anonymous's picture

New here. I've been following the site for about a month and thought I'd start a new thread. (where's Hrant?) So here's my question to all of you talented fontmakers and typographers. How do you do it? I've read fontmaking tutorials but most of those are not useful and Fontographer is very vague and outdated. I build my characters in Illustrator, using guides and using the pen and pathfinder tools but I want to know if there are some tricks so that my characters are all the same height, and do you need to convert anchor points, etc. etc. Could someone else who works in Illustrator > Fontographer please give me some insight.

thank you.

hrant's picture

I hate being called "nice", but here goes:

The one advice I would give is to open up
fonts from highly-regarded designers, and:

1. Don't copy the forms.

2. Do try to deconstruct what they
were *thinking*, and learn from that.


Christian Robertson's picture


I'll tell you the trick that actually made fontographer useful to me. When I am ready to export to illustrator (see illustration) I make a rectangular shim and place it directly on the left edge of the letter in question. The bottom of the shim rests on the descender height of the lowest descender, and the top on the ascender height of the highest. This way, all of the letters come in at exactly the right size and perfectly aligned.

It's important that the shim not move up or down as you move it from letter to letter, as it will throw off your alignment. I also use the shim to set letterspacing, moving it a little to the left or right depending on the letter.

After pasting each letter simply delete the shim in fontographer. There may be a faster way to do this (someone tell me if they know it), but this has worked best for me so far.

Good luck,

Christian Robertson

deadbeat's picture

i was recently interduced to the "CHANK" method.
i was doing something along the same lines before but i was going back and forth to Fon. and illustator, leter by letter. Follow the directions that christian posted above. it will open many doors for you!

hrant's picture

> How far under the baseline should a rounded letter go? I've analyzed some fonts and some dip like 1/16 of an inch.

What's an inch? Worry about em units.

In a text face, projections of round parts (and not just at the baseline) should generally be around 15/1000 ems. Projections of pointed parts (like the tip of the lc "v", if it's not very flat) should be a little more.

BTW, looking at existing fonts is a great idea, as long as you're sure they're good (choose stuff by Matthew Carter).

> How long should kerning a font take?

It depends on your dedication level as well as the sensitivity of your users. For a basic Latin font, between a day and a week. BTW, avoid auto-kerning.

> how important is hinting.

There are two kinds of hinting:
1. For print: it's very important on laser printers, but not important on high-end offset printing (like in a book).
2. For screen: if you expect people to read the font on-screen (as opposed to just typeset it) then hinting (specifically delta-hinting, which is a major pain) is extremely important. But you can always make bitmap fonts instead - that's easier.

> How long is hinting supposed to take?

I haven't done huge amounts of hinting,
but recently I hinted three somewhat similar TT fonts for screen rendering: the first one took almost three weeks (major learning curve), the other two a little over a week each. Hinting for print is a lot easier, but still takes learning and time.

> please post some information

Just one thing: don't expect too much help from experts, I'm sad to say - they tend to be very protective; mid-range people are generally your best bet.


hrant's picture

See what I mean?...


anonymous's picture

Bravo Hrant! You are correct sir. Gimme a whack with a New Century Schoolbook! Let me rephrase in the form of a question.

What is one essential tip that you (and all your colleagues) can share to help some of the novices and neophytes who want to build a perfect font from scratch? This is a technical question that assumes a knowledge of type history, styles, etc. and focuses on nitty-gritty mechanics.

Please, advanced typographers, drop in a tip and check it twice, and we'll find out who's naughty or nice.


Jared Benson's picture

There is. I have always used the "Chank" method of pasting a series of letters (say, A-G, H-N, etc) with your shim.

It goes without saying, but it allows you to avoid frequent swapping between apps to get all your letterforms into Fog, saving some time.


anonymous's picture

I'm using fontographer and I can't figure out how to paste my outlines into fontographer so I can edit them.

I followed the tutorial on Chank's site, holding down the option key while using the pulldown menus to copy. But when I paste into Fontographer it's still gray and not editable outlines.

Does Fontographer work with Illustrator 9? I even tried copying from freehand 8 but get the same problem. You'd think freehand would work with fontographer... Is Macromedia just full of slackers?

Oh yeah, and I'm on a Mac. Help! (And happy new year too!)

Jared Benson's picture

I don't think you can export via Illustrator 9. Here's a workaround:

1. Save your file out as an earlier version (ie. 3.0/3.2) Illustrator EPS.

2. Double-click the first character in Fog to pull up the character's edit window.

3. Select File/Import/EPS and import your file.

anonymous's picture

This site is great. I'm picking up little bits from all over. I wish there was a Fontographer tutorial put together by someone who actually puts out fonts on a regular basis. This would bring me glee.

I'm working on my first couple fonts via Illustrator and Fontographer. Illustrator 9 does not work with Fontogapher. Fontographer should get whipped with a wet noodle for neglecting their product. Is there an update planned?

okay, to the nitty-gritty. Remember, I am a neophyte. I'm trying to make the 'Great American Font' It's a continuous reading font with serifs. I am not ready to post anything, but I will as soon as I get a few things figured out.

How far under the baseline should a rounded letter go? I've analyzed some fonts and some dip like 1/16 of an inch.

What is the trick with kerming? There are advanced settings. The fontographer book is not a real-world guide. What do people actually do? What settings?

How long should kerning a font take? (hours, days, weeks?)

If a font is ever released to the general public, and it's a continuous-reading font, how important is hinting. I've noticed that certain fonts that come with your computer are very big. They must have hinting. But other free fonts on the internet obviously have no hinting. They are small.

How long is hinting supposed to take? (Days, weeks, et cetera)

Any people who have actually made and released fonts or any of their colleagues, please post some information. You will make beginners like me happy.


hrant's picture

Dude, that's not a question, that's a *book*! :-)


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