For the Design of Type

Kelley Olmedo
Kelley OlmedoDesigner

It’s been noted before by my previous blog that I am an obsessive font fiend, but I have never delved into the world of font creation (though I have edited fonts here and there when a character pestered my design). As a “creative” my brain naturally gravitates towards learning new skills, new programs, and new ways to be creative, so it was inevitable that I would find my way to trying my hand at designing a font eventually, and then here we are...

In approaching font design, I discovered a nifty little application called Fontself. It’s based within the existing Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop programs, so if you’ve already mastered those programs like I have, then this is a good avenue to dip into font design. Once I started using it, I found it to be a complete game changer with its ease of use, and I knew I had to share with other designers.

I am well aware that the hand-drawn creation of a beautiful serif typeface takes a lot of time and skill. At this point, I am more interested in just learning the plugin to see how it worked before diving into a several month long project of perfecting bézier curves—so I started out with my own handwriting.
I wrote out several sample sheets of my handwriting, doing the alphabet, numerals, and characters individually at first, and then several sentences and words so I could get the characters that I naturally flow together in my natural print/cursive hybrid (called ligatures).

Once I scanned and got my sample type into Illustrator vectorized (I used livetrace just to save time), it was as simple as dragging the row of letters over into the Fontself extensions window. There, it separated the characters I dragged over (If characters have two separate pieces, like my G in this screenshot, then you need to group them so they come through together) so that I could assign each character.

At that point, you can click “install” and start experimenting with it right away within Illustrator, or “export” to make a font file. But, as a designer, there are a few musts that a “good” font has that I wanted to play with before I began experimenting. I had intentionally written out additional versions of different letters on my handwriting sheet, so when dragging over the additional letters onto the palette, the application would prompt me to replace my existing “A” or make an alternate—I definitely wanted an alternate. Especially in handwritten style fonts, you want to have variations in the letters so if two show up within one word they look slightly different, giving it a more handwritten feel as opposed to a repetitive, generated font.

Also, KERNING. You can adjust all around the individual letters, so if one letter has a long descender you may need to adjust it to sit lower, but most importantly you can adjust the kerning on either side of each character by simply dragging the dashed line into a comfortable spot. This, as any designer knows, helps the characters nest next to each other comfortably.

Under the advanced button, you can see a quick preview and fine tune the kerning numerically all in one spot. Then it’s as simple as exporting your new font to play with. 

What font programs have you used to create typefaces? Have you had luck finding one that makes the process simpler to use than you thought it would be? Let us know in the comments!

As always, stay creative and keep experimenting!