Which is the better software to start to draw typeface?

sim's picture

I work on Mac System since 1986. I used Illustrator since1988. I draw some typeface by hand (ink an pen). For those, who worked before electronic tools they know what I mean.

I wish to transform those handmade typeface to an electronic one.

Is somebody could help me to choose the right software?

Thanks for your support.

johnych's picture

A bundle of FontLab 4.6 and ScanFont 4.0 from


Mark Simonson's picture

I would recommend getting FontLab (or its less expensive sibling, TypeTool if you are on a tight budget--plus it has an upgrade path to FontLab) and learning to use the drawing tools in these programs. It is different than using Illustrator's drawing tools, but similar enough that it is not hard to figure out. In the long run you will be better off working this way rather than in a separate program like Illustrator in terms of speed and efficiency.

It is quite possible to draw a font in Illustrator and then transfer the artwork to FontLab. Many type designers work this way (I used to). There is even a companion program for FontLab called ScanFont that can very quickly get art from Illustrator to FontLab without a lot of copying and pasting or import/export business. However, there are some drawbacks to working this way, mainly to do with rounding errors. Font outlines typically inhabit a space about 1000 units tall and points can only be placed on whole unit coordinates. A drawing program like Illustrator has practicaly unlimited space in which to draw and practically unlimited precision in placing points. It doesn't seem like a big deal until you start importing artwork into a font editor and realise the stems are not all quite the same width and small features you sweated over are not quite how you drew them.

There are also ways of going from drawings on paper to FontLab via a scanner. Again, ScanFont makes this process easy but you can also import the scans into FontLab yourself. Once they are in FontLab, you can trace them just as you would in Illustrator. Alternatively, ScanFont or FontLab can auto-trace it for you, but I would not recommend this route unless you are not picky about the results. It can also be a good preliminary step before redrawing the character shapes yourself.

You may be tempted to use Macromedia Fontographer, but this program is seriously out of date (it hasn't had an update since 1996!).

There are some other capable programs out there for making fonts, but I don't know a lot about them. FontLab and Fontographer are the only ones I've spent a lot of time with.

sim's picture

FontLab sounds good for me.

I really appreciate your suggestions and your comments. I will let you know the progress of my work.

Best regards

Mark Simonson's picture

In that case, I would also recommend Leslie Cabarga's Learn FontLab Fast book. FontLab can be a bit daunting at first and Leslie's book will help a lot. I wish it had been around a few years ago when I first tried to use FontLab.

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