Practical Font Design With FontLab 5

Practical Font Design has been my surprise. The Lord has blessed it beyond my wildest imaginings. It’s unique in that it shows you the practicalities of getting a new font produced. The design theory is covered adequately in many other books. This book will show you how to get started—and finish—your new font.

An all new streamlined workflow,
released January 15, 2016

Practical Font Design With FontLab 5

Fonts were a major part of my creative efforts from the mid-1990s until 2010 or so. A new burst of font design energy happened in 2015. With the release of the FontLab 6 beta, I felt the need to to sum up all I have learned in FontLab—especially the workflow improvements I’ve developed since publishing the original Practical Font Design in 2009. The new workflow is much better, more efficient, faster, and produces better results. As a result, I’m deprecating the Third Edition and taking the First and Second editions off the market.

Here’s the description of the new book

This is the final edition of Practical Font Design using Fontlab Studio 5. It shares and demonstrates the latest, most efficient, basic font production workflow for single fonts and font families. David has spent over twenty years refining his font design techiques. This book does not offer a lot of intellectual design help. This is focused on

  • “How the heck do I do this?” and
  • “How can I quit spinning my wheels?” and
  • “Why is this taking me so much time?”

These techniques will enable you to enjoy font design by letting you focus on the actual drawing of characters with a clear plan and a workflow which does not get in your way.

More than that, these techniques will enable you to control the consistency so your font works as a whole. The book will teach you what a companion font is and how to design one. It will teach you an easy letterspacing technique which will allow you to simply control whether you are designing a text font or a display font.

The book is a wealth of tips and techniques shared over the author’s shoulder as you watch him develop his fonts. He’s not teaching his method, but showing you how to develop your method of working. The book develops fourteen fonts in four font families, focused on book design. These Librum/Bream families are available at,,,, and through his website:

The book will change your life as a font designer.

Practical Font DesignCheck out the video course on Udemy

The response to it has been much better than I anticipated.

I posted a series of brief historical references to the various font classifications taken from Practical Font Design.

But all along, my focus is on helping you design fonts and learn what true excellence in typography means in books, both print and ebook.

How do you actually put a font together?

I originally wrote the first book for FontLab as a fun project in response to some vague requests from former graphic design and digital printing students. After forty years of graphic design and typography experience, I had begun to design fonts in the mid-1990s to use in my digital publishing textbooks. The fonts available never had the features I needed. I received a free copy of Fontographer with FreeHand. So I did it.

As a font designer, my only credentials are experience and practice tied to a growing body of customers who have purchased my experiments. I am not claiming superiority to anyone. I am simply sharing what I have learned. For me, self-taught is not a hostile epithet but a way of life.

This book is for graphic designers who love type and have gradually come to the place where the typography matters as much or more than the graphics. To rephrase that, this is for designers who have come to realize that almost all content is in the words and that typography is our most important skill.

My experience is that font designers are a wonderfully individualistic group of people. Our only shared attributes are a love of typography and strong opinions. But our differences stand out in that we cannot even find a common definition of the word typography. This is coupled with the fact that typographers are an inconspicuous niche of a relatively small trade.

Practical Font Design

The original book proved to be very popular. A rewritten, expanded 3rd edition of the FontLab book included both the first edition (designing and single font) and the second edition (on building book font families) plus new materials giving a practical walk through the process of designing a font and families is available. The final edition mentioned above, greatly steamlines and improves the design process.In addition I wrote a book applying the same attitude and expertise to Fontographer 5.1. However, I can no longer recommend Fontographer except for hobbyists. It is simply too difficult to produce excellent letterspacing and kerning. Plus, OpenType features and special glyphs are exceedingly difficult to manage in FOG.

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.

Fontographer book cover
Click on a book’s cover for its own page with purchasing options.

Font Design, Readability, and Typography are the two basic categories these topics on this site (but there is a lot of overlap with postings to one, two, or all three of these categories).

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Practical Font Design With FontLab 5 [final edition] — 3 Comments

  1. Pingback:Setting up Quick Production for Print (PDF) to KF8 to ePUB by David Bergsland — The Book Designer

  2. Pingback:FontLab Blog Advanced FontLab Studio webinar with David Bergsland » FontLab Blog

  3. Pingback:Book typography: The reality of picking fonts - The Skilled Workman

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