fontlab and illustrator

Doug Bernhardt's picture

Hi all. I'm new to this forum and thought I'd introduce myself as well as post a question. I've been involved in lettering for about 40years now through the sign industry and as of late been exploring font design. Although I have been drawing by hand for all this time I have begun to really enjoy the creative avenues opened up with tools like illustrator.

My question is...I've recently learned/heard that illustrator cs6 and font lab no longer "co-operate". Fontlab is a tool I would very much like to explore and have seen a couple of short tutorials on it's use. Is this in fact true and would love about the experience of others in this aspect. Further to this subject is that I own 2 licensed versions of the adobe suites, cs6 for mac and cs4 for pc and am trying to decide about which tool to continue using.

Thanx in advance

bojev's picture

I do not know what you mean by "co-operate" but you can cut and paste glyphs from Illustrator 6 into Fontlab Studio 5.

donshottype's picture

Bob is right. For a simple export of a letter, or group of letters in an eps/ai file etc, open the file in illustrator, select a letter or group of letters, copy, and paste into a new AI file. Usually this selection does not fill the page. Transform it by resizing so that it fills a good proportion of the page. Copy the result to the clipboard. Paste the result into a glyph in Fontlab. Resize -- should not be a major change if it filled a page in AI.
And edit. Often path direction is opposite to Fontlab -- if you are working with ps outlines. Close open contours. Edit and you have your result. Hope this is a clear explanation.

George Thomas's picture

Fontlab is a tool I would very much like to explore and have seen a couple of short tutorials on it's use.

If you haven't already bought FontLab Studio, please take a look at Glyphs before you do. It's much easier to learn and use, plus the developer is extremely responsive to fixing bugs and is quite helpful in other ways too. There are other reasons to look at other apps too. 1) Glyphs is cheaper, and 2) FontLab is working on a replacement app for FontLab Studio. It's anyone's guess when they'll have it ready for prime time despite their ongoing promises that it will be "soon".

One caveat, though. If you do decide to go with Glyphs, don't buy it from the Apple app store. Buy it direct from You'll get updates and bug fixes much faster that way. You can get a Demo Version here:

bojev's picture

Fontographer and TypeTool are choices as well - I tried Glyphs and after years with Fontographer and FontLab found it not worth the effort to learn a new workflow. It seemed OK but .......

donshottype's picture

I agree Bob, there is a long and steep learning curve for font making tools. I remember my first one, not by name -- pre-Fontographer, which I forget, but by the fact that the most effective way to place a point was by enter the locations of points as numbers!

Doug Bernhardt's picture

Thanx so much for all the resources etc to follow up on. As a newbie to these programs is anyone of them more capable when creating ligatures etc? And further are there any tutorials or resources you would recommend.

bojev's picture

"Learn Fontlab Fast" by Leslie Cabarga is a good book to start with beyond pdf manual. His book "Logo Font and Lettering Bible" also includes a bunch of tipt on making fonts from lettering etc( relevant to Fontographer and Fontlab). I would also suggest that Scanfont is a useful tool for taking hand lettering into Fontlab. A number of online tutorials are also out - just google.

Equilibs's picture

Modern Font Editors moves to a browser based solutions, where FontArk is the pioneer and leading vecrtor type design tool.
You can export the font as OTF file and move to other font editors for advance features.
Fontark saves a LOT of time spent on the technical side of font design by working on multiple glyphs simultaneously, and constructing the basic characters shape with the Skeleton feature.
Fontark's UI is the simplest (No complex and hidden menus and commands), yet it's system is most sophisticate. considering the ability to simply modify groups of characters, including the entire character set at once (when suitable) Fontark cuts off up to 90% of the repetitive, quite pointless, intersect-copy-paste-fit-merge operations, and represent a completely new and enjoyable type design experience.

Still in beta and under development Fontark has some limitations, most of which can be fulfilled with other font editors, the rest will be removed quite soon as it's being developed pretty fast.

Using Fontark is completely free at the moment (and won't make you broke when a payment system will be suggested), and demands no download/installation what so ever (provided you're equipped with a Chrome/Safari browser), you can even test it without signing up... just click the start button, no questions asked.

Support and guidance are given gladly and on the spot as well.

Recommended warmly.

hrant's picture

FontArk seems promising! I do need to point out something critical however: the best type is not based on skeletons, so I hope you can support actual outlines before too long.


Equilibs's picture

Thanks hrant.

We're well aware to the limitations of skeletons when it comes to type design. In fact you can create and design fonts with Fontark regardless to the skeleton even now. You can go straight to the Outline layer and draw anything you like in any way you like.

Fontark's Skeleton feature gives two important and fundamental advantages...1. speed of constructing the basis of the characters (by the time you'll scan, trase and refine your hand drawn character you can create from scratches several characters including unique outline details (depending on the complexity) of those drawn by hand by you, and probably enjoy it more). 2. characters connectivity, once you've built up your characters skeleton (or make use of an existing template) and connect it to the SX system, the whole font comes alive and you can control it in so many ways (weights, proportions, caps and soon contrast and much more) it's just worth any effort.

The Skeleton is the basis for quite a lot, but you're not limited to and by it, it won't suit all designers, but used wisely (and developed properly on Fontark's side) it can take type design to a completely new level.

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