Questions about Ikarus

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Hello,

I read about how Ikarus would let someone trace physical fonts and turn it into digital type. I know that DTL OpenTypeMaster exists, and it supports Ikarus. My question is if special hardware is required to use the print-to-digital conversion. My assumption is yes, but I am way out of my league here. A pre-emptive "Thanks" to anyone who helps.

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  • Carl Crossgrove
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    Yes, the original version had to live on a large mainframe computer, but a Mac version was made that allowed you to digitize type from large, clean, accurate drawings. Not that many people make such drawings anymore…. Using the Mac software required a large tablet with a grid on it, and an attached 5-button mouse whose functions were all assigned; curve point, corner point, tangent, etc. I guess you could look online for such a relic, but I don’t think I’d use it in the context of our current tools.
  • John Hudson
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    This is the best image I have found of an Ikarus digitising tablet and mouse.
  • LeMo aka PatternMan aka Frank E Blokland
    edited September 2023
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    At DTL we use Wacom Intuos 2 tablets with lens cursors together with DTL IkarusMaster under Windows XP under Parallels Desktop under macOS. I know a client who uses an Intuos 3 tablet. We have explored the possibility of supporting the use of digitizers in DTL FoundryMaster, but this does not seem so simple. So far I haven’t been able to get everything running in Wine the same way I did in Parallels Desktop, due to limited USB support.

    IKARUS and Intuos 2

    And yes, we still draw on paper and make high-quality working drawings at a capital height of 10 cm. The latest project is DTL PlusGrande, which you can read about in the news column on the left at our vintage website.
  • Typofactory
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    At DTL we use Wacom Intuos 2 tablets with lens cursors together with DTL IkarusMaster under Windows XP under Parallels Desktop under macOS.

    Could you guide me through a process of using Ikarus to make a font? I know that I can do better on paper, and my original question was mainly to find out whether or not it was possible to do such a thing. 

  • LeMo aka PatternMan aka Frank E Blokland
    edited September 2023
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    As you may know, the Dutch Type Library does not work for third parties in any way and the DTL typefaces are developed in-house with our proprietary software. As mentioned, this includes support for the IKARUS format. In terms of hardware, in addition to a couple of Wacom Intuos 2 tablets plus lens cursors, DTL also has still three functioning Power Macintosh systems (two of which are upgraded desktop Gossamers) with Ikarus M and Aristo A3 digitizing tablets, one of which is in the auditorium of Museum Plantin-Moretus. The latter is occasionally used during the Expert class Type design course for demonstrations. We also run the ‘big’ UNIX version of IKARUS on macOS and IKARUS D on PC (the latter mostly for fun).

    IKARUS production workflow at DTL

    The IKARUS workflow at DTL is quite simple (the image above is from a presentation I gave at the TypoTechnica 2007 conference in Frankfurt). First, glyph drawings are created at a relatively small size and are (usually) spaced. Perfect working drawings are then made at a capital height of 10 cm on high-quality transparent paper or polyester film, depending on the preferences of the draftsman. These drawings are marked (on the back of the transparent sheets) on the contours with curve, corner, and tangent points according to the IKARUS algorithm. One of these points becomes the start point (there is an order for that). A lens cursor is precisely placed on each point and the relevant button for the point type is pressed. This requires some experience, but is a relatively quick and simple process. After all, the main work was done when the working drawings were made.

    DTL file system

    The digital contours are printed in original format on high-res laser printers and checked by placing the transparent working drawings on them. If necessary, corrections are applied, often numerically. Test runs are then made with texts, which normally results in a few extra correction rounds. Finally, the contours are converted to cubic or quadratic Bézier (BE, IB, or QQ and IQ formats respectively) for further (batch) processing. This conversion can be viewed and managed in the DTL tools.

    For example, you can see an impression of what DTL Fleischmann’s IKARUS-based production entailed here.
  • James Montalbano
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    My first foray into digital type was via IkarusM and an Aristo Tablet. The tablet cost a fortune and I held on to it for years after it was useful.

  • donat raetzo
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    you made me curious. i can not remember whether digitizing on VAX or mac. but it seems, the mac version was able to do it. you look at osx 10.4.11 / classic mode:



    i do not have a tablet and cursor. the procedure implies, the digital image ends up in the open/double-clicked glyph space of your font file. 

    as written above, digitizing is very simple. you need to mark up curves in your template (yes, 10 cm cap height is fine) every 15 degrees. this is for curves. iow, a quarter circle has 6 (curve-)marks (of same distance if exactly circled) in total. use drawing tools: ruler, geo triangle , degree meter. 
    straight lines need only start and end, just like other formats.
    this will end up in a typical IK outline as shown above in Franks post. ikarus exports PS1 fonts and EPS files, IK format will be translated into beziers.

    details are tricky. fewer marks on curves will not be satisfying in expression, more do not improve :-) study available images of IK-outlines. maybe here: https://de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:Ikarus_Outline_Description.jpg

    i remember being stunned by the results. it is simple, fast and accurate. maybe you can source the parts and figure out a workflow that suits you. i am not technically gifted. i do not know the current possibilities with dtl products. 
  • donat raetzo
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    KORRIGENDA

    i wrote:
    you need to mark up curves in your template (yes, 10 cm cap height is fine) every 15 degrees. this is for curves. iow, a quarter circle has 6 (curve-)marks (of same distance if exactly circled) in total. 

    this seems not to be correct.

    it is a long time ago, sorry. here it says, approximately every 30 degrees for curve points. that's four marks for a quarter circle. less work!
  • FontInsider
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    Thanks for posting about this, I always wondered how IKARUS would work on modern computers.
  • donat raetzo
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    Hello,

    I read about how Ikarus would let someone trace physical fonts and turn it into digital type. I know that DTL OpenTypeMaster exists, and it supports Ikarus. My question is if special hardware is required to use the print-to-digital conversion. My assumption is yes, but I am way out of my league here. A pre-emptive "Thanks" to anyone who helps.

    I experimented with Intuos3 equipment (couldn’t find any Intuos2) attached to my Mac running OSX 10.4.11 / classic mode, using the USB port. The Mac is fine with it, but not Ikarus: the tablet is not recognised by the application. 

    Digitising is possible using DTL IkarusMaster in demo mode. Results vary, depending on original drawing size and accuracy in placing the lens cursor. Keep in mind IK UPM is 15’000.

    The demo app allows to save in IK format, which can be opened in Ikarus to export EPS. 

    Looking at my testing, a perfect IK outline is hard to get right away. It needs manual editing, at least for me. But editing IK is fantastic, due to its formula. It works dependant to its adjacent points. It feels almost "organic" to me. Smallest corrections of points redraw the entire curve. That's why it is important to have the right amount of points at the right place. 

    One should consider scaning/tracing, too (not to worry about lens cursors and tablets), manual editing is probably inevitable anyway. Further, a IK outline turned into Bezier (I did not experiment with TT) will add curve points where needed. That’s not a problem if the target is a static font (vs. a variable font).  (And let’s not forget about aligned points, consistent stem widths, overshots – more?)

    What I describe here is most likely themed in Dr. Karows book “Digitale Schriften”, but I binned my copy years ago.

    I could not figure out what the latest DTL software does in regard of compatibility of platforms, digitisers and scanning/tracing. 

    Please correct me where I am wrong, it’s trial-and-error :-)


  • Typofactory
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    Did it just require the Intuous and DTL IkarusMaster? Was there anythign else needed for it to work?
  • donat raetzo
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    Was there anythign else needed for it to work?
    Just as an example, no. If you are aiming for a complete, contemporary font, you might want to look into the whole DTL application suite.