Tutorial font

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[illustration] Cat, www.scrawlcollective.co.uk

You don’t have to be a top typographer to create a customised font. Grab a pen and paper, and away you go…
ver fancied designing your own set of letters and making an OpenType font out of it? Using just a pen and paper, we show you how to create your own dotted font, which you can then turn into a digitalformat with the help of Photoshop and FontLab Studio. We begin in Part 1 by explaining what’s important when you draw your letters on paper, and what is the best scan format for importing the type into your font


software. Part 2 of the tutorial explains how to set up and autotrace your letters with the help of FontLab, and also shows you what to look out for when you optimise theautotraced images. In the final part of the tutorial, we give you a simple guide to setting up the spacing of your font and then letting FontLab do all the hard work. You can complete this quick guide to creating a custom font set by exporting it into the OpenType format.
There are some files on CD94 to help you follow this tutorial. These can be found in the DiscContent\ Tutorials\Tutorial Files\Fontfolder.

Expertise provided by Thomas Schostok at {ths} design. Find out more about the company at www.ths.nu.

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Part 1: Draw your letters
Use a simple dotted method to draw your letters by hand…

The right pen
The size of the tip of the felt pen you use is important and is dependent on the size of the letters you wish to draw. You’ll need to experimentwith different sizes. A letter drawn with a big pen at a height of just 5cm will be very fat in its digitised form.

Before you can start creating your own font, you need to assemble some traditional tools. Clear a space on your desk and get some paper, a variety of pens, a ruler and a protractor.


Next, you need to prepare your paper. Draw two horizontal lines with a distance of 6cmbetween them to represent the overall height of the letters. The width depends on the design of your letters – in this case, we use a width of 4.5cm for the first letter.


Leave a small margin of about 5mm between each letter. There are no rules for having a fixed width for all your letters, but it’s good to start with some sort of boxes to use as guidelines. These boxes will become redundantlater in the font-creation process because the letter ‘I’ is, of course, much narrower than the letter ‘W’.


The first letters you should design are O, E and V. You can then base the other letters on these forms. The most important thing to get right is how the round parts of the letters look. If you get this right, it’s easy to create the rest of the letters.

We start bycreating the letter ‘C’, initially drawing reference dots at each corner of the letter. It’s also a good idea to draw the letter first with a graphite pencil, making it easier to position the dots. Use three rows of dots for creating the letter.


Try to set the distance of the dots you draw in a regular way. However, if you’ve drawn a few letters and notice that the distance of some dots seem toofar apart or too close together, you can correct that later using Photoshop or FontLab. It takes more time to draw the letters again from scratch than to correct them digitally.


When you’ve finished drawing all your letters, you need to get them on to your computer. Scan them at 300DPI at 100 per cent in greyscale. If you’ve drawn your letters smaller than 6cm in height, it’s a good ideaat this point to increase the DPI. In Photoshop, convert your scan into Image>Mode>Bitmap.


We suggest you scan a maximum of four letters in any one TIFF file. FontLab will go crazy if you trace an image that’s too big. If there are too many vector lines, the program will run very slowly. Once you’ve scanned all your letters, use Photoshop to delete all the dirt and guidelines that have...
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