Pixelfont Tutorials

hrant's picture

I'm doing sort of a plundering :-) of online (and I guess even offline) tutorials that explain how to make pixelfonts (outline fonts that use blocks to render pixels at a given PPEM). I know such tutorials have been discussed before, but some searches through Typophile were more distracting than helpful... So any links would be appreciated.

hhp

Mark Simonson's picture

Here are a few links:

http://www.iamcal.com/misc/fonts/pixfonttut/part1.php

http://newsfeed.fatorcaos.com.br/000032.html

The previous link includes a link to a mirror of Matthew Bardram's long-lost tutorial:
http://www.ultrashock.com/ff.htm?http://ultrashock.com/tutorials/flash5/fonttutorial.html
I wonder if they have his permission?

There are more ways to skin this cat than are listed here. As you know, Chris at UltraFonts has developed his own very clever (and patented?) method in-house. For the pixel fonts I released last year, I developed some methods myself based somewhat on Bardram's methods. At TypeCon2003, Craig Kroeger of Miniml demonstrated his method, which used some techniques I hadn't seen before (similar to the first tutorial above). The Underware people seem to use yet another method (lots of individual boxes with slight gaps between them). And, of course, there is FontLab's FontFlasher, which I have, but haven't had time to investigate much. Last and possibly least, there is PixFont.

One method I've noticed that is particularly clever, and is used by several developers, is making it so the font size is always 8 point, regardless of the actual size of the font. This is particularly useful to Windows users because they have to overcome the fact that Flash assumes 72 dpi while other programs assume 96 dpi. (On Macs, everything is 72 dpi, so this is not an issue.) So, you use 8 point in Flash and 6 point in other apps. If the base size was 10 point, then you would have to use 7.5 point in other apps, which may not be allowed. Anyway, it makes life simpler for Windows users wanting to use the fonts outside of Flash. (I wish I'd known this when I created my pixel fonts. I should probably change them to use this method, but so far I've had no complaints.)

hrant's picture

Mark, killer compilation! Thanks a bunch. I'll mine those pronto.

hhp

Mark Simonson's picture

Also, I don't know of any offline sources for pixel font tutorials, although I would imagine Computer Arts has probably done something on it.

hrant's picture

Yeah, that recent special type issue of CA had something by one Cal Henderson.

> The Underware people

What bugs me about that is that the gaps can fall apart during the inevitable "discretization" onscreen at certain (larger-than-intended) sizes. It seems like a quickie way of doing it.

BTW, Chris's method (which also uses 8 point exclusively*) is much more than clever - it's genial. Not only does it do gray, but it's automated. All will be told during their workshop on Thursday PM at TypeCon...

* One nice thing about this is that the user doesn't need to know what PPEM the font is (except for predicting exact leading needs), so you don't have to put that in the name!

When you have a chance to review FontFlasher do let us know the results!

hhp

Mark Simonson's picture

...it's automated.

That's what I meant when I said it was clever.

It's nice that the FontLab folks created FontFlasher for FontLab, but I would have been much happier if they had done something similar for their BitFonter. I also wish they would make BitFonter run native in OS X (as I'm sure others would like to see it run on Windows). BitFonter would seem to be the most natural tool for creating pixel fonts, but it can't (not directly at least).

yar's picture

Mark, we are testing BitFonter 2 right now. It will have FontFlasher-style export (directly to FontLab trough plugin interface) and of course, it works natively in OS X. Has kerning editor for our Photofonts too :-)

Mark Simonson's picture

That sounds absolutely perfect. :-)

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