The Complete Font Design Process In 5 Steps

Fonts are one the most misunderstood and common tools in the digital age. They are used by everyone, and most people know a few of the more popular fonts such as Times New Roman or Arial. Few people think about their origins, let alone how they were created. There is a reason. Good font design should be useful in many contexts. They shouldn’t draw attention to the message and not distract from it.

Type design can also be a great creative endeavor. You can add your signature to every word you write. Modern software makes it easier than ever to create your own font. It’s not easy, however.

Font design in progress, by OrangeCrush

Typography can be time-consuming, as you have to create an entire alphabet and different styles such as bold, thin or italics. It is not easy to distinguish between fonts and create your own variations. There are also many subtleties involved. There are many technical considerations that must be taken into account such as proper sizing and spacing. We’ll walk you through the entire step-by-step font design process to help you get past these obstacles.

What fonts do

Typography is basically the process of creating a font file from hand-drawn drawings of an alphabet. This font file can be installed on any computer and will add your typefaces to the font library. It is then available through all font-using applications, including Adobe Creative Cloud and Microsoft Word. A site such as Creative Market allows you to license the font file and make passive income from any person who downloads or purchases it. Let’s take a look at some of the basic concepts to help you understand how it all works. Let’s start by looking at how fonts are categorized into the various descriptors of designed letters. It will be obvious that the terms “font”, and ” typeface are frequently mistakenly confused for synonyms.

  • An example of hand-lettering. Design by Mky
  • Typography: The art and science of styling type.
  • Typeface: A unique arrangement of letters in an alphabet.
  • Font: A software file that contains a specific typeface.
  • Calligraphy: An artful handwriting or inscription, often done with analogue tools.
  • Hand-lettering: Illustrations of letters and words on posters or signage.
  • Let’s discuss font file formats. Open Type Font, (OTF), and True Type Font, (TTF) are the main ones you will hear about.
  • TTF was created by Apple and Microsoft in order to make fonts easier for computers and printers. To extend these features, Adobe and Microsoft later developed OTF. TTF is still available, but OTF has more storage and supports more characters. Both are acceptable but OTF is preferred.

Logotype by lianedv

It is also important to be familiar with font licenses. Typefaces are like any other creative asset created by an actual person. Licenses allow you to license a font to others for a fee. However, different licenses will have different terms and restrictions. You should be aware that the marketplace will have its own licensing framework if you plan to sell your font design online. This will include information about your share of the profits. To avoid confusion regarding ownership, you must create your own license if you license a custom font to specific clients.

Font design

1. Learn the basics of font design

It is essential that you are familiar with the basics of type construction before you start drawing your letters. Typography is as old as the inventions of the printing press in the 15th century. Scribes used artisanal calligraphy to create manuscripts centuries before then. The point is that humans have been drawing letters for hundreds of years, which gives them ample time to experiment and establish some best practices. You can start by learning basic typography terms. You should pay particular attention to type anatomy, and the function and location of guidelines (cap heights, ascender lines, baselines, etc.). Understanding the various font families is helpful, as well as niche variations, such as the slab, wedge, and hairline serifs.

You’ll be able to see that many typefaces have alternating thick strokes and thin strokes within the letters. This isn’t an accident. It is a legacy from calligraphy, which saw letters drawn in thick and thin strokes. Calligraphers who move their pen down have a slower movement and release more ink. This results in thicker strokes. The brush moves faster on the upstroke which results in a thinner stroke. This habit is embedded in our brains, which means that if you want to create a non-geometric font you will need to learn how to place thick strokes and thin strokes. This worksheet can help you.

You can group letters into different categories based upon their shapes. It is helpful to be able to identify these to help you draw them consistently. These include rectilinear and curvilinear letters, as well as triangular letters (picture circles, squares, and triangles). There are many optical illusions in type design that you should be aware of . Some of these are covered here . The most well-known is the requirement to draw curvilinear letters larger that normal (overshooting your guidelines). Our eyes perceive them as smaller when they are placed next to other letters. These are common traps rookie designers fall into. Get them out of your way!

2. Your font project’s goals should be planned

You will receive a briefing if you work for a client. This brief will outline the background and goals of the project. This document will help you to understand the process of designing a typeface, whether it is for your own use or to be sold online. Why are I doing this? The font should be used for a specific purpose, such as brand recognition. Even if you’re designing a font for personal expression, think about the feeling it should convey. Who will be using the font? You should know about your client’s business and target audience before you create this typeface. You should have an idea of the type of person who will use the font you create and what types of projects it might be used for, even if you’re designing it for a general market.

In which context is the font used? A font designed for brochures may be different from one for movie posters. Consider whether the font will be used for headlines or body copy. These contexts may require a more professional and legible font, while others will allow for more creative and attention-grabbing fonts. Are there any fonts that are similar to my creation? There are many fonts available, with a lot of variety. You will need to find examples of fonts that you like in order to determine how your font design will standout. You should first decide what mood your font should evoke. You might like a particular typeface, so find another one and compare them to see the subtle differences. You should not only focus on whole alphabets. You can find fonts in Font Squirrel and Envato. Behance is another popular place to look for fonts.

3. Draw your typeface

Sketching is the place where the actual design process begins. This is where you take inspiration from your reference fonts and make creative choices that will distinguish your typeface from other types. What lowercase version of the “a” should be used? Are the crossbars for your capital “E”, should they be the same length? Answering questions like this requires you to draw the letters and then judge the results. When drawing your own typeface, take inspiration from contemporary and classic fonts, like Bodoni. Image via Wikimedia Commons. Do not feel pressured to draw every letter of the alphabet immediately. Sketching is meant to be an artistic exploration, so drawing the entire alphabet for every possible version of your typeface can exhaust you quickly.

Start small and sketch random letters in order to get an idea of the style. Once you have found a direction you like, you can move on to specific letters in each of the three shapes. Next, draw words with a variety of letter styles. This means a mix of capitals and ascenders as well as descenders and combinations. To help you visualize the font’s actual appearance, it is best to use real words. For creative practice, you can also use a random word generator. After you’ve tried this process several times, and you find a style you like, you can start sketching the alphabet using the guidelines from Step 1. (This doesn’t mean that it has to be perfect since these will be developed in the next stage). You should not forget numerals, punctuation and special characters!

4. Develop your font in design software

Let’s look at the software you will need to create a font file. You need to be concerned about two things: a font design software and a graphic design tool. A realistic hand-painted typeface like this one would come out better in Photoshop. You can choose vector or raster software for graphic design. Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop (or an equivalent program from another manufacturer) are the best choices. Vector fonts are preferred for the majority of applications. If you want a more natural, hand-painted look to your design, however, raster fonts (a.k.a. Bitmap is the best option. The Macbeth typeface, pictured here, uses a painterly style. A raster approach would be more appropriate. A font creation program is also required. The most widely used is Fontself Creator. This extension is available for Adobe products. At the time of this writing, it is a one-time cost of $39 for Illustrator and $59 for the Photoshop/Illustrator bundle. You can also look into Glyphs as an alternative.

Fontself and Illustrator will be used for simplicity. These principles will apply to all software. After Fontself has been downloaded, you can install it as any other program. You may have to close Illustrator if you want the two programs to integrate. You should be familiar with the basics of Adobe Illustrator. This includes Layers, the pen tool and the general interface. You can set up your Illustrator file by making sure that you’re using RGB color mode. Also, make sure your Artboard is big enough to accommodate your entire alphabet. The Artboard tool allows you to adjust the size of your file later. Next, take a photo of your reference sketch and scan it. Then transfer it to your computer. You can add it to the document by clicking File > Place. Navigate to the sketch file in the dialogue box and ensure that the Template Layer box has been checked. This will import the file and dim the image. It will also lock the image in its place. This makes it easier to trace on a new layer. Click the lockpad icon near the layer in Layers panel to unlock it.

5. Finalize the font file and export it

After you have completed the entire alphabet in Illustrator, ensure that your letters are grouped by category (capitals/lowercase numerals/punctuation) and arranged in neatly stacked rows. Navigate to Window > Extensions, and select the Fontself version you want. Drag each row of characters into the appropriate categories in the window that opens. Fontself will now load your typeface. The Fontself interface. The Save button allows you to export your OTF file. The Advanced button allows you to manually kern pairs of letters. This version of Fontself is missing the Smart button, but it will be next to Advanced. Image via Fontself. Fontself offers many options to make final adjustments to your font. You can also see a Live Preview box at the top of the page where you can enter sample phrases to check your font design. Double-clicking any letter will enable you to adjust their position using the arrow keys.

Kerning is the last adjustment you’ll need to make. This refers to the space between letters. Fontself offers a quick and easy auto-kerning feature (labeled Smart) under the Live Preview. This will help you save a lot of time. However, when it comes down to design, the human eye will always be better than a computer. So next to the Smart button, you’ll find an “Advanced” button. This will open another window in which letters are grouped together into kerning pairs that can be manually adjusted. While this can be tedious, it is worth it. Even the best typefaces can be damaged by kerning errors and cramped letters.

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