Creating a font is something I have always wondered about, but never had the need to learn. The need finally came up, and this brief tutorial details the steps I took to create a font based on my own handwriting.
- Font Lab - to create the font
- Adobe Illustrator - to convert bitmaps into splines
- Computer running Mac OS X or Windows
Step 1 - Creating the font on paperOn some good quality drawing paper, rule some pencil lines. I made them 8mm apart, but do whatever feels comfortable. Then write out all the characters that you wish to have in your font. I used a fountain pen as the blank ink scans well and the characters look nice. So use 4-5 lines and write: "THE QUICK BROWN FOX JUMPS OVER THE LAZY DOG" (that sentence contains all letters in the alphabet and feels more natural than just writing the alphabet -- though write the alphabet A-Z once for good measure as well). Then write all your other characters like numbers, punctuation, etc. Finally, scan in your page of text at a decent resolution (I used 300dpi).
Step 2 - Converting the Bitmap Scan to Vector LinesFire up Illustrator and open your scan. Open Illustrator's wonderful "Live Trace" tool (
Object -> Live Trace -> Tracing Options). The default options worked quite well for me, tracing fills with Black And White, I upped the threshold a bit, and reduced the corner angle from 20 to 3 (to make the curves sharper). Once done, convert to a Live Paint group (
Object -> Live Trace -> Convert to Live Paint). Your handwritten characters are now splines which we can copy into FontLab.
After Live Paint
Step 3 - Copying Splines into FontLabYour live paint selection is rather large - most characters are duplicated, and there may be other artefacts picked up by the scanner/tracing tool. To get just the splines you want into FontLab, isolate the particular characters. Generally it's best only to do a few at a time. Follow these steps:
- Deselect the current selection (
Select -> Deselect)
- By looking, find the best version of the character you wish to copy and zoom in on it.
- Click the "Direct Selection Tool", which is the cursor shaped tool at the top-RIGHT area of the tools menu.
- Select the edge of the character which should become highlighted. If the character has more than one edge, hold down the SHIFT key and select the others (e.g. A has two edges).
- Repeat for other characters you wish to select (start off with one, but as you get good you can import 5-6 at a time).
- So that just the desired character will be imported, remove the other non-selected characters. Do this by inverting the selection (
Select -> Inverse), and hitting "delete" on your keyboard. You should now be left with just the character you wanted.
- Change back to the standard cursor selection tool (the one at the top-LEFT titled "Selection Tool"), and select your character.
- Copy to Clipboard
- Switch to FontLab and from the Font window, double click on the character you are about to import
- Paste from Clipboard
'A' character is selected
'A' character pasted into FontLab
Step 4 - Formatting the Character in FontLabIt is quite possible you will need to resize the spline in font lab and make other adjustments. Common adjustments are listed below:
- Move the character so the bottom left of the character meets the origin marker.
- With the "Scale" tool, hold down shift (to maintain proportions), click and drag your mouse in a 45 degree, north-easterly direction. Move, and resize till it looks right.
- If the character has two edges, you may need to select and remove the inner edge (or in come cases flip the contours
right mouse click -> flip contours)
- Adjust the metrics in the "New Metrics Window" (the icon with the "Ty" text at the top). Select the character and adjust the amount of space to the left and right of the character (note: you will need some space or everything will look very squished).
- If you can't see where the pasted character is, try zooming in and out to locate it.
'A' character finished
Step 5 - RepeatNow repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have all your characters (yes it can take a while). Use the undo feature of Illustrator to bring the deleted characters back. Once you are done you can export your Font in Fontlab (you can also name it by using the