I've drawn my first font in AI, now what...?

Jean Paul Beumer's picture

I'm looking for some simple yet effective font software to make my design (Adobe Illustrator) into a real font. About 20 years ago I worked with Fontographer which was quite pleasing, but I suspect it's changed over the years. And perhaps there is by now much better software?

Tips anyone?

blank's picture

There’s a chapter in the Fontlab manual that explains how to go from Illustrator to Fontlab. Get Fontlab, bring your letters into Fontlab, space them, draw them to work with each other, test and proof relentlessly, etc..

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

Warning: Although Fontlab is a very powerful tool, it’s very complicated too (specially if you used to work with the old Fontographer). There’s a version of Fontographer (4.7) who runs in Mac OS X and the developers presented at Atypi the soon to be realized Fontographer 5.

That said, the way to go now is Fontlab: it enables a lot of good stuff but, as I said, it’s a tool that requires a lot of patience, training, watching forums like this…

More info:
http://www.fontlab.com/font-editor/fontographer/
http://www.fontlab.com/font-editor/fontlab-studio/

(As you may see, both softwares are from the same company now.)

xo's picture

@Cristobal
"Although Fontlab is a very powerful tool, it’s very complicated too"

I disagree, it took me about 10-20 minutes to get used to the tools in FontLab. Of course, I am quite cozy with other programs like FontForge, which omashuisje is probably not.

If you want to make a font with Illustator as your drawing tool, then that's perfectly fine. FontLab has an option to import both Illustrator and Encapsulated Postscript files. Although, you will have to export each glyph individually (there might be scripts to do this, although I'm not exactly sure, as Illustrator isn't my tool of choice for drawing glyphs).

It takes a bit of practice, but it shouldn't be a total pain. I wish luck! :)

Igor Freiberger's picture

Jean Paul,

you can pick up the FontLab demo version and read the manual (a PDF available for free in FontLab site). Don't be intimidated by the large number of pages. Parts of the manual are repeated to let user find proper info in an easier way. And, as you already designed your font, you can even ignore some chapters about specific design tools.

I'm doing a typeface in that way: design the glyphs in Illustrator, copy and paste them in FontLab. Instructions about how to bring the vectors from IL to FL are in page 520. You don't have to export each glyph as an EPS.

You may get the impression the program is somewhat complex, but this is not really true (in my opinion). There are some aspects of type design which are complex per si, as hinting and kerning.

I did not used FontForge, so cannot talk about it.

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

I didn’t want to imply that omashuisje should stay away from Fontlab. If you want a state-of-the-art typeface, Fontlab is your best option. I am just saying that in the good old days Fontographer was great (“quite pleasing”, as omashuisje said). But certainly they were simpler times: only 256 characters per font, not so many options in the font info, no OT features to worry about… Really easy to get a font working in your system. That takes more effort today. I haven’t used it in years, but I remember that it was a lovely tool. omashuisje’s wish about a software “simple yet effective” sounds more like Fontographer to me, specially if he worked with that software in the past. But yeah, he can download the Fontlab demo, read the manual, and decide for himself.

[BTW, this nostalgic feeling about Fontographer is shared by many people: otherwise Fontlab’s people wouldn’t resurrect it.]

.00's picture

I'm looking for some simple yet effective font software to make my design (Adobe Illustrator) into a real font.

Simple? Effective?

Just shoot yourself in the head and be done with it. Much less painful than making a font.

Igor Freiberger's picture

I read recently here in Typophile a post from Adam Twardoch announcing FontLab is preparing a new version of Fontographer. Their approach is to make it easier than FontLab. Anyway, there is no release date planned by now.

Cristobal made an opportune observation. These days, it seems font design became more and more complex. So, even with an 'easy' program, to build a font is a difficult task.

Jean Paul Beumer's picture

Looks like FontLab is the way to go.

Thanks @ all!

I've enclosed a JPG of the design, all comments welcome! (Is the cap M too fat?)

Jean Paul Beumer's picture

I forgot, the testsheet is set in AI without any regards towards kerning... ;-)

Jean Paul Beumer's picture

I must stop hitting the post button...

Some characters are still to be designed, but I feel I'm on the right track here...

Igor Freiberger's picture

I like it, nice design. But the upper leg of lc k seems a bit too thin.

.00's picture

After you recover from your head wound, you should but ScanFont from the FontLab folks. The $100 or so that it costs is well worth what you get in functionality.

It will take your AI outlines and place them in order in a FontLab vfb file in about 5 seconds. That is of course if you set the glyphs up in the proper order in AI.

Marvellous Madness's picture

If you are going with the AI to FontLab method, here's a nice tut on how to set it up:
http://font.is/?p=48

.00's picture

Oh forget that demo, it's for cheapskates.

Buy ScanFont, it's really, really worth the price. Think of all the things you can do with the extra time.

Live the dream.

Mark Simonson's picture

I'll second James' recommendation for ScanFont. It doesn't do much, but what it does do can save a huge amount of time and tedious effort. Sure, it costs a hundred bucks, but how much is your time worth to you? Unless maybe you're doing it totally as a hobby kind of thing...

Igor Freiberger's picture

I agree ScanFont is a nice program. But it is not enough to create a font. You will need another tool to generate the .otf files.

Mark Simonson's picture

Well, yes, it's meant to work with either FontLab or TypeTool. It produces .vfb files, or moves outlines directly to one of those two apps. If you're not using either of those programs, then it's kind of useless. But, if you are, it makes a lot of sense to have it around.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

Jean Paul-

You have a very dual design in my opinion; on one hand it has all the technical specs pretty much right.

But on the other hand, your basic design has some very basic flaws: your 'S' and 's' are just too wide, and also your 'm'is too wide, as well as your 'x'. In a sense your 'a' works, but I would narrow it some 10 to 20 percent.

It seems to me that you have taken a well used font, figured out the scale and proportions, and used those for your design.

Well done.

Jean Paul Beumer's picture

@Tomi from Suomi
It seems to me that you have taken a well used font, figured out the scale and proportions, and used those for your design.

I'm not sure whether you're being sarcastic or just positive... I guess it depends on how I read it. Sure, I've looked closely at other great fonts, in particular Gerard Unger's Big Vesta. I know it looks a lot like it, but hey, I just like to draw fonts as a hobby. Imitation is the highest form of flattery.

Thanks for your wide and narrow comments though, that's just what I need to hear! Still learning after 41 years!

Jean Paul Beumer's picture

@all

For downloadable PDF type specimen please go to http://typophile.com/node/67416

theReader's picture

TypeTool from Fontlab will do the job at reasonable cost.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

Jean Paul-

I was not being sarcastic. You've done well.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

Word of caution, though; AI is not concerned with scale, and fonts are usually in 1000 x 1000 Em square, so make sure your stems, spurs etc. are correct.

That is the reason I only design glyphs in a font program. I know it's pretty anal, but if you want to make a good font, you have to control the point. This is true in both aestethic and mechanic aspect.

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