Correct Font Workflow between Masters, Layers & Smart Components?

Hi All,
I am creating an ambitiously large font (well at least for me)…I am midway through and I am questioning if I doing this with optimal workflow. My font begins with a cursive letter:

And then I riff off it. This is all thanks to Smart Components! I create a long tail (for when the glyph is at the end of a word)

I change the base round part of the “a” and make it narrower:

And I make it taller…

I add a leading stroke (for when the glyph is at the beginning of a word)

And THEN to really go nuts I create a “chisel” version of all the above so it has a calligraphy type of look - this example incorporates all the elements I listed above.

So at the end of the day I am going to have 10-20 versions of each character. The endgame is to place them into stylistic sets and Isol/init/medi/fina glyphs. And then I’ll have the proper substitutions as shown in the glyphs tutorials so I can really rock this to look like actual handwriting with the randomness as well as the calligraphy option.

But I am confused as to the best approach to put all this together. I started with a single master and many layers, but I think I want Multiple Masters instead with interpolation because it is easier to manage? I have started that approach but I get tripped up because my “Leading Stroke” set isn’t compitable with Multiple Masters as it has an extra component…but it IS compatible when done as a layer.

I appreciate all advice here!

If your endgame is to place them into stylistic sets, I think you’ll need to put the alternatives in different glyphs rather than different layers of the same glyph. So you’ll have /a.ss01, /a.ss02, /a.ss03 etc.

Note that isol/init/medi/fina unfortunately won’t apply to Latin fonts, automatically, but review this for setting that up:

Do you mean that want to put different pen styles into different style sets? A more direct way would be to put them into different masters (and export as separate files). So that for each glyph variant (isol/init/medi/fina) you have the same structure/compatibility, but different visual style. Then you can easily reuse metrics, kerning, etc.

Thanks for the reply. I think the very last step will be creating the a.sso1, a.ss02, a.init, a.fina glyphs by copying and pasting from whatever Multiple Master OR Layer-based approach I take. If I was good at scripting I bet a script could do this for me too!

Because I am using Smart Components, it is so easy to toggle between multiple masters or layers, and use the smart component sliders to create a new glyph. It also just keeps my work more organized versus creating sooooo many ss01, ss02, ss03 etc glyphs for every character.

To reiterate, I also have one glyph in each letter set that has an extra component - the “leading stroke” example here which has an extra component as the leading stroke. This makes it non compatible with the other “a” glyphs. So I am wondering if I need to do this as a combination of multiple masters and layers? It is compatible as a layer but not as a multiple master.

And have a look into “#exit/#entry” anchors.

I think I want the different pen styles (chisel vs non chisel) to be different masters. and then within each master I want different style sets for varying shapes of the same letter - like lets take the “a” character. Here are the style sets I want for the NON chisel master
a = simple a
a.ss01 = a with the round base narrower
a.ss02 = a with the round base taller
a.ss03 = a with the round base taller and narrower
a.ss04-ss20 = a with other width & height & shape changes
a.init = a with a leading stroke (this involes an additional component)
a.fini = a with a long end stroke
a.isol = a with a leading stroke and long end stroke (this involes an additional component)

and the I want all of the above for my chisel set too.

And to be really really clear - I have already drawn all the components to make all this magic happen. I used Smart Components extensively and re use shapes a lot, and lots of nice anchors so everything fits together. I have done all this as layers for a start (please see two pictures of two different “a’s”) I now just want to figure out the optimal way to assemble and organize all these glyphs!


I used anchors extensively but did them generally as specific pairs. Like for the “a” I did “connect_a” and “_connect_a”…I am also making sure to turn off auto alignment on the first shape so HT Letterspacer works (as you so kindly advised me on another Forum post!)

And indeed I will be incorporating the Positional Alternates as you suggest. It is an awesome feature and why I decided to embark on this crazy project in the first place.

If I read it right, that’s what you should do. You probably don’t need any layers at all — they are for sketching or doing interpolation tricks. Each letter variant needs its own glyph if you want to swap them them in the exported file.

And for the Chisel style just create a second master and reuse the same glyphs

Sooooo. After playing around for a day, I think I have a better sense of work flow but I am not fully there. I did away with Smart Components and instead use Multiple Masters/Instances for all my glyph variations for each letter. The Smart Components with the masters just got too complicated.

It remains on my Wish List that I have the ability to toggle on/off one component in each glyph called “Tail”. Here is Tail toggled ON

And here is Tail toggled OFF

I came so close in finding a way to make this work with the Multiple Masters. SO close. Here is what I did

  1. I created two Masters - Regular (no tail) and Tail_1 (has tail)
  2. For the Tail component, in the Regular master, I applied a Mask to the component. In the Tail_1 master, there is no Mask. See pic pls.

  3. On the screen it looks like that works at first when I observe the Masters!
  4. But then when I generate instances, I get Empty Base Glyph for my Regular (non Tail) instance (see pic)
    And I have issues exporting as well (see pic)

It is important to me to have this “optional” Tail component in my masters so I can keep everything together and organized. I guess the other way I could do this would be to do it all with a single Master, many layers, and use Smart Components (where you CAN toggle off a component) but I don’t think that is the best workflow as I will have to manually create each instance and this wasn’t the intention of Layers, correct?

I attach my file if anyone wants a peek. Huge thanks for all help.
Feb 27Just a.glyphs (15.4 KB)

I think I the masters are still not used correctly.

Masters are there to contain different font styles. Like weight or width. What you are doing is better in alternate glyphs.