard in the industry seems to be FontLab Studio for both Mac and Windows. The programs are not cheap, but Glyphs has a “mini” version in the Mac App Store, with some features removed, but that will not be lacking for beginners. Both also offer a trial version of 30 days. The other advantage of these packages is that you can export your work in progress as a source.
8. Using the Software
As with any software, it takes a little time to familiarize yourself with what you have chosen to work with. Check which interface is good and whether there are online videos that can help you in this process.
9. Text display mode
After you have drawn some letters, you can start typing words using the text view if you have chosen to use the Glyphs program. This is one of the great advantages of this software: you can edit your shapes in text view mode to start matching the characters together in words. You can then begin to make adjustments to letter spacing, as well as refine overall proportions, such as the height and width of your type.
10. Looking At The Words
After creating some characters, you can insert them into Adhesion Text, an online tool that uses a simple dictionary to show you the words you can do.
Create a simple InDesign document with some text frames and paste these words together. Set each text frame to a different font size for comparison (the sizes will depend on what the purpose of your type will be). Finally, export your type and select it in your document to see it in action. Many sites, such as Google Fonts, offer hundreds of fonts. So there is plenty of choice.
Nevertheless, there are many reasons for not wanting to resort to a policy that another has designed.
Discover more on how to create a font
Why create your own font?
You should know that creating a font can be very technical, time consuming and expensive. The intended use for your policy will help you calculate how much time and money you can put into its design. Whether it’s just for fun or testing, digital handwriting converters are just what you need. It is a software that “translates” a text written on Word into a manuscript, giving it the appearance of a message written by hand and not on a machine. If you need a font for a specific project, you may want to take some time to learn the basics and use a little more complex software. This is the category we are going to write more about here. Finally, if you plan to create a font to make it available to others afterwards, you will probably have to invest much more time in the process. And most importantly, invest in professional software.
Before starting this tutorial on how to make a font, let’s look at some basic tools.
The basic tools to start well:
- PaintFont (Free): this service allows you to turn handwriting into a font, filling in and scanning a pattern.
- FontStruct (Free): with this tool you can create a font using geometric shapes.
- FontSelf (Pay): this tool allows you to transform hand-drawn characters into font through Adobe Illustrator. Comes compatible with Adobe Photoshop.
- Metaflop (Free): this tool allows you to customize basic fonts.
Here are some stages on how to create a font:
Step 1: Design the specifications of your writing font
This is the most important step in the process. It is essential to have perfectly defined objectives. Some questions to ask yourself on how to create a font; let’s recap a little.
- Will this font be for a specific project or for a larger project?
- Will this application require a large or small text size?
- Do you want your font to be with or without a serif?
- Do you have in mind some fonts that you could inspire?
Step 2: Start creating your paper-writing font
It could obviously be tempting to immediately jump on your software. But many professionals will advise you to start on paper. Trying to create the shapes you want, true to your vision, can quickly become complicated and time consuming on a computer. A pen and paper are generally much easier and faster to use. Some useful tips on how to crate a font on paper:
- You do not necessarily need to draw all the letters of the alphabet; the recommended “control characters” are often “H”, “n”, “o”, and “y”.
- Draw the important lines to guide you later.
- Look at other existing fonts to spot recurring shapes from one letter to another.
- Moving the page instead of your hand will allow you to create softer curves.
Step 3: Choose and install your software
Many free software is available to design a typography. It’s important to find the one that will be most comfortable to use, and that will also have the features you need to reach your goal.
FontForge is an open source digital font editor, so it’s free. He has extensive online documentation that can help you get started (English only).
While the interface may be daunting at first glance, once you get used to the software, FontForge becomes a powerful tool for creating beautiful fonts.
You can create your font from scratch or load font images that you can use as a starting point.
Birdfont is slightly more intuitive than FontForge. So this may be a better option to start in creating fonts.
Just like FontForge, you can use the editor to do anything from scratch, or load images as a starting point. However, even if there are tutorials online, they are not as accurate as those of FontForge. Note that Birdfont is free to create fonts under SIL Free Font License. For commercial use of your policy, the software requires a € 5 donation.
While the 2 already mentioned software is to download and install on your computer, Glyphr Studio is a directly online interface. In terms of usability, Glyphr Studio is between FontForge and Birdfont. Slightly more intuitive than FontForge, Glyphr Studio offers an interface design aesthetically more pleasing than the other two. You will also find a lot of information about Glyphr Studio online, although less than for FontForge, again. Also, while this tool does not load an image, you can load font files for editing later.
Although these three tools offer similar options, it is ultimately according to everyone’s preferences to make their choice on how to create a font. You can test two or all three to see which seems the easiest to access.
Step 4: Start creating
Once the software is installed, you are ready to create a font.
Depending on the software chosen, you can do it all by yourself, load images from your handwritten lines as starting points or load a font file to edit.
Once your control characters are designed, you can extend your font to other letters, numbers, and special characters. This step can be quite long, it’s time to get your hands on and get used to the software. But practice will allow you to quickly speed up the process. To help you, here are some technical terms that you must know:
- Glyph: any typographic sign (character or accent) is considered a glyph
- Base line or foot line: the invisible line on which all characters will be positioned (and below which the letter legs extend, like the “p” bar).
- Jamb: part of some letters (like the p or y) that extends under the foot line
- Handle or barrel: The main vertical line of a character, like the T or the L. Can also be diagonal, and is then called “diagonal”
- Panse or roundness: closed and rounded part of certain letters like an a or a d.
- Bezier Curve: Mathematical paradigm used to design scalable curves.
We scratch only on the surface of the subject here. For the more visual people, online diagrams clearly show the terms mentioned above.
Step 5: Refine the entire writing font
When you create a font, it’s easy to focus only on the letters, one by one. However, it is also important to consider what they will look like as a whole.
Here are some tips to continue refining your characters:
- Pay attention to the spaces and kernings between the letters; during the creation process, combine pairs of letters (A and V for example) to check their spacing.
- Test many different sizes for each character.
- Print your work regularly during the creative process; to see it on paper makes it easier to spot possible subtle errors.
At this point, we are almost there! Last step in approach.
You have created the design of your font, selected and tamed your software, transferred your paper font to digital format and refined it to perfection.
It remains to use it online!
Step 6: Load your font on WordPress
Once the work is done, you will want to test your font. If the goal was to use it on your WordPress website, there are many methods for doing this. The simplest is to use a plugin, one of the most famous in the field being Use Any Font. This plugin automatically converts your files, extracts CSS code and encodes it into the files of your theme. Your font will be accessible like any other font in WordPress. This plugin works with .ttf, .otf and .woff extensions. It is free for converting a single font. For 10 € or more, you can convert an unlimited number of fonts. If you prefer not to use a plugin, another option is to add your font in your own CSS code. First, you will need to use a generator like Font Squirrel or Transfer to get the necessary code. You can then add this code to the theme’s style file named style.css. For more precision on this way, many online tutorials will guide you step by step.
How to create a font with tools for professionals?
Finally, if you want to go a little further in the creation of fonts, and seek to create fonts for other uses, more comprehensive tools are waiting for you.
FontLab Studio, FontCreator, Glyphs and Robofont are some of the most popular options used by professional typographers.