View Full Version : I've found a new asylum! :)

01-23-2011, 05:48 PM
I thought the city maker's asylum was for crazy people. That was before I was committed to the font maker's asylum. The people there take madness to another level.

I had no idea how clever the human eye/brain was at spotting things that look wrong with font forms. I think it has something to do with being familiar with letterforms from childhood. I'm now on the fourth iteration of the font I want to make, and minuscule errors stand large which has meant I have had to scrap everything and start again, 3 times so far. The tolerance, so far as I can see is within a 10th of a mm between something looking right or wrong.. so... it's tough. Damn tough. You need to be a king of the pen tool (I'm learning fast), there's none of this 'happy accident' stuff, (it's right or it's wrong) and the tolerance between right and wrong is tiny. You can't fake effects with colour or clever pictures to hide your mistakes....it's pitiless.

Damned if I'm going to be beaten though, so you may not hear a lot from me for awhile.

01-23-2011, 07:34 PM
Hahahahahaha I will be joining you in this one, Ravs. And it's all your fault, as you inspired me to buy the darned software. I have decided to, until I'm done with this current map, not make ANY more fonts than the one with exactly 8 glyphs that are the numbers around the ring (and in the reticule) on my map. But I found all SORTS of things wrong with the one font I did create (of my own handwriting no less and therefore allowed to be not perfect) and I can see myself spending days/weeks/etc. of worktime in getting that one (and the many more I'm sure I will be crazy enough to create) just right.

01-23-2011, 07:52 PM
lol...good. I don't want to suffer alone!!!

Seriously, it's fun, but in a very different way to mapping. You have to look at each glyph as an artform. The really horrible thing is that that they all have to work with each other.

Man, it's tough. Damn tough.

01-23-2011, 07:56 PM
Yep. Add to that, the fact that I tried to create connected script as my first font. Talk about biting off more than you can chew. Once I actually get it right, I may post up the original as a "haha look how horrible the first try was!" Until then, it will stay safely buried in my vault and I won't admit to creating it. ;)

01-24-2011, 05:34 AM
I remember the good old days where when I made some pixel based fonts for some demos (back on Commodore 64 and Amiga), I don't think I'll have the patience to work with fonts today - but I applaud you both for doing it :)

Definitly a question of being "commited" ;)

01-24-2011, 06:06 AM
FWIW, a few things I have learned so far:

This is a really useful read (you can buy the pdf from lulu for $9) - Practical Font Design for Fontlab (http://readableweb.com/practical-font-design-by-david-bergsland/) It doesn't matter if you don't use fontlab (I don't), the general principles and reading the description of the author's workflow are very useful and will save you a lot of time and heartache. I really wish I'd read this first before jumping in!

If you want to create a good 'clean' font, don't use scanahand (or if you do, be prepared to do a fair bit of cleaning up in the font editor afterwards). Scanahand is quick, but it autotraces, which means that you don't get out quite what you put in, particularly since the boxes to put your glyphs in are so small it also creates a lot of nodes. Instead, make your font in Inkscape, and get a font editor which will import vector. I'm using the pro version of Font Creator (same people as Scanahand) but I think the home version allows you to as well. There are some free font design progs out there but I don't know how many of them will import vector objects.

If you are going to hand draw a font and work from a scan then if you are using an italic nib pen, scan a line of the italic nib in horizontal, vertical and diagonal strokes. You can use those to calibrate line width once you start using the pen tool. Draw a couple of characters on a sheet of paper at at size comfortable to your hand and scan them in. Use those characters at their native physical size to make your grid. This allows you to print out the grid as a guide to draw your remaining glyphs. You can also print out very faint outlines of glyphs you've already done to help with ones you have yet to draw to ensure consistency. If you are using an autotrace function to convert your scan to a vector object, make sure you draw the glyphs as large as you possibly can.

Make your glyphs in a vector program by chopping off and reusing bits of previous glyphs you've made to ensure consistency.

Your first character is really important (lowercase h seems to be the norm), as it will determine the line widths, x-height (ascender/descender depending) and slope (if any) of the entire font. It's worth spending a lot of time with the pen tool getting it absolutely right.

After you've drawn your first two characters (which should have an ascender, a descender and something which fits to the x-height - eg. a g and h make your grid in your vector program with all your metric heights.

The tiniest errors stand out a mile. Each font has to be perfect. Consistent line width is critical. Quite often things that are mathematically consistent may not look visually consistent.

Practice, practice, practice with the pen tool. Try to make the glyph with as few nodes as possible. Make sure that the node arms don't over extend or cross each other. If they do, then put in more nodes.

Test your font on the fly in microsoft word. It's great because you don't have to shut it down and reopen it every time you make adjustments to your font and reinstall it.

Here's where I'm at with my latest effort, which is taking ages but the results are beginning to come through now. I'm drawing each glyph with the pen tool from scratch rather than amending an existing font (which would have been miles quicker), but it's good practice with the pen tool.

Cheers and best of luck!!

01-24-2011, 06:14 AM
Hah hah, cheers tilt.

I'm working on 100 hours or so to make my first font. Once I get a good workflow and don't have to go back to correct mistakes or start over, I think I should be able to get it down to 60 hours or so. From what I've read the pros take about 6 hours to make 26 glyphs, so that's about, say 20 hours for upper, lowercase, numbers, symbols etc. It's then another 6 hours or so to get the character spacing and kerning right and another few hours on top of that for other stuff which I don't yet understand.

01-24-2011, 06:58 AM
I tried fontmaking once a long time ago and quickly realized that I didn't have the patience. I'm older now and have much more patience but I don't think that I'm ready to make my own fonts - I'm way too anal about things. I spend a heck of a lot of time editing the existing fonts out there; correcting kerning and letter heights and widths and whatnot and I've got 25,000 fonts to check and correct for each damn label I put down. The appealing thing about letterform crafting is similar to map crafting - blending a certain technical side with the artistic side. A letter has to be made in a technical way to look aesthetically appealing. Font-making software uses all of those little node thingies and you spend hours and days moving each of those around and back then to a new place in order to get things looking just right. It's absolutely mind-numbing. Then when you're all done and you type your first sentence you realize that it looks like crap and either go back to the endless tweaking or quit. Then you realize just how good some of those professional calligraphers are so you try that for a while instead of fiddling with nodes for days on end. In the end you realize that this is a career and people dedicate their whole lives to it while we just dip our toes in the water.

01-24-2011, 08:47 AM
you spend hours and days moving each of those around and back then to a new place in order to get things looking just right. It's absolutely mind-numbing. Then when you're all done and you type your first sentence you realize that it looks like crap

My experience exactly. But I'm gonna beat this!

01-24-2011, 08:47 AM
That's a fact, Ascension. Although I will be making at least a few ... I think we need another asylum for conlangers. At least the fonts I know I'll have to make aren't latin so I can make my own calligraphy rules! Thanks for posting that info Ravs. It lets me know I was on the right track ... I too decided it was good practice for using the pen tool and ended up putting my scanned letters into gimp then tracing them with the pen tool. I got pretty proud if how few nodes I was using toward the end so it looks like my practice hasn't been for naught :)

01-27-2011, 11:55 PM
Yay, I have finally finished enough of this to post a small sample. So .... my first font!

By the way, I didn't realize until I started this project that I have a backwards slant in my handwriting. WOW that is hard not to try to "fix" while working on it.

01-28-2011, 03:10 AM
That looks great Gidde! you've really done well with consistent stem weights

01-28-2011, 07:53 AM
Thanks Rav!

01-28-2011, 11:25 AM
Now, if you really want to put your head in the lion's den, head on over to Typophile forums and post it there for comments (and wear your tin hat!)

01-28-2011, 12:12 PM
You guys and your Fontification! LOL

Looks awesome Gidde.

@Ravells - is it legal to use stem weights now?

01-28-2011, 12:22 PM
Ooh, good idea, Ravs! I think I'll fix the problems I know about first though ;)

Thanks Jax!