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Tyler Finck on Type Design: How to Make a Font

Tyler Finck March 31, 2021 · 4 min read
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. TylerFinck-firstfont-2004

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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  • GREAT series, @Tyler Finck ! I'm so glad to see it. This is a great intro. I really enjoyed the article and look forward to more. 8 years ago
  • 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. =) 8 years ago
  • Great tutorial! I especially love the video. I'm fairly new to font design. So seeing someone do it is extremely helpful. Thanks! 8 years ago
  • 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! 8 years ago
  • 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! 8 years ago
  • @Josh Johnson @Beth Rufener Thanks! This is ONE way to do it. I'm much more familiar with Fontlab, but this is, in my opinion, the easiest way to get started. 8 years ago
  • yes, yes, yes, thank you so much for this, I have always wanted to know what's behind a font. 8 years ago
  • 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. 8 years ago
  • @Kate Loeffler Mostly display type, although I've used Southpaw, Upstater, Mr. Brunch, and some others for body ( you can see more of my work here ). I'm in month 6 of a practical, all-around serif typeface called Didactic. 8 years ago
  • Nice article, @Tyler Finck 8 years ago
  • Great post! 8 years ago
  • @Tyler Finck Thank you so much. I just started to sketch up few fonts in Illustrator and this is so helpful! 8 years ago
  • Very insightful, thanks so much for sharing a great post! 8 years ago
  • Interesting and informative. Now I really want to create a font of my own! 8 years ago
  • Great tutorial. I'm inspired to create some fonts in the very near future! 8 years ago
  • Excellent tutorial. I'm hoping you'll create more. Thanks! 8 years ago
  • I love create typefaces...really inspiring video! I will try glyphs soon!!! 8 years ago
  • Yea upstate ny! I'm from Utica :) Great article + beautiful work, thanks so much for sharing! 8 years ago
  • Anonymous
    @Tyler Finck 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? Just googled it and found it in Wikihow (which I love btw) Maybe somebody worked with fontstruct yet? 8 years ago
  • @Marie Wagner fonstruct is a lot of fun, but I find it frustrating. You could check out the demos of Fontlab or Fontographer for PC here - and play around before deciding to drop over $400. 8 years ago
  • @Tyler Finck 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 years ago
  • 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. 8 years ago
  • 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. 8 years ago
  • Hi @Tyler Finck 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 ? 8 years ago
  • Thanks for the great tutorial! Any thoughts on Fontlab's cheaper ($48) option - TypeTool? It looks highly functional for such a low price. 7 years ago
  • So interesting, thank you! Looking forward to the next one. 7 years ago
  • Thank you. It is very informative. 7 years ago