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Tyler Finck on Type Design: How to Make a Font

By on May 2, 2016 in Tutorials
Tyler Finck on Type Design: How to Make a Font

In 2004, I obtained my first version of Fontlab. I had never studied typography or even had much experience with vectors. I didn't even have a proper mouse. But I poked my way through that app with a lot of head scratching, fist pounding, and coffee.

Keep in mind YouTube wasn't even invented, and Google was not the giant that it is today. What I'm saying is that resources were limited. In the end, I had a barely legible handwriting font. It was incredibly satisfying, and I was immediately addicted.


Video Tutorial

Now, 10 years later, we have tons of resources, including lots of communication. This site alone can provide you with necessary resources to round out your work, but more importantly, to learn from the work of others. Yet to this day, I still get asked the same basic question all the time: "How do you make a font?" A lot of people seem to hold type design on a pedestal that, in some circumstances might be deserved, but is ultimately attainable with a bit of effort, just like anything else worth doing.

I created a video on just the technical basics for people with no experience. The only downside is that this method is Mac specific (sorry, other platforms!) and not entirely free. I do mention a free option, but not too favorably.

In under 20 minutes we'll install the app, learn two different methods for creating glyphs, and quickly mention my favorite way of incorporating hand-made type into the font-making process via Illustrator. Check it out:

Warning: Patience and Dedication Required

In my opinion, making a font is pretty easy. Making a good and usable font will take practice and lots of hours. It isn't "hard" if you love doing it, and chances are, you'll know right away if it is something you love to do. You will probably make revisions, potentially incorporate feedback from other users, test in a variety of circumstances (different apps/print/web), and more.

You'll find that creating a few glyphs happens pretty fast, but as the font begins to take shape you'll want to readjust things to make letters/punctuation/numbers/everything work well with one another. Creating a quality font becomes hard work. Hard, but rewarding "work." That is in quotes because I love it so much it doesn't feel like work.

Some of Tyler's many popular fonts on Creative Market.

More to Come!

This is just one method of creating your own type for under $50 (provided you are on a Mac, sorry about that, still looking for a PC alternative). If you can make something you think other people will use, you only have to sell ten copies at $5 a piece (dirt cheep in the font world) to break even. Not that money should be on your mind when you set out to make your first typeface, but it can come with experience. In fact, the first three fonts I was proud enough to share with the world were all free. And you know what? I'm still benefiting from the fact that I'm giving those resources away.

I'd love to hear what you think about this tutorial, as I plan on creating more in the future. This really only scratches the surface of the wonderful type design world, and doesn't even begin to dive into terminology, best practices, or multiple weights. Those are important things, but will come (and make more sense) with time. This is the moment to explore, make mistakes (learn from them), and try something new. Enjoy it, and good luck.

About the author: Tyler Finck began designing professionally in 2005 and has created typefaces that are used all over the world

Header image created using Dust Bokeh, Lickety Split, and Blackout Noon

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  1. mattborchert

    Thanks for this post, most helpful! Creating my own font is definitely on my bucket list of things to do, and I am really pushing to make it happen sometime in the next year. Should be lots of fun, and a little bit easier thanks to this series. =)

  2. RetroSupply

    Great tutorial! I especially love the video. I'm fairly new to font design. So seeing someone do it is extremely helpful. Thanks!

  3. secondfret

    I really loved getting a look at your workflow. I'm fascinated by typography and have always wanted to dig into the font creation process. Thanks for this one Tyler!

  4. FilterGrade

    Saving this video for when I have a bit of free time, but this looks fascinating. Love seeing the workflow of other talented creatives. Thanks for sharing Tyler!

  5. Katieloe

    Do your mainly design display fonts? Or do you also create type to be used in body copy? I don't know much about the font world and just wanted to know what designers are more interested in downloading.

  6. mariewagner

    @Atlantic Typeworks Great Tutrial, thanks a lot! Always wanted to know how you can create a font - and fonts work really well on this market as I see - might do one of my own = )

    As for PC alternatives, what do you think of fontstruct? http://fontstruct.com/ Just googled it and found it in Wikihow (which I love btw) Maybe somebody worked with fontstruct yet?

  7. AkselLarsen

    @Atlantic Typeworks
    first of all thanks for this great tutorial! :)
    is it just me or are there other there have notes
    when you copy and paste something a little complex from illustrator into glyphs mini you los a lot of details (some details)
    i know this is the cheaper version of the app so i know that I can not demand it to be perfect.
    or is there a better way to import the letters so you do not loss details ? :)

  8. Favete

    I was trying to find a way to convert all my hand-drawn alphabets into fonts for a months now (didn't try too hard I guess, but still), thank you for this article! The most useful I've ever read.

  9. paulogoode

    Thank you so much for this tutorial. Just bought Glyphs Mini and am about to dig out some old work done over 15 years ago in Fontographer and bring them right up to date. Your "font a month" idea is a great suggestion, I shall make it my goal.

  10. AkselLarsen

    Hi @Atlantic Typeworks
    i have question. when i will like to export a font in glyphs mini.
    glyphs mini say
    (Something went wrong with the remove Overlap filter)
    do you know what the problem could be ?

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