Choosing Type Design Software

I imagine it's probably a bad idea to ask "Which software should I use?" so I'll talk about my experience (or lack thereof) a bit and some of you might have some recommendations.

I did my first (and so far only completed) font in Fontographer 3.5.  I think I have a 4.1 license somewhere, but I think I've only ever used 3.5.

A few years ago, I bought TypeTool and ScanFont in a bundle.  I'm not sure why I didn't get the Fontographer upgrade, but I think either it didn't have Adobe Illustrator import or it looked like it hadn't been updated in years.  Maybe both.  I don't remember for certain.

I have two fonts I am currently working on.  I've been doing them in Adobe Illustrator.  Shameful, I know, but I'm more accustomed to using Illustrator's drawing tools.  I figured I would create them in Illustrator then import them into TypeTool when done.  It'll probably be a pain, but my familiarity with Illustrator meant it would be more likely that the fonts would be completed if I did the work in TypeTool.

Anyway, while trying to troubleshooting a kerning issue (fine on Mac, screwy on Windows), I looked at software options again.  TypeTool supports 65,535 glyphs.  FontLab Studio supports 65,535.  Fontographer 5.2 supports 20,000+.  Do I need over 65k glyphs?  Probably not but do I want to not have the option if I do?  TypeTool and FontLab both generate OpenType TT fonts natively; Fontographer apparently needs to go through some conversion process.  Is that bad?  Fontographer 5.2 imports from Illustrator.  Hmm.

I'm probably never going to be a huge foundry, so something like FontLab Studio (or Robofont or some of the other options) is probably overkill for me.  TypeTool seems workable but it also feels like underkill.  Maybe Fontographer is what I should be using.  Then again, I could get FontLab for only $50 more.  Maybe I should just stop worrying about the software and finish the two fonts I'm working on first.

Comments

  • I know everyone's preferences are different, but for me, going from the drawing tools in Illustrator to those of a real font editor (Glyphs in my case) felt like being handed a superpower. There's so much more control over seemingly everything.

    I actually get angry now when I have to do any (non-type-related) vector drawing in Illustrator.

    My point is, I wouldn't let Illustrator import be a deciding factor. Whatever tool you choose, you'll get used to, and probably grow to love.
  • Michael JarboeMichael Jarboe Posts: 208
    edited May 2016
    The sooner you can get comfortable in a font editor the better. It may be awkward at first but if you push through you'll find it ultimately a more precise, efficient, and flexible tool. Being able to draw and space simultaneously is critical, let alone eliminating the process of tranferring your drawings from Illustrator.

    My start was similar to yours but now I can't stand drawing in Illustrator and any final logo or lettering work is drawn or at least finalized in a font editor.
  • Search this site and you'll find several threads discussing the merits of various type design software options. One product you didn't mention is Glyphs, which is used by many of the designers here, and whose developer is an active forum participant.
  • I may do things in an unusual way.  I don't know.

    For example, in my Illustrator document, I have various parts floating around.  Serifs, for one.  So, to make sure my serifs are consistent, I can draw a letter, drag the serif over, line it up (flip it if necessary), then merge that with the letter to create a single form.

    Or I might hand-draw a font and scan it (or scan an old font).  Then I tweak it.  The original scanned letter is red.  I'll copy that then tweak the copy.  If I am somewhat happy with it, but not happy enough to declare it done, I make it blue.  When I consider a letter finalized, I make it black.

    Is there any type design software that would let me do something like that?  Or close?  Or do I just do things entirely wrong?
  • You can adapt that process, maybe not the colorizing part, but using empty glyph cells for parts or iterations of certain glyphs as you proceed. Expand the sidebearings for a larger area to work, cut and paste back and forth, etc. Save a copy of your working file and rename it, use it strictly to save those glyph iterations in case you need to backtrack.
  • Thierry BlancpainThierry Blancpain Posts: 152
    edited May 2016
    Believe all of us on here when we tell you that Illustrator is a horrible, horrible environment to draw fonts. Whatever you perceive as your perfect workflow in there will be needlessly complicated, imprecise, prone to errors, and many other things.

    Glyphs, Fontlab (FL 6 at least), and Robofonts are all fine editors. Even if you only do this for fun, if I think back to drawing fonts in Illustrator now, I shudder in disgust. You’ll do so, too. Have a look at Glyphs Mini, which might fulfill your needs and is quite a bit cheaper than the professional tools.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 950
    edited May 2016
    You will spend more time cleaning up the mess that AI makes than it will take to learn a real type design software.  Whatever  you need to do, it will be better in a type tool.
    Also, you can store all of your partial bits in the back layer.
  • George ThomasGeorge Thomas Posts: 363
    @Dan C. Rinnert If you use a Mac, the font editor you might want to try would be Glyphs (glyphsapp.com). You can download it for a free trial period (thirty days, I think). It's worth trying out before you make a decision.

    It may be quite some time before a complete FontLab VI is ready and I expect it will be a huge improvement over FontLab Studio. However, if you upgrade Fontographer to FontLab Studio now, you will get a free upgrade to FontLab VI when it becomes available. That's a Mac offer but it may be available for Windows too (store.fontlab.com).
  • Simon CozensSimon Cozens Posts: 194
    For example, in my Illustrator document, I have various parts floating around.  Serifs, for one.  So, to make sure my serifs are consistent, I can draw a letter, drag the serif over, line it up (flip it if necessary), then merge that with the letter to create a single form.

    Yes, you would do this with a font editor; put your serif parts into components and then either just use those components as-is (with whatever flipping or scaling you want) in a new glyph, or decompose it into a new glyph and merge the parts together. In fact, you can do much more clever things than that with Glyphs - you can create parametric components so that you keep the basic serif shape but use sliders to change height, width, etc.

    Or I might hand-draw a font and scan it (or scan an old font).  Then I tweak it.  The original scanned letter is red.  I'll copy that then tweak the copy.  If I am somewhat happy with it, but not happy enough to declare it done, I make it blue.  When I consider a letter finalized, I make it black.

    You can do this kind of thing using layers, or you can do it with multiple versions of the same glyph. Glyphs makes it easy for you to duplicate a glyph and work on the duplicated versions, and you can color-code those alternates, while having the original outlines shown in the background.


    I've focused on Glyphs because that's what I use but all font editors should give you that.

  • Thanks all.  I'll take a closer look at FontLab and Glyphs.  I may do as Thierry Blancpain suggests and start with Glyphs Mini.  I could always upgrade to the regular version at a later time.
  • Mohamed GhenaniaMohamed Ghenania Posts: 1
    edited May 2016
    @Dan C. Rinnert You can also keep working in Illustrator and finally build a font from your glyphs in seconds by using Fontself. And sorry for the self advertising ;-)
  • @Mohamed Ghenania Sounds intriguing, but I don't use CC.
Sign In or Register to comment.