Ornamental Initials


I have been drawing ornaments for years and decided to make a font similar to my previous project Floralis, but this time based on a personal face and not an existing font (and more mature I hope, with a better similarity between the letters). I drew the solids in FontForge and the ornaments by hand, then scanned and traced. I uploaded some solids to WhatTheFont and as far as I can gather, there is no previous exact match (could be, there is always this possibility).

I plan on expanding the Basic Latin to a full set, so I post this here to get the Basic right before moving on. Have not yet decided on the lowercase, probably will be small caps based on the solids, maybe not.




  • BTW, this is intended for commercial use, so be brutally honest. I was told such fonts depend heavily on fashion, so I may not release it right away.
  • edited July 2016
    I feel the ornaments follow the lettershapes too strictly. Looking at the Floralis font, I see a freedom in the merging of lettershape and floral ornament. Even though Floralis uses Bodoni as a base, there are plenty of places where the the ornament breaks free from the bounds adding a certain liveliness. This adds charm and personality to a typeface (or set of initials) which hopefully helps it's commercial aspect.

    I think an important decision is: Will this be a set of initials or a display typeface? Both require (and allow) totally different design solutions (in the first for instance, readability and uniformity is of lesser importance). Seeing you are planning for a full Basic Latin set, I think you are going for the second?

    On some places ornaments are added outside the 'mould' (the C and Z for instance) but on other letters the serifs are sharply cut, which results in small 'fill-in' blocks that feel out of place. Perhaps be a good idea to let more serifs flow beyond the 'edge' of the letter (as for instance, done at the top of the 'K') to break the mould. This could also be done on the vertical 'sharp-cut' areas.

    Some of the letterforms also don't go that well being ornamented, for instance the Q looks cluttered (I think it would be better to start the tail from the bottom). and the beak of the S is too small and black. Of course the base letters needs quite a bit of finishing, but I'll focus on the main concept.

    I like the idea of being able to use the different versions together, but I think the initials could use some more personality without becoming a shape filled (or traced) with patterns. Otherwise you are in danger of not standing out from other ornamental fonts.
  • AbiRasheedAbiRasheed Posts: 236
    edited July 2016
    Aside from fixing a few letterforms, I think you should have this inverted, it works better on a darker bg and use that as promotional material so people see how effective it is. On a white bg though it looks like a pattern fill basically rather than individual elements making up the shape.
  • Beautiful ornaments.

    Firstly, define if you want serifs or not. As Arthur pointed, this initial iteration mix that. I would keep the criteria of B, D, P, I, and  J: no real serifs, just small stroke increments at endings (like in Optima).

    For a font with complete alphabet, I think it would be better to keep ornaments limited to "usual" forms. After you get the whole set and make tests, you can experiment with more free forms and see how (and if) they fit. The contrary way would make much harder to achieve consistency.

    Specific notes:
    1. U, V, and W are inverted (think/thick stems).
    2. S could have a heavier bottom curve. And both its endings could be more rounded.
    3. Q tail is very dark inside the O.
    4. T top bar is very wide.
    5. A bar would be nicer without inclination and lighter ornaments.
    6. You are not using overshoot to round letters. This is needed to produce correct optical results.
  • Thank you all, immensely helpful. :smiley:
  • edited December 2016
    125.png 122.6K
  • edited December 2016
    I think to go the non-lazy path and expand the Latin set, haven't figured out yet how to add the diacritics, perhaps a black semi-circle over and under the square...


  • If your expansion embraces just main languages of Western Europe, an idea is to scale down H-size and compose with accents and cedilla within the square. To a wider audience, you will need space above, below, at left, and at right. Not sure how do that. :-(

    There is a small leaf in I and J (at about 1/3 of the height) not present in K or L.
  • That Ą is great.
  • *tips hat*
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 728
    edited January 2018
    I am currently removing the floating particles as suggested. It will be a display face, each glyph in it's own black cell. Diacritics will occupy a non-semicircular space, so we can avoid associations with gravestones. :)

  • Personally, I like the December 16 images. I like the domed tops. They remind me of windows. I can see a book with those as drop caps.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,059
    The latest version is wonderful!
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 728
    edited January 2018
    Thank you, but not yet. A friend pointed out the inner proportions are off. E.g. The left stem of the A is too thin, the right too thick, same goes for foot of K, lobes of B are too even... needs more work! That's what I need to hear, because going in the wrong direction from the start will make everything askew. ;)
    Not only that, but the color is different. A is more white than it should be, when I look at it now...
  • Very nice work, pretty much even texture, nicely resembled serifs and eye pleasant flow of organic shapes.

    Here are a few points that might be useful:

    -Lower half of left inner diagonal of M maybe looks a bit "blocky" compared to the rest.
    -Left diagonal of Y looks a bit thin to me (on V looks good i.e)
    -Tail of Q looks too thick, with really blunted ending. I expected more elegant form looking other letters/endings.
    -P looks a bit whiter than O to me (like it has narrower gaps or less of them)

  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 728
    edited July 2018
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,947
    These have improved dramatically over the years. Good work! A few changes:
    • The heavy diagonals of K, R, X, Y, and Z are too light. Optically they should match the vertical strokes.
    • S is top heavy; make the lower terminal the big one.
    • L, E and Z’s bottom horizontal terminals are too light and plain. It makes E and Z top-heavy.

  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,348
    Upright and diagonal thin strokes need work: A and K aren’t bad but M N U need more weight in the serifs and V and W are too thick in the middle. 
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 728
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 728
    edited July 2018
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,947
    I love the stars. It amazes me to think of all the time you’re spending drawing these and then tracing them.
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 728
    edited July 2018
    @James Puckett Thank you, I'm flattered :)
    Much like with icon fonts or ornamental vector packs, it's actually easy once you have the basic building blocks. I reshuffle and recycle them as lego bricks as much as is needed, and this not only saves time, but ensures consistency. The Cyrillic for example took me under 3 hours.

    What I am more concerned about is the cleaning of the Beziers in the font editor, because it will surely be a mess once the shapes transit to there from Illustrator.
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 728
    edited July 2018
    + that it is completely, utterly unacceptable to provide to a client anything below the best you can provide and they are entitled to expect. I can never allow myself that. These images are still WIPs, the final font will be much more polished.
       The only excuse I could semi-accept in others for tardiness and sub-optimal work is time pressure and a not high enough skill level. I don't wanna hear about how the baby acted out, or this or that person cut you off in trafic and that's why a project got derailed and other such excuses (and I have heard plenty of those). I have disciplined myself to go hard.
       Also, the better the attention to detail, the less problems in the support phase. And it is the longest phase.

  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 728
    edited August 2018
    Hrant, may I ask that you critique this Armenian design? :)

    Do Armenian letters get diacritics when they are used as drop caps? I could incorporate diacritical variants in the design (see above posts)
  • AbiRasheedAbiRasheed Posts: 236
    edited August 2018
    Been following this process for awhile, looking pretty sweet dude. Can't even image the kinda patience you need to draw stuff like this specially if you have to make it into a typeface. Just one thing though I noticed that could use some tweaking is optical compensations. I don't know the names for some of these glyphs but like if you look at the one that looks like a U it appears it's curving in because of how the ornamentation is lacking on the hairline stroke. Also the one that looks like a N with a curl to the right(4th row 7th column? You can see it's got a slight lean to it, so do a few others. I think most of this needs to be corrected optically and less by the guide if that makes sense.

    Unrelated to the discussion but for the admins. Can we have a like button already? I mean you can see why "agree" or "insightful" makes no sense here. Hah
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 728
    edited August 2018
    Noted the balance issue, will work on it in later stages. Meanwhile, Hebrew strikes from the flank!!

  •  ;) 

  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,827
    I really like this last kanji character, although I can't attest to how well it reads. I think it is graphically more interesting that any of the forms from the other scripts, and has a really nice feel of collage.

    This makes me realise that while I really like the ornament shapes and how they fit within the letters, in the other scripts I think the actual letterforms themselves are not very interesting, and also old fashioned looking. Maybe try a heavier letterform? Perhaps something like a black weight sans serif, so the shape of the letters contrasts with the ornamentation?

    Yes, this means starting over, but I think you'd have something much stronger and more useful in contemporary design.
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