In the modern age of smartphones and app/widget creation, I wanted to take a moment and pay homage to an earlier geek-friendly pastime. I am talking about creating your own font. Warning: you may find that creating your own font is crazy fun or insanely boring. Very few people fall in between.
The "artwork" you see above is the start of the overall design that I used to create my own font quite a few years ago. I formatted each individual eye in the above page to create a proper alphabet that can be used to type English sentences. I officially called the font "eyeglyphia" (yeah I know it's corny.....but I was like 18.) Below I have put together a general overview of the different methods you can use to make your own personalized/stylized font that you can use in your word processing software (like Microsoft Word.) I will review some older (more involved methods) that I have used and introduce some of the latest (easier) tools that are currently available (lucky youngsters.) Additionally, I will try to cover such important topics such as copyrights, trademarks and patents.
My personal experience creating a font was immensely satisfying. And should you also choose to pursue this endeavor; I honestly hope you find it to be as fun and enjoyable as I did.
In the Olden Days
Before the days of quick and convenient software, The general process of making your own font involved:
- Creating the characters of to be used in your font (either manually or digitally).
- Scanning it at a decently high resolution (if manually created/drawn)
- Converting everything to a vector graphics format (using vector graphics and/or raster software)
- Using formatting software to apply the finishing touches and ultimately usage of your font.
When drawing characters to be used in a font, don't do what I did up top (i.e. drawing a page of characters with all different kinds of orientations.) Instead try drawing everything in one orientation that is easy to scan.....kind of like you would see on one page of a normal book. This should make things easy to format later as you won't have to worry about orientation and what not. Also make sure that your drawings aren't too light (shading isn't too faint.) You should use either a number 2 or a number 1 pencil.
When scanning this template for digital use, be very particular about your scanning options. Myself and others have had luck scanning in grayscale at around 200 dpi. You may also have to zoom into your artwork in order to get the optimal scan. Play with the settings a little bit until you are satisfied with the resulting scan.
As for the last two steps, these can be completed using a combination of Adobe Illustrator Ver. 3 and above, FontLab, Fontographer, and/or FontForge. Illustrator will be used to convert your digital artwork to vector graphics. The vector graphics can then be used by the fontmaking software like the ones just mentioned (FontLab, Fontographer, FontForge.) When everything is said and done, all you need to do is export your font file into a widely applicable format and install. In full disclosure, the amount of detail involved in the last two steps can be quite involved. So I have provided a link here, to a very useful tutorial that is using a very similar method to the one that I used.
You kids have it so easy. Cloud technology, apps and Steve Jobs have made you all pampered and spoiled digi-zombies. There is so much in terms of offline software, online software, apps and the like that you could literally create a new font overnight. It might not look the greatest, but you could do it overnight. The only disadvantage with these easy bake fonts however are the limitations on full creative expression. Many of the following methods require you to use a predefined template to create your masterpiece and might constrict you a little. Now let's look at a few of these applications and their various uses.
Fontifier promotes itself as a way to conveniently bring your own personal handwriting into the digital world. It also seems to be a really good business model as well. Here's the gist of how it works. 1.) You print out Fontifier's font-creation template. 2.) You place the basic elements of your font into the template and scan it into your computer. 3.) Upload the scan on to the the Fontifier website and if you really like the resulting font you can 4.) Buy the right to download it for about $9.00. Quite possibly the easiest and most convenient way to make a font I have ever seen.
FontStruct & BitfontMaker
Both of these applications are online font creation tools like Fontifier. However, there is no printing or scanning of a template involved and even better....they're both free to use. Instead of a template that you have to print out and scan, these applications use online templates where you can digitally draw your font characters one by one. From the look of things, the online template for FontStruct is more complicated (but allows more design range) than BitfontMaker. However, if you don't mind having your font characters be a little blocky or drawing them pixel by pixel; then BitfontMaker might be the quickest and most efficient way to make your own font.
In fact I have an idea in which using BitfontMaker might be a big help. Imagine if we had an entire font that was centered around QR codes (i.e. each individual character looks like a scannable QR code.) First person to do this gets major props from me (and maybe $100 bucks...we'll work out the details later.)
Type Light is freeware that is only available for Windows. Yet, despite this operating system limitation it does have the distinct advantage of being able to edit existing font files. Furthermore, it can be used to seamlessly convert between the major font file types: TrueType, OpenType & PostScript. Of course, this doesn't mean that it can't create fonts as well. Type Light has uses a digital font creation template to accomplish this task.
Copyrights, Trademarks & Patents
I figured that this might be an interesting addition to the hub given recent tech company battles over intellectual property. So let's get down to brass tacks. Let's say you created an incredible font that everyone's gonna love. How, if possible, do you protect your new creation?
The "type" industry has gone through a veritable legal morass trying to protect their use and creation of typefaces, fonts and characters. After years of hardship, the general consensus is that U.S. copyrights are the worst vehicle to protect the aforementioned creative works. Essentially, copyrights will not work at all unless you are trying to copyright the computer program that created the font in question. The preferred vehicles for protecting fonts as of 2009 are design patents and trademarks.
And of course, trademarks can only protect font names (at most) so that doesn't do much good. So all we have left is to obtain a design patent. The process involves $395.00 and meeting a laundry list of requirements. For more precise details on obtaining a design patent for your font see the this link: Design Patent.
Justin Muirhead (author) from New York on October 28, 2012:
No, no. What you see above was a side project I did when I was much, MUCH younger. I have little time to make fonts, much less sketch anything nowadays. Why do you ask?
Jennifer Sides from Edmonton on October 28, 2012:
Do you make fonts often? As a job, or a hobby?