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3.4 Typography Skills: Creating Your Own Fonts

This lesson gives you an overview of the huge range of type design software now available, and how you can use the software to make your own contribution to the growing field of type design.

3.4 Typography Skills: Creating Your Own Fonts

Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the art of typography. And the final lesson of this section of the course, which is focused on the role that typography plays in the world today and how typography is adapting to the digital era. To bring things to a head, I want to show you how you can contribute directly to the growing field of digital typography and create your very own typefaces. To fully explore type design, we'd need a whole other course on the subject. So maybe that's for another day. But I think its a really exciting area to get involved in, and its not as tricky as you might think. This project based lesson is going to give you an overview of how you can get started with creating your own fonts, and introduce you to some of the great software options that are out there at the moment. Just to make myself clear, this lesson is not going to equip you with everything you need for creating your own high quality typefaces. But, it is going to give you some ideas for how you can develop your type design skills further if you would like to. And creating your own fonts can be so much fun, you have to give it a go. What you need to find first is the software that you'll need to create a typeface. And there are so many great options out there now which have been developed in only the last few years or so. Here is my pick of some of the best that you can look up. Many professional typographers will use FontLab Studio, which is available on both Windows and Mac systems, and is considered by many to be an industry standard. It's used by typographers at Adobe and Apple, so it really is a highly professional tool. If you want to take your type design learning to a more advanced level, and particularly if you're working on a Windows computer, I would recommend that you check this one out. One thing that you do need to be aware of when designing typefaces is that there are many more software options designed for Mac systems than there are for Windows. This is just a simple fact and this might be in part due to the fact that more graphic designers and typographers these days tend to work on Mac's. If you're working on a Windows computer, your best options are going to either be the FontLab Studio for more advanced designing or take a look at FontForge, which is less advanced free software for outlining and digitizing fonts. And FontForge is also available on a Mac system, too. If you're using a Mac, you've got quite a few more options for software and apps for type design. One of these is RoboFont, which is tailored just for Macs and it's a great choice for drawing and editing typefaces. The software that I'm going to use for the demonstration in this lesson is also a Mac friendly program. So apologies to any students on Windows computers, but there will be a number of principles which will translate to Fontmap Studio or FontForge. So watch and follow along. And try to pick up on some of the key steps that go into importing, editing, and digitizing the typeface. A lot of those processes will be exactly the same. I'm going to use an industry favorite, which is called Glyphs. Helpfully, there are two versions of the Glyphs app which allow you to tailor your choice according to your skill level and to your budget. The full Glyphs app is a little bit like Adobe Illustrator in its interface, and it might take a bit of getting used to. But once you get the hang of it, it's a really rewarding option for realizing your typeface designs. You can download a 30 day free trial of Glyphs from their website, which is a great idea if you want to try before you buy. Glyphs mini is a more stripped-back version of the full Glyphs app. And as about a fifth of the price of the full Glyphs app, it's a fantastic choice if you're on a budget and just looking to dip a toe into type design. For the demonstration here, I'm going to be using the full Glyphs app. So you either choose to simply sit back and watch, and take in some of the key skills that we'll be covering here, and apply these to your own software of choice later on. Or, you can go ahead and download the free trial of the Glyphs software and follow the lesson alongside me. We'll be using that simple set of vector letters that we created a couple of lessons back. So track those down too and make sure you know where they're saved. Okay, so pause the video if you need to get Glyph set up. Open the program and I will see you in a moment. Okay, so here we have Glyphs opened up. Glyphs is one of these programs that allows you to both create type vectors from scratch and digitize them. So Glyphs offers this great interface for drawing, but if you're still more comfortable with drawing in Illustrator, I would still recommend that you start vectorizing your characters in that before moving over to Glyphs. Ideally, what we'd want is a full set of vector characters, including upper case and lower case letters, numbers, punctuation marks, symbols, and other marks, which includes things like trademark and copyright symbols. But here, we're just gonna start with the first few letters of our upper case alphabet that we looked at in the previous project lesson. First up, to create a new font in Glyphs, go up to the File menu at the top of the screen and choose New. Here we've got our new Font interface so that the full list of characters that we can add to the font running down the left of the window. You can expand these options and see the breakdown of templates for all your punctuation options and symbols. And down here, we even have options to make this font compatible with different language scripts such as Hebrew, Arabic, or Chinese. Click on Letter to expand the full set of templates for letters. And, as we're starting with uppercase letters, click on Uppercase. To import ready made vectors from Illustrate or CorelDRAW, you want to first prepare your graphics ready for importing. And that means you might have to adjust the scale of the vectors a little. Let's open up the first letter A in Illustrator. So just a note, an average x height, which is the height of lower case letters in a typeface, is half an n, which is 500 units. In Illustrator, 500 units is equal to 500 points. And that's pretty big, that's 17.6 centimeters. And that's just for the x-height alone. So before we import our vector, it seems pretty likely that we're going to need to scale it up. In Illustrator, make sure that your rulers are visible by going to View on the top menu, and Rulers, and Show Rulers. Then what you want to do is Control-click or right-click onto the ruler and choose Points from the menu of available units. Consider that a lower case A should be 500 points in height. So for this upper case letter which is going to reach what we call a cap height, we're looking at around an extra half of the x height in addition. So about 750 points in total height. So let's drag your mouse over the vector, and then from the top control panel, make sure Constrain Width and Height Proportions, this little chain button at the top, is selected. Then type in 750 points into the height value box. Great. Now all we need to do is to move this vector into Glyphs. And to do that, all we have to do is go up to edit and choose copy. Let's return back to Glyphs. Now double-click on the A character to open up this template. And then what we want to do is go to Edit and then Paste on the top Glyphs menu. So you might get this message reading, Unusual Bounds. If that's the case, that's fine, just choose Correct Bounds. Okay, great, so your vector is now dropped in. Now let's move it up onto the defined guides and let's pay attention to what these lines actually represent. The bottom line here is the descender. See you only want elements from lower case letters with descending elements like P's, Q's and Y's to appear here. The next line up is the base line, where the main body of all letters will sit. And this also forms the bottom of the x-height of the letter. The next line up marks the top of that x-height, which is where the main body of lowercase letters will reach. And above this, you've got the cap height, where you want all upper case letters to reach to. And basically, you don't want elements to really stray much pass this top line or the bottom line either. If we go up to the Edit menu again and undo the placement of our vector, you can see how the A should be ideally placed as suggested to us by the template. So go back, edit, redo it all, and you'll see that this is looking pretty good for size. If you need to resize your letter a little to fit best on the grid, drag your mouse over the whole vector, making sure to select all the nodes, and then click on the scale button at the top of the window. You can click and drag and scale your letter until you're happy with the size. One thing that font editing programs allow us to do which we can achieve in something like Illustrator, is to with adjust how the characters will work together as a whole. One aspect of this is the kerning of the text, which is going to affect how close your character sits next to other characters on either side of it. We can edit the kerning from here at the bottom of the window. So let's make the kerning a bit more generous on the left side of the A by highlighting the kerning value to the left of the lasso. And set that to 40 so we don't have this stroke bumping into other letters on its left side. The right side's kerning doesn't need to be quite as much. It's got this nice flat edge so let's adjust that to 25. Okay, great. So let's head back to the full set of characters by clicking the font tab at the top left of the window. And you can see that now we've got our first letter a ready and prepped for our digitizing. Fabulous. Okay, let's try the same process with a few more letters. Here I've got my B letter opened up in Illustrator. So I'll do the same process of scaling it up to a height of 750 points. Then I'll head up to Edit and Copy the vector, return to Glyphs and Edit Paste it into the B template. And I'm just gonna play around in just that kerning again to get a nice little gap on either side Great, okay. What I'd like you to do is to add to this selection of letters. So scale and paste in your C and D letters into Glyphs, if you're following along with the app. Position your letters so that they line up nicely onto the grid as I've shown you and adjust the kerning. So do that now, get yourself a set of four uppercase letters from A to D ready in Glyphs. So pause the video, and do that now. Welcome back, guys. So here, we have our four letters ready and prepared for digitizing. Now, what I want to walk you through is how you can take this font from being a vectorized draft to a fully usable digital font that you can use on your designs. And to do that, we go up to the top menu in Glyphs, and File. And then choose Font Info. You want to give your font a suitable name. So try something just like, my first font. And if you're going to develop this font for selling or sharing online, you want to add in some details here that are going to trace the design back to you. At the least, drop in your name under designer. And put your name and year of creation into the copyright text box. And then all you need to do is just close the window to come out of there. Now you're ready to export your font as a digital font file. To do this, go up to File and then this time choose Export. To create an open type font, which can be used on both Mac and Windows systems, keep the default options as they are in this window. Choose where you would like to save your font on your computer. Make sure you can find it again. And then you're ready to click the next button. And it's as simple as that. Now, you can navigate to your folder where you saved the font, track it down, and it's there, an open type font that's ready to use. I can open this in my font book and install it. And now, I'm ready to apply to font in any design that I want to. And so I realize that this hasn't been a very sophisticated overview of what type design software can do. And there really is a whole world of type design and digitization waiting for you to explore further. But what I hope this has given you is a taste of the potential view to get involve with designing type and contributing directly to digital typography. If this is what your appetite for more, I would really recommend heading over to either fontlabs-studio, robofont or glyphs website and checking out some of the tutorials that they have there for producing more advanced font designs. And also picking up some tips as to how you can draw directly into font editing software. And start experiencing with more advanced kinds of type, like Serifs and Sans Serifs. I hope that now you have this foundation of typographic history and print techniques as we explored in our earlier project lessons, you'll feel more confident taking the next steps into exploring more in depth the typographic topics that sparks your interest, whether that's type settings, designing typographic layouts or type phase design. In the next and final lesson of this course, The Art of Typography, I want to say a big thank you for taking part in this TUTS+ course and I want to give you some more pointers about how you can continue to develop your new found typography skills. Fantastic work this lesson guys, I'll see you again in just a moment.

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