Creating multiple characters at once in FontLab or Glyphs

Erix's picture

I make hand-drawn typefaces using an Illustrator to FontLab workflow like this:

1. Scan.
2. Vectorize in Illustrator [using ImageTrace in AI CS6].
3. Copy and paste individual glyphs into FontLab.

I used to be satisfied with this workflow, but now that I'm making more fonts, I really want the ability to import multiple characters/glyphs at once, so that I don't have to go back and forth copying and pasting over a hundred times per typeface. All of my characters start out together in a single AI file. Is there any way to get them into FontLab (or Glyphs) all at once as separate glyphs?

hrant's picture

Forget Illustrator and work directly in FontLab.


Erix's picture

To clarify, I'm not drawing the vectors manually—I'm using Illustrator to vectorize automatically, tracing the scanned image in one step with the Image Trace feature (previously called Live Trace).

I didn't think you could do that in FontLab without also buying their ScanFont app, which I am trepidatious about because a) it hasn't been updated in six years, and b) Illustrator has gotten pretty good at tracing bitmaps over the last few releases.

hrant's picture

FontLab does have a trace feature, but it's certainly possible Illustrator's is better. However, a human (especially the one who made the original drawings :-) is still much better than anything.


gargoyle's picture

There is a script that can automate some of that process, though it requires the use of a specially-made template file in Illustrator:
Font Generating Script Using Illustrator and FontLab Studio.

Also, ignore the part in the video where he says that the script creates a "fully built, properly spaced font"—you'll still need to do plenty of building and spacing in FontLab.

Mark Simonson's picture

ScanFont provides a really quick way to get Illustrator art into FontLab. You basically open the Illustrator document in ScanFont, adjust the scaling factor, and export as a FontLab file (or into an open FontLab file).

Unfortunately, they haven't released an Intel-native version yet, so it can't run on Mac OS 10.7 or 10.8 natively. In the mean time, it is possible to run the Windows version on a Mac in a VM or similar.

filip blazek's picture

ScanFont for Windows doesn't work. I bought this piece of shit in 2007 and immediately asked for a refund. Successfully, because they know they sell a product which does not work as described. I wrote them back in 2007:

I just bought ScanFont 5 and I am very disappointed. It simply doesn't work. When I try to import EPS file (saved as EPS for Adobe Illustrator 3 and other versions), it doesn't work at all. "File is damaged or contain invalid data.". When I try to export the curves to FontLab, it says "Unable to find FontLab server application" followed by "FontLab server is not responding in time. Pleas witch (!) to FontLab and close unnecessary modal dialogs." Of course, there are no opened dialogs in FL.

They sent me some kind of a workaround which was not useful anyway. There was no way to use ScanFont with vector data on my Windows 64bit system.

Mark Simonson's picture

That's too bad. I assumed it still works okay on Windows.

Thomas Phinney's picture

I think is is a bit of a stretch to state that because it did not work well on a 64-bit Windows system 6 years ago, that there is an issue with it on Windows today. (I'm not saying there is no issue, but it seems like a bit of a leap.)

Mihai Fox's picture

Will this work on windows 9 ?
They say that it will release next year.

windows 9 release date

oldnick's picture

I recently gave ScanFont a test drive, and encountered the same error messages. However, when I exported the file as EPS without the header, it worked fine—as least, the scanned images opened in FontLab. But, there must be some trick I'm overlooking, because the baseline of the outlines placed in FontLab were all over the place.

blokland's picture

There is another route for auto-tracing-in-batch and it’s a free one too. The Light version of DTL FontMaster contains a fully functional version of TraceMaster. With TM you can auto-trace multiple TIFF files at once and convert these to a BE glyph database. Open the BE file in BezierMaster (Light), generate a PS Type1 font and open this in whatever font tool you prefer (or stick to BM). Another option is to trace in IKARUS format and to use TransType to convert the IK file to any other format.

Although the auto-tracer in Illustrator CS6 is pretty good IMHO (much better than in previous versions), TM is the best auto-tracer in our and any other parallel universe (really!). The algorithms were developed decades ago by Dr. Jürgen Willrodt for a large American type foundry that lost all IKARUS data and that had to convert printed glyphs in a jiffy (it’s blazingly fast too). It’s a bit older technology though, and therefore there are a few restrictions:

–the TIFF file should be a B/W bitmap
–no layers nor any compression are allowed

You could give it a try. My students are in general quite pleased with it.


Syndicate content Syndicate content