Getting the ball rolling / FontLab hinting, kerning help

Hello, all! I have a rather broad question. Let me start by saying that I am not a type designer by trade, nor do I have any formal training in type design. I'm a graphic designer who fell in love with type years ago and has been drawing it ever since. I bought FontLab shortly after my infatuation began, but, due to the combination of my perfectionist approach to everything and FontLab's rather steep learning curve, I've yet to produce any fonts other than those for my own personal use on various projects.

I have a handful of typefaces fully drawn that I'd love to turn into full-fledged, high-quality fonts that could then be sold either on my own website or through a distributor. They were drawn in Illustrator, and then I imported the glyphs into FontLab. Now I'm stuck on hinting and kerning, and no matter how carefully I read the FontLab manual, I still end up feeling out of my depth and with no clue where to start. Does anyone have any tips or resources for a novice like myself?

Related question: As most of these are display typefaces meant for use in graphic design applications, how in-depth do I realistically need to get with all of this to make the fonts market-ready?

Thank you in advance for indulging me!

Comments

  • Forget the hinting (aside from auto-hinting, but most distributors nowadays will help you with that / you can get into that once the rest works), and focus on the kerning.
  • Kerning is not really problematic to run through. (depending on your amount of weights and how you built your files) It will make your types more usable, but if it's all display, designers will fuss with it anyway, regardless how well it is kerned. (or will even turn on optical kerning...)

    If you want to start out without feeling overwhelmed, start kerning the large basic faults: (Cap-lowercase comps, Y-A, etc) After the basic combinations run some type tests/rivers and see what jars. Don't try to fix it all in one go.

    If most are display types, I would drop the hinting currently since it might not even add any value (or perhaps will even make the overriding-hinting worse than current auto-hinting does)
    Perhaps even retina will be in full spread by the time you release it.

    But do remember you will spend 75% of the design time on perfectionism though, but that's the life of designing type!
  • how in-depth do I realistically need to get with all of this to make the fonts market-ready?

    Very in-depth. A poorly drawn, well-spaced design is much more useful than a beautifully drawn, poorly spaced one.
  • Set the metrics for the string nnoonon as well as HHOOHOH. Make it look beautiful. Apply similar values to other glyphs of similar characteristics, then use kerning to adjust the odd bits.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,653
    edited October 2014
    Learn to get the spacing right before you move on to kerning anything. I recommend that you finish all of your fonts and test them in real products (get friends to help!) before moving on to kerning, much less releasing, anything.
  • Chris SkillernChris Skillern Posts: 4
    edited October 2014
    Thank you all so much for the advice! I'll forgo hinting for now, unless it becomes absolutely necessary. James Montalbano and James Puckett, are you suggesting I get the side-bearings right before moving on to kerning?
  • […] are you suggesting I get the side-bearings right before moving on to kerning?'

    ;-)   :-)   :-D

    Laughed from iPad
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,154
    Kerning without getting the sidebearings correct is useless.
  • ha I'm sorry. Please bear with me. I'm very familiar with kerning in general, but the specifics of kerning inside FontLab are coming slowly to me. Let me ask more specifically: I've had a tendency to set all of the side-bearings the same, regardless of the glyph, and then to try to correct everything with kerning. Is there a better way? Again, excuse my ignorance.
  • are you suggesting I get the side-bearings right before moving on to kerning?
    Yes.
    I've had a tendency to set all of the side-bearings the same, regardless of the glyph, and then to try to correct everything with kerning. Is there a better way?
    Yes
  • Start with:
    nnoonon

    and:
    HHOOHOH

    The side bearings on the straights and the rounds will have different values to appear well balanced.

    Once those small sequences look good to you, apply those straight and round values to glyphs with similar characteristics. The diagonal and others should be balanced visually using these strings:
    HAHBHCHDHEHFHGHHIHJHKHLHMHNHOHPHQHRHSHTHUHVHWHXHYHZH
    OAOBOCODOEOFOGOHOIOJOKOLOMONOOPOQOROSOTOUOVOWOXOYOZO
    nanbncndnenfngnhninjnknlnmnnonpnqnrnsntnunvnwnxnynzn
    oaobocodoeofogohoiojokolomonoopoqorosotouovowoxoyozo

    After all of this looks as good as it can using side bearings only, you may be ready to adjust the outliers with kerning.
  • James MontalbanoJames Montalbano Posts: 902
    edited October 2014
    This should all be done as you draw and not wait for drawing to be completed.
    Properly spacing the design will take more time than drawing it
  • James, thank you so much! Very helpful!
  • Hi Chris,

    Kerning is a correction on the fitting, which is sometimes required because the harmonic systems of the Latin script are inconsistent. I tend to disagree a bit with James when it comes to ‘A poorly drawn, well-spaced design is much more useful than a beautifully drawn, poorly spaced one.’, because I believe that harmony and rhythm in type are inextricably connected with each other. One never gets the spacing completely right if there are inconsistencies in the design pattern.

    We didn’t see anything of your design so far on TypeDrawers. If you are interested we could do a test here with artificially spacing your type. One way would be to calculate the space between the letters, which is based on the type-foundry practice since roughly the seventeenth century. We use the IKARUS-based Kernus program for this. Another option –if applicable for your design– would be to distill the underlying rhythmical pattern from your type and use this for the fitting. This is done with Kernagic (with a newer version then is currently available at http://www.lettermodel.org). This approach is based on what I distilled from Renaissance type.

    In both cases the actual calculation is done in a split second, the conversion of the formats will probably take a couple of minutes. Interested?

    Best, Frank
  • image

    To illustrate my point, I just ruined the spacing of DTL Fell (under development since 1997) by setting the side bearings to zero.

    image

    Subsequently I applied Kernus and Kernagic. Kernagic wins here because it understands the pattern and recognizes the stems and curves. Also the individual widths are very easy to tweak on the fly (not done here though).

    image

    Perhaps you will see things that can be improved. We see them too, but this makes a great starting point for editing the fitting, and in case of Kernagic also the complete design pattern.

    We can generate the kerning in a jiffy too.
  • image

    Sorry, just couldn’t resist.
  • Kernagic wins here because it understands the pattern and recognizes the stems and curves.

    image

    However, if a design clearly deviates from the archetypal models, like Comic Sans, then overall Kernus seems to do a better job. Trying to achieve an equilibrium of white space by (basically) purely calculating this, seems to make more sense in this case than trying to distill (and subsequently apply) the rhythmical pattern.
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 900
    Let me ask more specifically: I've had a tendency to set all of the side-bearings the same, regardless of the glyph, and then to try to correct everything with kerning. Is there a better way?
    Consider this: The Linotype hot-metal typesetting machine was incapable of any kerning. So, several of the most popular book typefaces of the mid 20th century succeeded purely on the basis of their natural fitting, i.e., the sidebearings.

    Similarly, Georgia performs incredibly well without any kerning pairs whatsoever.
  • Trinité from The Enschedé Type Foundry, a typeface used for books, has no kerning.
  • Frank, please stay on-topic. If you want to start a thread about the merits of DTL’s auto-spacing software start a new thread in the software category.
  • James: ‘Learn to get the spacing right before you move on to kerning anything.

    James: ‘Frank, please stay on-topic. If you want to start a thread about the merits of DTL’s auto-spacing software start a new thread in the software category.

    ¿Qué? What is exactly off-topic about my posts addressing the backgrounds of spacing translated into artificial stuff if someone asks for advice concerning spacing? And Kernagic isn’t DTL software, it’s Open Source and it’s for free too! And it supports UFO! WOW!
  • The topic was getting started with hinting and kerning in Fontlab. You’ve moved on to comparing to automated programs. I’d love to read what you have to say on that topic, I just think that it needs its own thread.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,589
    edited October 2014
    Another thing to keep in mind is that Microsoft Word, by default, ignores all kerning in all fonts. (Yes, the user can turn it on, but this is rarely done by normal users.) Ditto most other office-type applications, except that some of them don't even have the option to turn on kerning.

    Further, the "optical kerning" in Adobe apps starts with the initial spacing of some key letters such as O and H. If they are "wrong" then you make optical kerning fail dramatically.

    Plus, kerning every possible combination would be vastly more work! Kerning is a correction for unusual shape interactions, not an all-the-time thing.

    So you really need to get the spacing right.

    I will second the motion that you could work with all your fonts and get them perfectly spaced and pretty much ready to release before you start kerning any of them. That is way more sensible than anything else.

    The reason is, if you change the spacing after you've started kerning, you will have to throw out some or all of your kerning. That's potentially many hours of work lost. Sometimes repeatedly!

    I have never heard any type designer ever in my life say "I started kerning that font too late." But I have heard (and myself said) the opposite more times than I can count. I have frequently called it out as the #1 most common beginner mistake in type design.
  • Ramiro EspinozaRamiro Espinoza Posts: 738
    edited October 2014
    The most affordable way to learn how to space a font: Notes on Type Design: http://66.147.242.192/~operinan/2/2.3.5a/2.3.5.01.spacing.htm
    (There is useful information in the whole "book")
  • However, if a design clearly deviates from the archetypal models, like Comic Sans, then overall Kernus seems to do a better job.
    The fitting by Kernagic looks closer to the original to me...
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