Paths, Scaling, Import and Fontographer

octopi's picture


I am very new to building fonts. I have converted a few for work and tweaked, but creating from scrtach is a whole new board game.

Ok, so my task is to make a font from a hand drawn alphabet. I have two seperate scans one comprising of all the upper case characters, the other, lower case characters. I am running OS X and own Fontographer 4.1.4 and have access to FontLab 4.6. My Mac will boot natively into OS 9 if need be.

Right, I placed the scan of the upper case characters into Illustrator 10 and have traced the characters to the point where I am very happy with them. I have done the same with the lower case and so have two Illustrator 10 files that make up my alphabet, all drawn and traced in proportion to each other. Now my problems start. Copying and pasting directly from Illustrator 10 into Fontographer doesn't want to work at all. I have read that doing this natively in OS 9 and using Illustrator 8 will cure this but have yet to try it, can anyone confirm this? I can import the whole EPS into fontographer but this means the whole alphabet is in one glyph space and the letters are tiny, and I mean really small (remember I had to trace a hand drawn image of the characters). When I split them up by copy and paste into individual lettersFontographer resizes which causes a huge problem with the lower case letters as they become the same size as the upper case characters and because the upper case is in one file and the lower in another, fontographer applies different scaling to each set.

Now that I have traced and am happy with my bezier curve drawings in illustrator I could enlarge them proportionally but what is the optimum size for doing this that would make them appear at a decent size in Fontographer? I imported the curves into FontLab but they got hideously mangled and aside from my scaling problem in Fontographer, the curves came into that damn near perfectly. And of course I own Fontographer and have used it before.

So (sorry to ramble guys) this should be relatively simple but is driving me crazy. Because the characters are hand drawn they are all proportionate to each other and that is how I want them in fontographer but the scaling is all over the place when I finally get something into it. I have read the Fontographer manual and am looking forward to messing with getting the font spaced and kerned etc but I just cannot get my slaved over bezier curves out of illustrator and into fontographer without messing up the size and proportions I worked hard to keep in the original tracing.

Any help to these novice questions wouold be very greatly received.

Thanks for reading.

beng's picture

There's an easy way to fix this. (Sorry for my incorrect terminology and english in the following): In Illustrator make a rectangle the size which extends from the character which has the lowest point to the letter which has the highest (from the descender to the ascender). When you copy from Illustrator you should copy several letters (or all of them if your computer can handle it) together with that rectangle.

Move to your font application and paste the characters into a slot. Now you should have your characters in Fontographer or FontLab. And they should all be proportionally aligned as you intended. From there on it’s just a matter of moving each letter into its own slot. I hope that helps.


octopi's picture

Thanks for the reply. I got the outlines into Fontographer by using Illustrator 8 and the scaling trick worked a treat.

I find myself in the bizarre position of being asked to digitise an artists handwritten font which is going to be on a specific range of greetings cards for a company that has world wide distribution - and this is the first font I have ever digitised.

I spent a long time tracing the scans and the spacing and kerning was fun to do as the font is emulating handwriting and requires a certain random look to emulate the original scans.

Today I took the font in and within an hour they had approved it and the art team were using it on the range of cards, which is quite scary as I have not even finished making ALL the characters I would like to include with the font. Due to very long ascenders and descenders the font is quite small in comparison to other fonts at the same point size. I offered tho try and tweak this but they want to use the font now and say that it will only ever be used for captions and although it would be useless for body text it works very well for the captions.

Three weeks ago I had never made or even attempted to make a font and I would like to thank typophile for the many hours of fine reading material. I am now hooked and although my first font is going to appear in a number of countries on an overwhelming number of cards, I am now seriously into type faces.

I did try FontLab but my bezier drawings pasted into it so badly that I may have well just drawn them in FontLab to start with. Trouble was, I had already drawn them in illustrator (which I have experience with) and once I realised that I had to use Illustrator 8, the curves went into Fontographer perfectly.

Thanks again for the help.


twardoch's picture

> I did try FontLab but my bezier drawings pasted
> into it so badly that I may have well just drawn
> them in FontLab to start with. Trouble was, I
> had already drawn them in illustrator (which
> I have experience with) and once I realised that
> I had to use Illustrator 8, the curves went
> into Fontographer perfectly.


note however that Fontographer will also distort your glyphs -- when it generates the font. Fontographer allows non-integer coordinates during the drawing, so you can paste arbitrary artwork, and freely scale and move it in Fontographer. But when Fontographer generates the font, it will round all the coordinates to integers, causing your outline points change positions. It can be easily tested: just generate a Type 1 font in Fontographer and read it back in, then compare.

FontLab does to rounding already at the beginning of the process. So if you scale the glyphs to the appropriate size in Illustrator and paste them into FontLab, you will see exactly what the forms will look like in the final font. In the end, whatever goes into the font from Fontographer or FontLab, is the same. The difference is that FontLab always shows you in full WYSIWYG what the font outlines will look like while Fontographer allows you more freedom in the design process but then does the coordinate rounding for you in an uncontrolled manner. Which usually means you will have to redraw the glyphs anyway so *you* decide where the nodes should snap rather than the application.

There are some additional informations at:

Adam Twardoch
Fontlab Ltd. -- The home for Fontographer and FontLab

parker's picture

"Fontlab Ltd. — The home for Fontographer and FontLab"

mmmmm.....just PR issue -- why not Fontlab Ltd. — The home for FontLab and Fontographer ?

octopi's picture

Thanks Adam, that makes sense now I have generated my font. I must admit that because I actually own Fontographer I could play around with it a lot more.

I am pleased with how this has gone and the font does look like the artists original captions, right down to the spacing and kerning. It was a steep learning curve and I haven't even begun to scratch the surface.

Here is a pdf of the captions followed by the same caption written in the font. Remember, it is my first attempt and the brief was to remain faithful to the hand drawn alphabet.

My Font

Thanks for your help and I look forward to checking out the alternative and forthcome font making apps......


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