Creating Letter 'S'

Hello awesome people who use Glyphs!

I’m new to Glyphs and can’t wait to start creating new fonts with this amazing app. One of the hardest characters to create is the letter ‘S’. I was just wondering if anybody has any design techniques or tips to create this curvaceous body? I know lots of factors go in, like contrast and x-height to name a couple, but would love to see if there are certain methods people use to help bring the character to life.

Thanks again!

Luckily I used to save pages from Typohile and therefore have the links :smiley:

You’ll have to get the image links that John Hudson posts and look for them on as well.

Do you read German? I have PDF handouts from my workshops, which I keep updating. I could send you a current snapshot, but, well, they’re in German.



Ich kann etwas Deutsch zu lesen, und ich möchte sie sehen, bitte.

I can’t read German fluently but I know a word or two, would you mind forwarding me a copy of your handouts? It’d be a good excuse for me to start learning German again :smiley:

Check your DMs.

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Thanks for your help @oneweioranother, I looked through those old articles and found a particular technique of creating the letter ‘S’. It may not work for all cases, but it’s a start. You can view the old website here:

@mekkablue I would love to read these PDF handouts, although I don’t know any German, I can only try to understand if there are any visuals.

Does anybody else have any useful techniques?

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Thanks @oneweioranother ! I couldn’t find any image links in the old links, so it was a bit hard to understand what John Hudson was talking about. However, I did find another link in one of those articles, you can view it in my latest comment below

@Joe I saved those images too here they are:






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@Joe A lot of it depends on the style and case you intend to draw for the letter /S/ but I learnt this method from Karen Cheng’s “Designing Type” (a great book if you don’t have it already).

  • Start with two circles stacked on top of each other (so it looks like a number 8) and then remove portions of the curve to form the letter S. Then weld the two points in the centre of the shape. That’s the basic shape.
  • You will then need to correct the shape for optical balance. Extend the bottom tail of the S out a little, and bring the top tail in a fraction. Reduce the height of the top curve slightly, and make the bottom part bulge out a bit. The “top story” ideally contrast a little to the bottom story, in size and shape.
  • Now you have the basic spline you can play with the shape a bit more, thicken it, etc.

Here’s a quick doodle of what I’m talking about.

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If the design allows it, I try to do without the inflection points in the middle. They are necessary for offsetting (Noodler adds them automatically), but are a risk in interpolation. So what I would do after the fourth picture, is add the S to the background (select all, Cmd-J), delete the middle nodes, and try to reconstruct the bend with the vertical handles only.


I know this thread is oder, and I’m a bloody beginner, too, but i thought I would throw in that especially for the letter S, I found the harmonizer tool to be a life-saver. I think the “practice” advise is still the most important, but the harmonizer is a great teacher.

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Harmoniser only improves the curve around the node, not the middle of the segment. Also it has no awareness of the stroke (i.e. opposite curve of the stroke), so you might get inconsistent result in the inside and the outside of the curve.

Hence why Übung still makes the Meister. :wink:

I had it in my head it was good practice to add nodes at inflection points rather than leave curves that change direction. Is that not true?

sometimes is is easier to draw with nodes at the inflections and sometimes without. It it should be technically important, they can be added automatically.

Some path operations are only possible in a satisfying manner if a path segment bends only one way (offsetting for instance). And in days long gone, some renderers produced unexpected results, treating inflecting segments as cups. But technically, leaving out inflection nodes is not a problem anymore, at least AFAIK.

Maybe only when you want TT hinting there?