How to Create Fonts for Unique Designs

Posted on December 23, 2022 | Updated on February 6, 2023

Typography can become overdone quickly. Everyone wants to find the next best font, but when they do, others start using it and flood the design space. Pretty soon, every other logo or website header is using similar fonts and the search for something individual begins anew. Web designers and graphic designers alike must find a way to get one-of-a-kind typography to help their projects and clients stand out. Luckily, they can learn how to create fonts for unique designs.

Even better, the process is much easier than many think. While designers may have previously needed to rely on Photoshop or other such apps, now there are plenty of options for turning handwriting or new styles into a font. Here is an overlook and a few programs professionals can use to create new typography and elevate their designs’ style.

How to Create Fonts

Depending on the application of choice, the actual font-making process will be slightly different. However, there are some basics to know when learning how to create fonts. Here is an overarching tutorial designers can come back to for the basics.

1. Sketch the Design

Naturally, the first thing someone making a font should do is draw out the design. It’s best to get a thorough idea of what the typography will look like before jumping into any software. Figure out what each character, number and punctuation mark looks like in bold, italics, lower case and upper case. Don’t worry if this step takes a long time — practice makes progress, so take as much time as necessary to polish the design.

Having a full sketch first can be extremely helpful when the program of choice allows for photo uploading. This feature can make the creation much faster, but it’s not necessary. It can also be nice as a reference if the font goes through many changes in the process.

2. Pick a Program

Next, a designer must pick software to use when making their font. While they can use programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator, there is also an excellent selection of font-devoted software to look at. In addition, there are plenty of paid and free versions available. It may be appealing to use a free program when first learning how to create a font. However, it could behoove users to start out with paid software full of detailed capabilities.

Either option is fine and it is not necessary to pay for programs to make a font. Open-source software does its best to provide designers with a comprehensive experience, but paid programs do have the advantage of more funding. It all comes down to what the user thinks is best.

3. Get to Work

After sketching and installation, it’s finally time to start making the font. As stated before, each software will have a different process, so reading up on how to use it and watching tutorial is vital. The program might allow designers to scan and upload their sketched design, but others will let the user draw the font.

It’s essential to know the different lines in typography design next.

  • The baseline is the bottom line on which all the letters will sit.
  • The stem is the main base of a letter.
  • X-height is the height of lowercase letters, like “e” or the bump of an “h”.
  • Ascender height is the length of the upward stem for letters like “d” and “k”.
  • The bowl is the closed portion of letters like “o” and “b”.
  • Descender depth is how far the stem of letters like “p” and “q” go down.

All these lines help the font look balanced and even.

4. Take a Look

Once all the characters and glyphs are complete, it’s time to make sure everything looks as good as possible. The kerning — the spacing between the letters — is a crucial part of visually appealing typography, so ensure there are no awkward gaps. It can be very beneficial to print out the font in different sizes during the design process to get a non-digital look at it. Doing so could help catch mistakes designers would have missed.

It’s also critical to look at how each character looks at the beginnings and endings of sentences. The letters or punctuation marks may make odd spaces next to different ones, so try them out next to various characters to fully touch up the typography.

Software for Font Making

A few specific programs make the font-creation process much faster than before. What once would have required software not built for this purpose is now streamlined with these products. Here are three programs every designer should take advantage of to start making their own typography.

1. FontLab

FontLab is currently in its eighth edition, meaning it’s only getting better. The software allows designers to trace characters and glyphs with bitmap autotracing and intense precision. It also provides snapping and live measurements, so the ability to make a font is easier than ever. FontLab also has kerning editing capabilities, so users can eliminate anything that looks awkward.

Something great about FontLab is it also has testing capabilities. Therefore, a designer does not have to wait and export the font to see if there are any errors. It’s available on both Mac and Windows, so users can take advantage of this powerful software no matter what kind of computer they have. FontLab has a 10-day free trial, so there are plenty of reasons to give it a shot before buying it.

2. Fontself

Those who already have Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator need not look further than Fontself. It’s and extension for both of these programs that allows for the creation of OpenType fonts. Like FontLab, it also supports making colored typography. It can also handle alternates, meaning designers can adjust what the letters look like depending on which ones they’re next to. Such adjustments are quite helpful for cursive-style fonts.

Because the programs it works with have the same capabilities, both PC and Mac users can utilize Fontself for their needs. The program also has an easy kerning adjustment feature that will notify designers how much time they saved. It doesn’t have a free trial, but unlike Illustrator and Photoshop, this software is a one-time purchase. If designers don’t want to download a separate program for typography making, Fontself could be a great choice.

3. FontForge

Unfortunately, a lot of such font creators cost money. While some are just around $50, others can be as much as $500. Though they often have a lot of capabilities, users just starting out in design and want to learn may not want to spend money on a program. However, they have an option they can start with — FontForge. This software is completely free and is available for Windows, Mac and Unix/Linux operating systems.

Some users say the learning curve is a bit steep for FontForge, but the developers have created Design With FontForge, which is full of tutorials. They also have a mailing list designers can utilize if they can’t find an answer to their questions online. With nearly 160,000 downloads at this point in time, trying out this program is a simple way to step into the world of font creation.

Learn How to Create Fonts and Improve Designs

While creating unique typography may seem challenging initially, software and tutorials can make the process a breeze. Learning how to create fonts doesn’t have to be as painful as it sounds. Practicing font creation can help graphic and web designers make new typography that stands out from the crowd.

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About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at www.eleanorhecks.com.

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