How to Quickly Make a Font for Free

This font making tutorial is aimed at those font junkies and letter-obsessed people like me, ranging from the scrapbooker,  to fashion-driven blogger, and up to the seasoned graphic designer. I’ve been interesting in drawing my own versions of the alphabet since I was a youngster, long before I knew I wanted to be a professional designer. My job requires me to have a keen sensibility of typefaces, but not many people, (even designers) know how to make a font unless they are specifically a type designer. Normally, you shell out a wad of cash for FontLab, or back in the day, you were using Fontographer to sensitively tend to your font creations. It takes plenty of work to craft a well-designed font, but new tools are always coming out that help the laymen people. Your font might not be the next Helvetica, but it is the creativity that makes it fun. Below are some fonts that I have made (download some of them for free), and a step-by-step guide to free resources for producing your own fonts.

Option 1: MyScriptFont

The easiest way to make a ready-to-go font is to use MyScriptFont.com, which is tailored for handwritten, handmade text script. It’s an online font creation program that spews fonts when you complete and submit their quick, easy template form. It can read black writing within the grid, according the the character in the box. You can do it two ways:

  1. Print PDF, Write in black ink or marker, and Scan as an image.
  2. Open PDF in Photoshop, Illustrator, or similar computer program, Import vectors or Draw the letters, and Resave as a 300 dpi image.

From there, you upload to the same website, and it will give you a font to download after it processes. It usually takes less than 30 seconds.

Tips: I’ve noticed that it won’t read thin letters very well, so make sure your characters have strong lines. Also, make sure you stay within the smaller gray bounding box for best results. Make sure you’re font isn’t too small in scale either, as the spacebar glyph will be disproportionately large. If you want to dive deeper and edit how your font works, read on…

Option 2: Font Forge

If you are not satisfied with the final product using the online font creator, you still have options, but they require free software with a higher learning curve. Unlike the  limited functionality of MyScriptFont, FontForge is an open source font making and font editing program that works on all computer platforms with a bit of elbow grease. It normally requires installation of other environments (programs) and components to make it work properly. The instructions are not for the technically deficient, but there are simpler guides for Windows and Mac. If you can use the prebuilt install packages, you can bypass a few steps. This instant download (made in 2011) for Windows XP/Vista/7 doesn’t require any other downloads as it is packaged with them already.

After you have FontForge ready on your system, you can utilize their glyph (vector) editing tools, similarly to Adobe  Illustrator, You can also set or reset the tracking (how much space to give in between the letters) using the Metrics>AutoWidth or double clicking the the individual letter and dragging the left and right vertical lines that act as the horizontal bounding edges. Beyond that is Kerning tools, which help poorly spaced letter pairings to be fine-tuned.

Option 3: InkScape

If FontForge ended up not compiling or working correctly (or you just gave up), there is still some hope. Inkscape is an open source vector editor, an free alternative little brother of Adobe Illustrator, but also has an SVG font editing tool. In order for this to work on my Mac (Leopard), I had to download an older version (0.47), but I would try the newest version first. You will have to follow this guide to get a grasp of how to import each letter into the font editor. An SVG font isn’t like the TrueType or PostScript that can be used in Word/Powerpoint/Photoshop/etc, so you’ll need to convert your SVG font, and you can do that for free here or here.

Option 4: 30 Day Trials and Other Programs

The program standards in the font world almost always have a trial or demo to download to get familiar with the program and to see if it fits the bill. The most expensive and robust program is FontLab Studio or Fontographer, again with a learning curve for those new to working with glyphs. There is also a lighter weight, but still powerful program by the same company called TypeTool. For ease of use, there is High-Logic Font Creator and Scanahand for Windows. Be aware that most of these trial versions will either cripple the export function to generate the font file, or there will be watermarks or removed characters during the generation of the font. To get a full-fledged font, you probably have to purchase the full version.

Font constructor is a free program for Mac (not a trial), but I had crashing errors on my machine. It was easy to use, so I’d also give this a try. It may work fine on your Mac.

2 Comments on How to Quickly Make a Font for Free

  1. Faraz Ahmad
    October 21, 2017 at 3:14 am (6 months ago)

    Beautiful post Kathryn, thank you very much for sharing :)

    Reply

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