Dear typophiles and experts,
I'm a humble amateur who knows next to nothing, but I do love typography like few other things in life. I'm kindly asking for your advice on an unusual question.
I'm trying to learn how to get from a scan of an old face (say, 1200 dpi) to a FLS file. One I get a .vfb file in place, I'll know what to do.
My intention is to make a homebrewed revival of a late 19th-century face for my own, purely personal use. I'm not a graphic designer, not a typographer, not a developer of anything. Just a guy who loves books and has to spend a lot of time looking at printed matter. I don't plan to share this font with anyone, let alone sell it.
With that in mind, I'd like to ask for your opinion on this question:
Where/How can I learn relatively easily to move from a bmp/png/svg file to a Fontlab-compatible file?
1. Shallow learning curve. Regrettably, I have a day job and a family. I'd love to spend a lot of time learning to do this like a pro, but I can't afford that time and effort.
2. Intuitive explanations. I've spent the last 20 years wading through rivers of unhelpful, meandering, confusing talk by my peers. One thing I learned is: intuitive, clear explanations are the best. I don't mind being treated like a child. In this particular matter, I'm no better than a child.
Thank you all for your attention and advice!
— Nail down the vertical guides within the EM before doing any actual work. You may need to add an artificial vertical reference bar alongside the letterform scans so that they import predictably (with no need to fudge the scaling by hand after the fact).
— Don't auto-trace, trace by hand over the scans.
— Place points on all extrema, and other points only if the shape truly demands it.
Even if you are like me and throw away the auto-trace, having the scans already sized and positioned and sliced up into their cells is extremely helpful.
Other tips or links to tutorials welcome.
P.S. I've just scrolled his wall and found this website about the revival project, it might be useful for you:
From the serie of video tutorials recently published, you may see
You can also ask for additional instructions in our forum or directly through support requests.
The only answer I relies on metaphors, which I hate in this context; here literal language does best, and imagery is of little help.
I know what I'm looking for -- it's coming close to a "what it feels like" sort of thing. Dredging up a digital simulacrum that'll help me feel closer to the experience I had as a young man looking at those printed pages, turning them, and glancing at the whole page out of focus, letting the particular texture of that type burn itself into my retinae, disregarding completely what the particular words were trying to say.
Two more attempts to say what I'm looking for. One: I grew up reading a lot of French prose printed in metal cuts of Series 16eme and 17eme (see also here: https://typedrawers.com/discussion/3655/reviving-french-classics-from-the-later-lead-age#latest). For me, those two faces have a feel. None of the digital revivals of Serie 16eme, from Berthold's Augustea to Charles Maze's Berthe, comes close to recreating that feel for me. However, Mr Simonson's Etna does -- inadvertently, as it were, but it succeeds admirably. When I look at it, I feel transported to the place I yearn for.
Another analogy: when I read things set in your face, Brill, I feel the same vibe I get from reading books from 18th-century British presses. It's a feel I never get from the many digitizations of Baskerville I've seen.
At the same time, my original query was a lot more humble. I was just looking for help getting from A to B. Many of the answers I got regard the journey from B to Z. That takes years of learning and struggling for wisdom. Who knows where that journey will take any of us who tries it.
1. Reconstruction: an attempt to reconstruct the shape, look and feel and even the spacing, making it possible to render a page of an old book without the technical failures (broken or deformed letters, over-inking, wavy baselines). But it needs e. g. more or less rounded corners to imitate the squash of the ink at the edges.
2. Revival: Keep the shape and proportions (more or less) with some optimisations for modern use.
3. Redesign: Take the original as an inspiration and put own personality it.
In most cases some characters will be missing in the specimens and need creation.
Just for the records an example of too slavish:
The above picture is from a specimen of "Original-Breitkopf-Fraktur" recut by H. Berthold AG at the beginning of the 20th century. Take a closer look at \c, \c_h and \c_k. Some of the digital versions copied this bad designed \c_h which is far away from the originals by Breitkopf jun.
But in 2. there is a lot of room about what these "optimisations" could be.
Personally I tried (and I am finishing the first three styles right now) to *capture* what I felt as the essence of the curves. I considered Optical size, I tried to base my initial version on a 72pt size. Since not all glyphs were obviously available at the given size, I kept collecting the most varied examples (Jacob Casal even photographed for me a good set of a 30pt size Roman).
Recently George Thomas was so nice to make macro-photos (as scans) of De Vinne Roman (the text version by Goudy) for me. By working on De Vinne alone for months, this really helped me to get into the curves, so when I added accents, new glyphs and new typographic elements (be them period pieces or new ones which nonetheless sit well with the design) I always tried the exercise to imagine how De Vinne would have looked if produced now, of course from hand drawn letters. I find the result satisfying as it looks precise on one side — some elements I introduced even purposefully “stride" with the original forms, like the Math symbols which mostly were not there — while keeping all the inconsistencies and irregularities that are exquisitely representative of the precise time span when it came out.
To cut a long story short I would ask: would you be satisfied with autotraced bezier curves (even if "polished" and maybe hinted)? I understand you’d have very little time to properly learn to draw/finalize in vector forms, but I know that on my part I would not be satisfied.
There are other scientific projects in the context of OCR correction, that generate fonts like Terese. It overlays the generated font to make differences visible for proof reading:
Others calculate special images of glyph prototypes convenient for similarity calculation. None of them can generate a nice fonts. I use similarity hashes (fingerprints), which I can generate from fonts, printed specimens or scanned books.
Others mainly in East-Asia focus on font generation. Either tracing or applying a style to skeletons. This saves time in case of the large number of Chinese glyphs (Han, Kanji).
They use special algorithms for tracing (better than autotrace or potrace) and scan from large paintings or drawings (US-letter/A4 for each glyph?).
Even a scan at 300 ppi of letters printed at 60 points results in ~280 pixels height. With potrace it looks like the scan with all the speckles (also white speckles). Correcting this and the edges, corners etc. in a glyph editor takes much time. It results in the experience, that using a scan in the background layer is a better way. Believe the experienced font drawers. Been there, done that.
You need a scan of e. g. a page. You also need an image file of each character. This means, open the scanned page in an image program like Photoshop, cut out the character and save it to a file. I used Gimp and needed 10 keystrokes for each character. Did only a-n for a test.
Next import the images of the single characters into Glyph Collector and run them against the scanned page(s). It collects all images of the same character. It should.
Here is the result of \i which appears 10 times in the text:
It detected 3 (one of them is another size and proportion) and 8 false positives.
Now you must throw away the wrong ones, mark the good ones and click "Generate Average". It really just does an average. Now open your font editor and import the average images for each glyph into a background layer.
Or autotrace them by a script and import the SVGs.
You still need to scale and align each glyph. No help about descender, ascender, spacing, kerning/overlapping. This information is lost in the process.