If you are a brand identity designer, some day you might get a client who wants you to create a whole new set of typeface. Here is an overview of typeface designing process.
Typeface creation is a whole different domain in the field of arts and design. If you’re new to this, there’s certainly a series of steps you need to walk through before you can start creating your own typeface like a pro. Just like any other design domain, it’s not as simple as ABC. No pun intended! Typography, just like calligraphy, requires training, patience and a lot practice to master.
This post is intended to provide you with a little bit of the training part by going through the fundamentals of typography and an overview of creating a typeface. This is certainly not a comprehensive process and you will need even more programs, tools, and training to fully master the art. However, the procedure outlined in this post should help you get started and put one foot forward in the right direction. Ready? Okay, let’s get started!
First, Some Typography Related Jargons
Like any field of arts and sciences, typography has some technical terms as well. Knowing the anatomy of typography is necessary to get you started with typeface designing. There’s actually a whole glossary of terms you might have to go through, but the following are some of the most basic and most important ones that you can focus on for now.
- Baseline: This refers to an imaginary line where a letter or a set of text sits.
- X-Height: This refers to the height of lowercase letters, like x, from the baseline.
- Mean Line: An imaginary line that touches the top of lowercase letters without ascenders.
- Cap height: This is similar to the x-height; except this is the height of flat uppercase letters, like X and H, from the baseline.
- Ascender and Descender: Some lowercase letters like “k” and “h” goes beyond the x-height due to their upward vertical stroke. This is called an ascender and an ascender line is an imaginary line that sits at the top of these “ascending” tips. Similarly, lowercase letters such as “p” and “q” descend below the baseline. This is called a descender and a descender line is an imaginary line that touches the lowest point of a descender.
- Overshoot: Rounded and pointed uppercase and lowercase letters extends slightly beyond the defined imaginary lines. This is called an overshoot.
Start Sketching Letters
Like it would for any other form of graphic art, the first step involves drawing your letters—or what they call “sketching letterforms”. Use a pencil and a paper to map out a letter the way you have it in mind. Begin by drawing the grid lines including all the “heights” mentioned above. You are going to try and make your letters as proportional as possible. This step is going to need a lot of measurements and revisions.
Transferring The Sketch
Once you have your perfect sketch, get ready to transfer this to your computer. There are several ways you can go about doing this. Some people prefer scanning their drawings and then using the scans to trace the letterforms in a typeface designing software. If you don’t want to do the manual work of tracing, you can even use tracing software to do the work for you. However, this would require you to have near-perfect drawings before you get to the tracing part. These software applications will obviously require well-defined drawings.
There are quite a few cool tools you can use to complete this step: Type Tool, Font Forge, Fontlab Studio, Glyphs (for Mac), and Typelight to name a few. If you’re more of an Adobe Illustrator, don’t worry! That will work too, especially if you’re not particularly fond of software tracing (and prefer doing it manually). Just remember that you’re going to convert your letters to vector art so that your font is re-sizable, transferable, and scalable.
Get Used To The Software
The next step is to really get know your font software. In today’s times, you can find a variety of font tools that are packed with features such as glyph manipulation, tracing, vector art, layering, and more. If you’re an amateur, knowing your way around the software will take some time and practice. You can also try out a few tutorials if you need a little extra help.
Exporting and Font Format
Finally, the best part of the process! Once you have your complete set of ABC’s, you’re going to test it through exporting. Remember, your first export should be like a first draft. There may be several revisions required before you get it right.
Fonts are exported in OTF (open type font) and TTF (true type font) file formats. If you’ve created a complex font, using the OTF file format would yield better results. Simple typefaces, however, work well with both OTF and TTF formats.