Amaze Your Friends!

Here’s how:

Create a font to replace your hand-inked font that takes forever to do!

I’ve always lettered my cartoon work with a unique hand-drawn font and I’ve really become accustomed to it but, it’s a real pain and not near as fun as drawing the actual cartoon. It was becoming a drag.

Here’s an example:
exampleSo I went out looking for a good FREE font creating software. What I found after much research was Birdfont. You can get the free version, but for 5 bucks you can get upgrades and stuff…so I opted to blow 5 bucks.

Now that I had the thing, I started creating the font by using Photoshop, Illustrator and Birdfont.

Initially, I drew my letters by hand, as usual but I drawed them real big-like.
image1Then, I scanned ’em in at a nice, high resolution.  You can see how rough they look even when drawing them this large:

So how to clean them up and make them nice and neat? Illustrator’s “Live Trace” Feature! I save the lettering file as a psd and open it in illustrator. Then, I tweak the settings in Live Trace to simplify any small wiggles and imperfections. I set this up years ago when doing work for Lisa Frank (yes…I went there..I’m a whore.)

and here they are, vectorized:

Now, I created another file in which to drop the single letters and save the file as an svg
This can easily be imported into Birdfont!
illustrator4So, this is what Birdfont looks like:
birdfont_interfaceYou simply click on a letter, enter its editor and import your vector! Here’s what that looks like.
birdfont_interface2See how it’s all points and curves? You can tweak these. (you can also draw in birdfont using their tools but it’s pretty tough).

See the box around the letters, you move those bars to determine baseling, kerning etc. Now…do this over and over…until you have all your uppercase, lowercase and any symbols you might use.
birdfont_interface4In the end, you fill out the Font info in the settings and export the file to create a truetype font! Simple. I don’t know about Macs but in Winders, you simply right, click and Install the font.
Here’s what I ended up with. On the left, is a hand-lettered example and on the right, it’s the font.
SidebysideLook at those old, hand drawn letters:
CloseNow, you can really tweak things…type single letters and skew them. add a stroke, name it!

I’m writing this in somewhat of a hurry…it’s cold down here in the studio! If you’ve got specific questions, send them my way!


Rich Powell

I'm an artist/illustrator residing in a small, North Carolina town. I worked for a few years as a conceptual artist and art director in the computer game industry but set off on my own to freelance. I currently do humorous illustration and cartoons for publications such as MAD Magazine and Highlights for Children.

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3 Responses

  1. mrtoons says:

    I have got to try that. I might even spend $5.

  2. Mike says:

    You’re not on a mac? I might give it a try.

    • Rich Powell says:

      Yes Mike, I started my career as a conceptual artist in the game industry, so I traded my Mac in for a pc way back in the dos day! Now, I’m stuck with it…just like this natural keyboard I got long ago that has ruined my ability to type on a standard keyboard!
      But…Apple got my soul anyway when I got the iPad.

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