Practical Font Design

The Revised and Expanded Third Edition
See Fontographer: Practical Font Design for Graphic Designers

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There’s also a video course to help

A rewritten, expanded 3rd edition including the second edition of part one and part two (on building book font families) plus new materials giving a practical walk through the process of designing a font and families. This is not about artistic considerations, but the practicalities of putting a font together. On the other hand, the design approach is fine art. David’s training is as a fine art printmaker: etchings & stone lithography.

The basic procedure we use for font design is found in this book. It is a step by step following of new font designs with tips and comments along the way.

This is the link for the 12-font bundle mentioned in the Third Edition

A book to help graphic designers design fonts

Here at the foundry we began with Fontographer in 1994 and have used FontLab 5 exclusively from 2002 to early 2011 in the production of our fonts. Over the years we have developed over a hundred fonts. In the process we have picked up a lot of experience in the process of designing a font efficiently.
This is not a book for programmers and scripters. This is a book for graphic designers and typographers who love type and want to make their own fonts—either for themselves or to sell.
In the process of writing this book several things were developed that you might find useful in your design process. In general these are pieces of copy or FontLab files that will save you the time required to make your own. There are lists of composite glyphs to generate, an OpenType features file, and a text file to use when generating metrics and kerning tables. You can find them on this page. Once your font is complete let everyone know!

Here’s a condensed table of contents for you to see what is in the book

Why a 3rd edition? xv
  • Because I’ve learned so much since I wrote the first two xv
  • This is a small one-person low budget operation xvi
  • Ebooks have brought about radical changes xvi

Welcome! To the 3rd edition of practical font design 1

  • Defining typography 2
  • Quotations on typography 2
  • Some terminology 5
  • Type parts 5
  • Some glyph terminology 6
  • Bringhurst’s List of font classifications 8
A Practical Approach To Classifying Fonts 9
  • Our carved roots 9
  • A practical list 10
  • The four basic classifications of all type are: 10
  • Old Style fonts: readable and beautiful (1500-1750 or so) 11
  • The entire oldstyle period of font design 21
  • Modern: Bodoni Book 21
  • Slab Serif: Cheltenham 23
  • Realist: Clarendon 24
  • Type for the common man—
  • ignored by almost every classification system 24
  • Late 19th & early 20th Century 25
  • Sans serif classifications 26
  • Readable, modulated sans serif fonts for text 29
  • What about the rest of the type styles? 30
  • Mimicking handwriting 31
Type drawing tools 33
  • We’ll start out with a little instruction on the Pen tool
  • Vector drawing tools & techniques using Illustrator CS5 33
  • The Pen Tool 34
  • How do you draw with paths? 35
  • Extrema 39
  • Path rules for drawing fonts 40
  • Setting up an Illustrator template 43
  • Why do we start with Illustrator? 46
The creation of a font 47
  • A step by step procedure 47
  • A new unilateral serif font 49
  • Begin with a new or base font 50
  • The Font Info dialog in FontLab 50
  • Metrics and Dimensions 57
  • Setting up your workspace 63
  • Preferences 63
Starting to draw 67
  • There are many ways to start a glyph: 67
  • Scan & trace 67
  • FontLab drawing techniques 70
  • Saving building pieces 79
  • Vector Paint 79
  • Building a storage glyph 81
  • Drawing weight balls 86
  • Adjusting the y measurements 86
  • Dealing with path direction 91
  • Finishing the numbers & letters 106
  • Some tips before we go on 108
  • This is a major change in the book! 108
  • I do not trust automated solutions 108
Letterspacing 109
  • Some definitions 109
  • The decisions needed for good letter fit 110
  • Basic methodology 110
  • FontLab’s Metrics panel 111
  • Typical adjustments to spacing 115
  • Display or Text? 118

For Practical Font Design: Part Two I went much more traditional 118

  • Generating fonts for testing 123
Making composite glyphs 127
  • Generating the basic characters 127
Adding OpenType Features 133
  • What is an OpenType feature? 133
  • Writing an OpenType feature 134
  • How a feature works 135
  • Using classes 136
  • Adding features to our new font 138
  • Ligatures 146
Kerning your new font 151
  • The Metrics window 151
  • The need for a kerning text document 152
  • The kerning process 154
  • what to kern & by how much? 156
  • Using real words 159
  • Classes 160

Tracing drawings & artwork 163

  • Placing into Illustrator 164
  • Make sure the scan is clean 164
  • Live Trace in Illustrator 166

Designing font families 171

  • Let’s start traditional 171
  • Book font family characteristics 175
  • Text versus display 175
  • The need for text and display versions 180
  • The need for a sans version 180
  • History Break: Minister 181
  • What is a book font family? 182
  • What do you need in a font family
  • Why not use the Bold effect? 197
  • Designing the stem and serif thickness 199
  • Why did I blend at such an early stage? 213
  • Building the blends 214
  • Building the italics 221
  • The importance of the metrics 221
  • Dealing with the weight 221
  • Setting the spacing 222
  • Getting started 222
  • Necessary italic changes 231
  • Building Italic composites 232
  • Kerning & Assembling the family 237
  • Keeping the family consistent 237
  • Generating the fonts 241
  • Finding testers 242
  • Test before you release 242
Building the Display version 243

But we need something more: a companion sans. 248

  • General design vision changes 261
  • Finishing them off 266
  • Here’s what we ended up with 267
  • P.S: I guess I better work on a Web version next 267
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