How to create a script font

How to create a script font Title

The process for creating a font is a tough one. Not only do you have to create the entire alphabet (for multiple languages), but you also have to make sure that the entire alphabet looks good in many different combinations. Unlike with lettering where you can concentrate on the word or phrase alone and do whatever you want with it.

 

There is something very intriguing to me about it. Trying to figure out the best solutions can be really rewarding as well as incredibly frustrating. But once you have it all down, the feeling of typing words with your own font is just amazing. No other way to put it. So if you ever wanted to create a font, I hope this post will guide you through the process in general terms. It’s impossible to explain everything in one post but a part of the font making fun is figuring it all out so I hope this post will give you a roadmap to follow and make the font designing process easier. 

Process

The process itself is pretty simple, figure out what your font will look like (roughly), vectorize all the glyphs, adjust the spacing and test it thoroughly. Seems simple when you put it that way but there is much more to it than that.

 

I’ve outlined all the steps I’ve taken to finally have a finished font. It took about a year to finish, however, I wasn’t working on it every day for 8 hours rather here and there when I had the time or when I had an epiphany on how to solve a certain problem.

Step 1: Writing Ideas

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First and foremost, you have to have an idea of what you want to do. The easiest way to start is to just take a pen and write if you are looking to create a handwritten font as I did with Nagamaki. Write words, sentences, alphabet, anything that comes to mind. Sometimes I even like to write out the lorem ipsum if my brain is not cooperating.  

Font_writing_2

What you need to figure out in this step is the general rhythm of your typeface and make some decisions that will help you make a consistent typeface. Will it be tight, slanted, with higher x-height, lower x-height etc. You can do whatever you want but you have to decide on something and keep it consistent throughout the entire process.

Step 2: Vectorizing lowercase

Once you have the writing down, (and keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be calligraphic mastery), choose your favorites. Pick the best looking letters and use them as a guide as you go over them with the pen tool. If you need help working with the pen tool, check out my Skillshare class where I explain everything from how to work with the pen tool to where to place the points.

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I usually do this directly in font making software because the pen tool is far better there and you can already draw all the letters in the proper size.

 

I usually start with the lowercase n and o, and once I have them figured out I keep them near so I can make sure the letter I’m drawing fits with the rest.

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Step 3: Connecting the script

Once all of the lowercase is drawn we need to make sure they connect because at this stage the letters are probably all over the place. This step is specific to scripts and you can skip this if you are working on different non-connecting styles.

 

You might be tempted to use kerning for this, (as I was at first!) but then I found this video by Laura Worthington where she explains how she connects her scripts and it was a lifesaver! I definitely recommend that you check it out.

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Step 4: First printouts

As soon as I have the entire lowercase alphabet I like to do some printouts to make sure I like the spacing and the weight. Nagamaki was thick and all over the place in the first round so thanks to the printouts I managed to catch that early. It all looks pretty different on screen so make sure to print out your font often.

Font_printout_1

Step 5: Uppercase

When I’m more or less happy with the lowercase (or sick to death looking at it) I’ll slowly start adding uppercase letters the same way.

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At this point, you might run into some problems, especially with the spacing. I was very careful not to use kerning during the drawing process and if some letters were creating problems, I would rethink how they are constructed in the first place.

 

There is a lot of back and forth at this stage and that’s normal. You will never be able to draw a perfect font in one go and you will have to do a lot of adjusting. That’s one of the reasons designing a font takes so much time.

 

Now, fast forward a couple of months and we can start adding additional glyphs like numbers, punctuation and whatever else you decide your font will include.

Step 6: Adding numbers and punctuation

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Ideally, you thought of numbers and punctuation while writing out your letters but if you didn’t, it’s nothing to be worried about. By now you already have rules that you have to follow in order to keep your typeface consistent so you can easily draw anything you need directly in the software.

 

Don’t forget to test it out regularly throughout the process, but if it’s half as fun for you as it was for me, I’m sure you’ll be doing that anyway 🙂

Step 7: Diacritics

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If you want your font to cover multiple languages you will have to add a ton of additional glyphs. If you are not sure which ones you should add or you are not clear on some of them, this website has amazing explanations of all diacritics used in different languages. 

Step 8: OpenType features

This is where the fun really begins 🙂 Ligatures, final forms, alternates, swashes…all of that can be added to your font by using OpenType features. It takes some learning, but for things like ligatures and alternates, it’s really simple.

07_script_font_swashes

The basics of OpenType features is programming so all you have to do is tell your font what to do if a user types a certain letter or a combination of letters. Simple if this then that logic. There are plenty of resources about OpenType that you can study further, but I suggest that you try to find answers to your questions rather than studying all the features first. It all makes much more sense when you use it on an example rather than studying everything at once.

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There is so much more to tell you about this process but it’s so complex that it’s impossible to explain in just one post. The only thing I can tell you, or rather encourage you to start. Start first and as your questions arise, go and find the answers or try things out by yourself.

 

I was far from knowing any of this when I started working on Nagamaki, but now that I’ve finished it and looking back I see how much I learned just by going through the process.

 

I still have a mountain to learn and if you are interested in font design at all, I can promise you that you will never be bored. Also, one happy side effect of designing a font is that my lettering improved significantly as I was studying font design more. Give it a try and if you have any questions let me know in the comments below.

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