Monthly Archives: December 2009

Installing Fontforge on Linux (Fedora Core 3)

There’s nothing to it.
Just follow the most simple steps described below.

  1. Just download the .rpm from Fedora Core Server (Official Stable Package):

  2. Double-click it and let the file roller install it.

  3. Go to your Applications panel > Graphics > Fontforge.

  4. Run it! It’s the easiest way. Even simpler than on the Mac!

(Originally published on 2005-11-02, updated on 2006-02-07)

Installing Fontforge on Mac OS X (PearPC)

Well… I haven’t been able to get my hands on a Mac (it’s a matter of weeks), but I did a similar test. More or less like I did with Fedora Linux (dual boot), I installed Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger under PearPC 0.4pre on my Toshiba Laptop (P4 2.6GZ, 512RAM) and it ran ok on X11.

So, what are you waiting for?

  1. Grab yourself a copy of Mac OS X and X11.

  2. Download Fontforge for Mac OS X:
  3. Unpack Fontforge. If necessary, use a tool like Stuffit Expander.
  4. Run the Fontforge.pkg (you need administrator priviledges)
  5. Now it’s installed. But wait a minute… where is it?.
    Easy. Remember Fontforge is an X Application. So first you have to run X11 (The X Window System for the Mac) in the applications folder.
  6. Now just run Fontforge under the Applications Menu.
  7. All Done. Happy editing!

(Originally published on 2005-11-02, updated on 2006-02-07)

Installing Fontforge under Windows

Some people have been complainting about using linux to develop type design, specially people closer to me. Sometimes it really is a pain to reboot your computer and boot linux to do it and then boot it again to Windows to continue other work, so I decided to try and do it under Windows. Here is a small tutorial on how to do it the EASY way!

The original and CORRECT tutorial on How to install Fontforge under Windows can be found at Fontforge official website:

So, for people like me that don’t like to waste so much time trying to perfect out technical problems, here’s a working solution:

  1. First, you need to install a linux-like enviroment – Cygwin Enviroment
    Download the cygwin setup.
  2. Run the setup.exe and first choose your download mirror. I recommend the It’s fast and reliable, at least where I’m standing – PT

  3. Then choose the packages to be installed in the Cygwin Enviroment.
    As it’s said in the Fontforge website you need the Base components, the X window system, xorg-x11-base, and xterm.
    Nevertheless, in order to guarantee better results in the future (as being able to compile usefull programs to use with Fontforge like Potrace) I recommend installing the following packages:

  4. It will take a while to download all the packages as it may reach a 225MB Download. Let the installer finish download and installing.
  5. Then you’ll need the Fontforge program.
    Download the latest cygwin binary at:

  6. Unpack the file(s) with your favorite unpacking program (like Winrar) into an easy to remember directory inside Cygwin Enviroment.
    Eg. C:\cygwin\Home\User\Fontforge\
  7. Run Cygwin (by clicking the shortcuts. Yes, you should have installed them! ;P)

  8. Run the X Window System required by Fontforge. Just type in the Cygwin Bash:

    $ startx

  9. Then (in the X Terminal) just run Fontforge from the unpacked folder:

    $ run /home/user/fontforge/fontforge.exe

  10. And here it is!

(Originally published on 2005-11-02, updated 2006-02-07)

First lower case sketch


Pedro Proença sent this sketch as a first approach to a gothic type lower case (larger image in the sketches gallery section).
He is a Communication Design student currently studying in London that is mainly interested in participating in this project and learning more about Type Design.

Thanks Pedro! Keep in touch.

The follow up is a small transcription of the emails swapped (sorry guys, PT only…)

Pedro wrote:

“…ficou evidente q o a não encaixava nada bem, e mudei-o um pouco, mas ainda precisa de melhoras! Vou aprendendo conforme faço, por isso qq comentário ou conselho e bem vindo…qt ao t por acaso acho acho q o ‘cross stroke’
(n sei o termo em português) talvez pudesse ser mais curto do lado esquerdo…”

Before, I said:

“Os teus esboços estão muito fixes. Gosto particularmente do “b”, “t”, “f” e “k”. acho que apanhas muito bem o espírito do traço das grotescas do início do século. No entanto acho que o “a” e o “g” precisam de atenção – o “a” onde o olho faz a ligação à haste talvez devia ser mais horizontal e não tão fluida? E o “g” parece muito com a FFMeta mas…”

In response to:
“Tenho feito uns sketches para as letras lower-case…tenho seguido mais ou menos as recomendacoes do site e so tenho feito cenas em papel…vou começar agora a trabalhar no mac. Mando te um jpg com os esboços q fi ate agora…diz-me o que achas.”

(Originally published in 2006-08-09)


So you’ve already sketched out the idea for your typeface… very well. But how are you going to aproach the actual design? By now you’re saying (or at least thinking) “yeah… I’ll just start my software and start copy/pasting until I get carpal tunnelled!”

Before you waste your precious health you should consider on systemizing (I really like this word) your aproach. This will not only produce insightfull knowledge about future glyphs (character designs) but will also speed up the design process.

This brings us to our Character Shape Classification Scheme.
(Actually, this document was produced based on I Love TypeWorkshop’s Type Basics Page and Type Anatomy page).

First of all let me begin by quoting I Love Type Workshop first page:

Same size for all! To optically align all characters on a line, they cannot not have exactly the same mathematical height. For example the triangle on this drawing has to be higher than the rectangle. If this is not the case, the triangle will for sure look smaller than the rectangle. While creating a typeface, you want all the letters to have the same height.

Also round forms have to exceed the baseline to be optically the same. If the circle would have exactly the same mathematical height as the rectangle, it would look smaller than the square. This doesn’t only count for basic forms like triangles, circles and squares. It’s essential in type design, because they apply to every single character in a typeface. Then it even doesn’t matter if you’re designing a latin, cyrillic or greek font. It’s a basic principle for any kind of shape.

This will actually make you think about all the characters and classify them into basic character shapes. In your drawing process you will soon realize that there are many common elements tha can be (re)used and meny that seemed similar but are in fact, different. This will depend on the character classification and anatomy.

So first of all you can design three basic shapes:

1. The Square;
2. the Triangle;
3. and finally the Circle.

As you can see on this image, this will give you an “all character design aproach”. Or will it? I like to complicate things a bit more.

Thinking ahead on character spacing (we’ll see this later on) and different anatomy atributes, I like to classify the basic character shapes into 7 categories:

1. The Square (S);
2. the Triangle (T);
3. the Circle (C);
4. the Half-Square (S2);
5. the Half-Square+Half-Triangle (ST)
The picture has swithed categories (5 for 6 and vice-versa);
6. the Half-Square+Half-Circle (SC);
7. the Half-Square+Half-Triangle+Half-Circle (STC)… what a mess ;)

These classifications will allow us to categorize letter shapes. For example:

  • An A is Triangular on it’s left half and right half;
  • An H is square on it’s first and later halves;
  • An R is square on it’s left half and square+triangule on it’s right half
  • and so on…

This will allow us to quickly interface letters with each other according to their attributes. But I think I’m getting ahead of myself.

As for now, this will allow us to establish standard shape widths and fit the respective characters to it’s classification.
According to the drawing/sketch specifications:

  • if an H takes 3 spaces, then also should the the E and the F.
  • if an A takes 3,25 spaces then also should a V and an X.

This will also allow you to understand wich shapes you should draw first and wich can be reused by other characters like:

  • the stems of the H;
  • the bowl of the O and the C;
  • the diagonal stroke of the A for the V and W, maybe the X
  • and so on… depending on your character shapes.

And so on. First define these simple rules for your sketch, and then you’re ready to move on to the Basic Character Proportions Scheme.

(Originally published on 2006-04-21)