View Full Version : Handwriting Conversion in Illustrator
04-17-2006, 10:37 PM
I'm not familiar with Illustrator at all and I was wondering how I'd go about taking my natural handwriting and converting it into a workable font on my PC? It's something I've been playing around with in my head and on paper but I wasn't even sure if it was possible. I've seen ads for Comicraft from time to time whenever they make new fonts and that's what convinced me that it could be. But I just don't know how. Can someone please help me with this? It'll be greatly appreciated....
04-18-2006, 02:04 AM
You'd likely need something like FontLab or Fontographer (check eBay) to do what you're wanting to do.
Comicraft has a tutorial up on their tips site: http://www.balloontales.com/tips/
that explains the process.
You're most likely better off hiring someone to convert it for you, but that's probably going to be as expensive as buying FontLab...so...
04-18-2006, 10:31 AM
you can do it. it takes a while to learn, but you can do it.
if you buy FontLab, also get Leslie Cabarga's book "Learn FontLab Fast". the "instructions" that come with FontLab are a 700 page monster that is not very user-friendly.
if you've got Illustrator, a scanner, and a type design program, you're all set.
get a pen or marker that feels comfortable to you, and start writing. don't do an alphabet; just write. or if you've got a lot of samples of your own handwriting, pull them all together, scan them, and harvest samples of every letter and punctuation mark.
the type style i am currently using was sampled from sheets of hand lettering — for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", if it matters — done over a three-year period.
import your scans into Illustrator, and redraw them. here is a link to get you pointed in the right direction:
it is important to redraw your characters very, very simply. if you can get the job done with three nodes, don't use four. the simpler the letters — or in the lingo of this trade, "glyphs" — the better. you don't need to preserve every magnified wobble of your pen stroke to make the characters look handmade. at reproduction size, all of those wobbles disappear.
all of these font design programs enable you to manipulate the glyphs once they're imported into the design program. you can change line weights, sizes, and slant your characters to produce a faux-italic alphabet. but when you use these tools, they have a nasty habit of introducing little jagged spikes to your glyphs, particularly where two outlines meet at a sharp angle. this is where a very simply drawn glyph comes in handy. if there are only six or ten nodes in your glyph, there is less that can go wrong, and less to fix once you extend, or lighten, or slant your alphabet.
if you're doing this for comics, or in general trying to make the product look handmade, don't be held down by the traditional rules of type design. let your characters go above or below baselines and cap heights. funk it up a bit. the more type i design, the more fearless i get about this stuff, and the better it looks on a page of comic art.
it is nasty hard work, designing type, but you find yourself getting in The Zone with it. and it is very, very satisfying once the thing is done and you can use it. your type is a tool which (if you're greedy like i am) nobody else can use.
once you've got your sampled characters scanned, and once you select the ones you wish to import into Illustrator, the actual drawing of glyphs is fairly routine work, if you're handy with Bezier curves. the initial drawing process might take ten or twenty hours. spacing and kerning might take another twenty. i don't worry too much about hinting; i let FontLab do that. i would be more finicky about this if i were designing type for other people to use.
your font, once in use, will still have problems, particularly kerning problems. as you use it, note pairs of characters that do not look good next to one another. go back into your design program and fix them.
good luck with it. jump in. you can do it.
05-22-2006, 08:36 PM
Font creation can be a laborious process. The font I developed in 1993 I am still tweaking to this day. I've used it at Marvel, DC, Image and for other publishers. Every so often I tweak it to make it just that much better.
Along the way, I've discovered several ways to go about it--using Illustrator, not using Illustrator, etc. Fontographer is a must, though. Or some other font program, but fontographer has been the constant. I've created dozens of fonts over the years, some for specific issues (for specific characters) and never used again.
In addition to comics lettering, my Studio "Kurt Hathaway's Cartoon Balloons" also offers custom font design. I recently created a font for Multiverse.net--an online game company. They were so happy, they ordered two more.
Converting a hand font is relatively easy.
Go here to get a downloadable PDF of our services with plenty of samples.
And a shout out to fellow pro letterer, Clem Robins! I lost your email address you sent a couple years ago. I studied Clem's work before I got started--a million years ago!
My first post here, but you can be sure it won't be my last!
05-23-2006, 08:33 AM
lost my email address? shame on you. it's email@example.com
love to hear from you anytime.
excellent summary of the process of type design, by the way
05-23-2006, 04:04 PM
Thanks and Thanks, Clem.
My direct email is: firstname.lastname@example.org for your records.
By the way--back to topic--when I said relatively easy, the stress is on "relatively." A hand font is full of imperfections that should be kept rather than corrected--a proper font (for lack of a better term). Must be clean and conform to all the other letters in various ways (height-width, etc.). That's why a hand font is easier--still a tough job, but more simple than other kinds of fonts.
Cartoon Balloons Studios
Quality Lettering for Western Civilization
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