How Do You Create Fonts?

Note: This is a pretty old article. I wrote a much more in depth and up to date article in PC Plus Magazine's Sept 2005 Issue (issue 234). Todd

Many of you have written to me asking how you can make your own TrueType fonts. Since I have gotten so many requests for this info, I decided to put together this set of basic steps to give you a general idea of what's involved. Although I just discuss True Type creation, these steps are the same for Postscript too.

There are two basic types of fonts you might be creating, Original fonts and Modified fonts. Its definitely more work to create your own original fonts from scratch. You may want to use this technique to create a few special characters and save them in TrueType format for use in different programs. Making modified fonts is a little easier than creating a font from scratch but the results can be just as cool and unique. Many of the headaches of figuring out sizing, spacing etc. are much easier when you start with an existing font. Just check you license agreement to make sure it's OK.

Original Fonts

The basic font creation process is:

  1. Draw your characters (if you are not doing this on the computer, you will then need to scan your drawing). You will now have a bitmap picture file.
  2. Trace (or auto-trace) the characters to convert them from bitmap to vector (outline) format.
  3. Fine-tune the characters to clean them up and reduce unnecessary points and nodes.
  4. Save or export the characters to Fontographer.
  5. Edit kerning and spacing.
  6. Generate font files.

Here is a complete tutorial from Chank

Modified Fonts

The main difference between modifying fonts and creating them from scratch is that you will start by typing out all of the characters in the font you will be modifying (don't forget to leave space between the letters). Then you will be doing your modifications in an image editing program like Photoshop. Once you have the look you want, save the bitmap picture, trace it to vector format, fine tune it and export to font file.

If you have a program like Fontographeror Font Lab, you can directly open up a font and make your modifications to the font and save it as a new font. If you are working on fonts in this way, be aware that the font you are working from may be copyrighted. If it is, you will need to obtain permission from the owner to use his/her font "code".

What software can I use?

Most people creating fonts have been using Fontographer. Fontographer has the ability to perform all of the steps necessary to create professional quality fonts. If you are getting into this pretty seriously I'd say you must have this program.The main difference between this dedicated font program and more general purpose graphics programs is it's ability to edit kerning/spacing/hinting/etc. It also has tools which are focused on making fonts easily and quickly. (Since Fontpgrapher hasn't been updated for years, I've started using FonLab. FontLab is very robust and works in OSX too.)

The main program I use to create the basic vector outlines for fonts is Adobe Illustrator . I have used Painter to draw original fonts because of its great simulation of natural medial such as pen & ink. I also use Adobe Photoshop for most of my modifications to bitmap images. To trace the bitmaps into vector format I use Adobe Streamline or the "make path" function in Photoshop. I then open the vector drawing in Illustrator for touch-up and export to Fontographeror FontLab . I always use to Fontographer to check my final designs.

I hope this gives you a very general overview of what's involved in creating your own fonts. If I get more time I may add more detail to this, but for now this is all of the info I can tell you about making fonts. It can be a lot of work but the results can be quite rewarding.

All of the above names are Trademarks of their respective companies.


Copyright © 1995-2005 Cool Fonts All Rights Reserved