View Full Version : Dedicated Fonts for Mapping

06-05-2009, 07:01 AM
I've been playing with the demo version of Font Creator (http://www.high-logic.com/fontcreator.html) which is an amateur font editor (Windows only I think) to reproduce a handwritten font of one of the maps I have hanging up on my wall at home. I think I may go for Font Forge (http://fontforge.sourceforge.net/) after the demo runs out as it is free, but requires some funky installs as it needs to run from within a Unix shell. I'm also looking at another free online font creator called Fontstruct (http://fontstruct.fontshop.com/) but I haven't tried it yet. From the gallery on the site it looks promising though. There is also fontifier (http://www.fontifier.com/) which is an online pay as you go application that will convert scanned fonts into a font set at US$ 9 a pop.

What I discovered in the process is that with many font creation programmes you can scan your own handwritten fonts to create your true type fonts from that. The scan turns your handwritten font into vectors which you can then edit if you wish.

I went onto a highbrow typographer's site, called 'Typophile (http://typophile.com/)' but nobody answered my post (not as friendly as the CG to strangers!), but I found some interesting information there about fonts for maps. Interesting thread here (http://typophile.com/node/30747). One of the most interesting titbits of info was the convention of using a font with a reverse slant (like Italics but slanting the other way) when naming rivers.

My aim with the font that am working on is for it not just to have all the letters and numbers but Cartography dedicated symbols too. Here is what I think is needed:

A-Z (uppercase)
a-z (lowercase)
The more common 'fused letters' (not used in modern english) like OE AE etc.
Accents, umlauts etc (I think these are called diacriticals).
Swashes for Calligraphic fonts which you can 'attach' to the tails of various capital letters.
degree, minute and second symbols.
A compass Rose
Dedicated fancy letters for cardinals (N,S,E,W)
cities, towns, fortresses.

I have to say, that making your own font from scratch is a tedious and time consuming process. I have a new found respect for font creators. They must really love what they do. If you want to be complete in the font you create, you need to create at least 4 versions: Regular, Bold, Italic and Bold Italic. With cartography I suspect you probably need to create a Light version of the font too. Although software can 'fake' bold and italics, font perfectionists prefer to redraw bold and italics.

If you want to practice using the pen tool and bezier curves, this is the way to do it. If you are making a font family of 4 fonts, that is a LOT of glyphs.

Anyone got any more suggestions about what else could go in a cartographic font set?

06-05-2009, 07:45 AM
Sounds like a fun idea but there are so many fonts already. At least start with a font you have permission to modify then add just the glyphs you want to add.

I think you'd get more return on your efforts with a collection of cartographic symbols that might become some dings or something.

Try Gentium

or Old Standard


06-05-2009, 08:33 AM
Thanks Sigurd, snagged! Gentium is really nice and a good one to modify.

Yeah, maybe a symbol set to accompany the font set might be the way forward.

06-05-2009, 01:04 PM
The more common 'fused letters' (not used in modern english) like OE AE etc.

These are called ligatures. There are two ligatures common in English type: the double 't' and 'fl'.

I have to say, that making your own font from scratch is a tedious and time consuming process. I have a new found respect for font creators.

And now you know why the pros so jealously guard their right to get paid for that work.

Incidentally, a good type designer can make quite a lot of money, since there are relatively few people who actually do it properly.

06-05-2009, 04:40 PM
A lot of fonts come with "alternates" which usually include ligatures and/or swashes in those 4 basic styles (bold, italic, etc.). That way you don't have to try to cram all of that stuff into one font set. What you might think about adding are small caps (the first letter of a word is larger than the rest of the letters but all are capitalized), extended (letters are taller), wide (letters are wider), outline (empty letter with a stroke), shadowed (sort of like a drop shadow combined with an outside white stroke), decorative (letters have some sort of decoration in the fat parts like lines or paisleys or dots, etc), and then there's always the grunge/destroy/decay where the edges get roughed up. Fonts like Birmingham, Bolton, Helena, Lewisham, and Lightfoot are good examples as they are frequently all bundled together in one zip file. I only know of these 5 because I use them regularly and are mid to late 19th century.

What I'm wondering is if it would be more worthwhile to just make swash brushes to tack on top of a font (on a new layer for example) rather than making a whole font set. Ligatures would be tedious to do that way because you'd never get things kerned correctly (spacing between letters) but swashes and accents might be good.

06-05-2009, 05:38 PM
Oi! How many font sets must I go through??? Having said that, I do like outline fonts they work really well with maps.

I have to say, I do love the depth of knowledge available here.

06-06-2009, 12:29 AM
Wait until you start thinking about Bold Italic Outline Extended Shadowed Drop Caps...can drive a person mad I tell ya. :) Good thing Photoshop can fake most of that and I can add my own drop shadows and strokes.