A Small Guide to Create your First Font

It’s a very common web design conception that the biggest items are the most important. Partially it’s true, any mistake is at a big scale and it is easier to be noticed by viewers, but ignoring the small elements is totally wrong. The letters may be considered the atoms of a website, these are, quite probable, the smallest items, therefore these might not be very important. This is a grave error. An expert can’t allow himself not to wisely weight the features of the fonts used. The countless font solutions make anyone think that the problem is almost solved, but it’s in contradiction with the number of new fonts uploaded everyday on various websites.

Making your own font isn’t a waste of time or just for the love of art, sometimes it’s necessary. The huge ocean of fonts doesn’t consist only of impressive works, there are also tons of amateurish fonts and it’s time consuming to select what really work for your project. Besides that, wouldn’t it be an honor to create your own font naming it after you or your girlfriend?

Making a font isn’t an easy task and designing a professional one is tenfold times more difficult. First of all, once you clearly establish that you should create a font it’s highly recommended to be aware that it can’t be realized in few hours, but many hours of work and great attention to small details are needed. Somehow, the process of making a font is mostly the art of fine-tuning. Secondly, if you really want to obtain a good result it is mandatory to have a solid background in the field; there are rules to respect, but before respecting them, you should know them. Fortunately, the font lovers created amazing blogs where every hidden aspect of this art/science (by the way, which is your opinion about typography, is it art or science?) is well explained and if you are unsure about something check these.

Here are some cool resources that treat this subject but you can find tons of others barely as interesting as these below:

I love Typography

I love Typography

As the name itself is suggesting, here is a great resource for the ones interested. The tips aren’t only about how to create fonts but also about many other typography aspects so you won’t waste your time reading the post from here.

JUST Creative

JUST Creative

Every designer knows that Jacob Cass is a great name in this field and it’s great to learn from him some ideas about typography and even how to create a font and what standards must be accomplish.

Typophile

Typophile

Here you may obtain priceless tips from other font lovers, if you are in doubt here is a good place to find out a solution for your issue.

Create Font

First step – the old pen and paper

First step - the old pen and paper

The majority of the font creators start their work from the never old-fashioned pen and paper; it’s true, some prefer to work directly with the software editor but here it’s about experience and talent. If you are a beginner it’s recommended to create a template with the characters to do; in this way you have full control over the size. It’s very important not to draw outside of the each character box and don’t use ball point pens because the drawings will be too thin and while scaling details are lost.

A good practice is to start with the HAMBURGEVONS letters, the rest of the letters are created from these. Also, if you really want to create something professional it is better to test, again and again, every character and never ignore or forget punctuation, numerals or special characters. It’s pretty frustrating to work and delete, work and delete, but clearly, making a font is an activity of long standing. Finally when you decide that the “shapes” are the base of a beautiful font, ink these and prepare for the next phase.

Scanning and converting to vectors

From now you can forget about pen and paper and switch to the computers and digital tools. The first step is to scan your papers. Once these are fully scanned, usually by using Adobe Photoshop (it isn’t a mistake to use other tools) you should correct these (delete white spaces, improve the contrast, luminosity, correct the small and inherent errors – each case needs an individual approach, here are only the general issues). The majority of specialists agree with the fact that scanning at 300 dpi will assure the perfect details and it should be done in grayscale.

The next step supposes to transform your raster files into vectors. Depending on your software solutions there are many variants, anyway a medium user of Adobe or similar products should convert these easily.

The effective work

The effective work

At this step we suppose that the vector format of your letters is imported in the software of your choice. The aspect of the characters is almost finished; here it’s mostly about fine-tuning. The complexity of letter combinations is a great enemy for any font maker; it’s unbelievably hard to keep into account all “unpleasant neighborhoods”. Some of the common problems are related to the “relationship” between “A” and “V” or “W”; the distance between “o” and other letters must be carefully studied. All these modification to do are called by specialists kerning, therefore pay attention to this term and most important, think at the interval between characters.

Export and enjoy!

Export and enjoy!

The endeavor is at the end and now you should benefit from the work invested. The last step is to export the font, the most common format being Open Type (running on both platforms), True Type, cid-keyed etc. Finally, insert it in your projects and don’t forget to name it. A great font, liked by many other designers is a great chance to make your name famous and attract clients. The possibilities of selling the font are great and these that are qualitative, interesting, and eye-catching the designers will pay enough to fully reward the efforts.

Font Creator Softwares

I wish you all the best with your font and in the end I present you the most useful applications that allow creating fonts, definitely, there are many other solutions but these are the most common amongst font makers.

Inkscape

Inkscape

It is open source software and it’s suitable for everyone that wants to try his skills in making a font.

FontCreator

FontCreator

It a very powerful tool having a lot of options, it’s more aimed at specialists. The prices are reasonable, starting from 79$ to 299$. Briefly, you can’t be a real font maker without once having worked with Font Creator.

Fontlab Typographic Tools

Here you may find many solutions, it’s welcomed to visit yourself this website and select which is the best product for your needs.

FontStruct

FontStruct

The technology evolved exponentially and nowadays is possible to create a font in your browser…much more it’s for free!

BitfontMaker

BitfontMaker

If you are bored with the previous one, feel free to use this online application; personally, I consider it a little bit rudimentary, but anyway, you can create your font here.

Raster font editor

Raster font editor

The novelty of this resource consists in portability; it isn’t a brilliant software but if you need a font to be edited and light modified, then this tool is perfect.

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2 Comments
  1. Miguel A. Rodriguez Aug 1, 7:57 pm

    Adrian, great article i learn a lot form reading it, and it has inspired me to create a font. You never know it might turn out food.

    As per your question (Which is your opinion about typography, is it art or science?)
    I definitely think its both! — i know it seams like a cop out but let me explain– From what i understand each individual letter is drawn over and over until perfection. Once it is perfect from an artistic view point we import it to the font creating program, there we measured and change them to fit the scientific expectations that transforms it into something everyone can enjoy.

    @RC3Design

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  2. Rick Jan 17, 7:59 pm

    Great post! I’ll defiantly check out these resources. Thanks

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