Your design workflow

Hi all!

I just started designing my own first typeface. It’s a handwritten script. I spent last three days designing it in Glyphs and I’m enjoying it so far!

As a beginner, I spent quite time researching how to start, general rules about typography, character elements, kerning, etc. I think I did it good for the first time, but it would be really useful to me, and hopefully other beginners like me, if you share your workflow, from idea, sketching to the end result.

Here is mine and you correct me if you think I did something wrong, and I guess I did.

  1. Sketched with the pen and paper
  2. Captured it with my phone
  3. Vectorized it in the Illustrator (which I was familiar with before)
  4. Adjusted curves in Glyphs. Now, this part is a bit tricky and I’d like to hear more. This is what I did:
    4.1. Adjusted all thickness properly
    4.2. Adjusted character connections
    4.3. Unified look and feel as I go
  5. Kerning
  6. More adjustments
  7. More kerning
  8. More adjustment
  9. More kerning

This is how far I went. I think I’ll spend some more time adjusting and kerning until I’m completely satisfied with the results.

What I plan to do:

  1. Punctuations, symbols and other characters
  2. Ligatures (oh boy, I think I’ll gonna enjoy this part)
  3. Export and install my font, paste A VERY long text and read to find all possible kerning mistakes.

Other questions:

  1. Does number of kerning combinations significantly increase the file size? Is it a good practice to have many, or should just avoid it and try to make design that requires less kerning.
  2. Obviously, number of ligatures increases the file size, as a new character is introduced every time, but how significantly? Can I be relaxed and make as many as I please, or should I be more careful?

That’s it for now :slight_smile:


Less is generally better, but some designs require more. Keep it under 1500 pairs. Optimize your spacing. There are Spacing and Kerning tutorials.

A few thoughts:

I never draw anything in Illustrator anymore. The vector tools are just too imprecise. The only thing you may want to consider Illustrator for is vectorizing a bitmap image (for a grunge font for instance) and use the vectors without postprocessing, because otherwise the work you have to put into fix AI’s vectors exceeds drawing them properly in the first place.

Designwise, I have come to see two approaches. A slow one, where the designer spends weeks on just a handful of letters, and once they are perfect, the remaining base letters are derived relatively quickly. Then there is the quick one, where you very quickly do the whole base set and compounds, so you can start with sample texts and proofing waterfalls very early and get to fine-tune early on as well.

Be prepared that whatever you draw at the beginning will change at some point. No node will keep its coordinate until the final export. So do not get attached to a shape you have achieved in the process, on the contrary: be prepared to kill your darlings. If a shape does not fit, it has to go.

That is also the reason why I do not try to copy sketches too precisely into vectors. It will not stay as it is anyway. In fact, all my sketches are pretty rough. I do not scan or make pictures of them, I draw them directly in the UI.

Along the way, at any point in the process: export often, test often. These two tutorials explain how:

Do not kern too early. Invest more time in optimizing your spacing instead. Your font should more or less work well without kerning enabled. And keep the largest part of kerning for last.


Hi mekkablue,

Your comments may be obvious for most of people here, but do know that you helped me a lot while I’m still early in my designs!

Spacing was eye-opening to me and I deleted all kerning and started spacing correctly, after reading the tutorial how to automate the process. It makes much more sense now and honestly, at the begining of my kerning, I was wondering can it be automated somehow.

The reason I didn’t space correctly is after I watched Lynda tutorial of Glyphs, where guy puts LSB=0 and RSB=0 for every letter, and I though that’s correct for every case.

Exporting and testing is also a very good point, I’ll do that now as I haven’t so far. I test within Glyphs actually all the time.

1 Like

Please help! I’m stuck :slight_smile:

As you suggested and as I read through the forums and tutorials and started discovering some pretty amazing and advanced stuff, I ditched most things I previously did and started over again. Whenever I discover some new ways of doing things, I pretty much ditch everything I did before.

  • First I removed all kerning and switched to spacing, to leave kerning to the very end.
  • I switched to smart glyphs and shared parts instead having to change the same thing multiple times.
  • I started using offset curves for my mono line type, instead having hard-coded strokes that are very time consuming to edit when I want to change the thickness of the strokes or corner radius.
  • I started using contextual substitutions, positional alternatives and ligatures.
  • And so many other things that I didn’t used just a week ago!

It’s so overwhelming and too much information at the same time that I’m now confused and kind of stuck. I don’t know should I continue or start all over again. I ended up having too many different things, like ligatures, als, inits, finas and isols, subs, lookups, ignores and what not. I feel many of these are either wrong or unnecessary.

I’d need a help from you to either refer me to a good book, video course or tutorial or whatever will teach me fundamentals of creating script typefaces, or explain the overall steps and rules, to clear my overwhelmed mind :slight_smile:

I don’t know where to start or to continue anymore. When to use ligatures and when alternatives, when to use spacing, when kerning. I know what any of these are and how to create and use them, but when every single letter combination of the alphabet has to be nicely connected, I got lost. I connect “a” and “l” but then “l” does not connect nicely with “e” and “c”. When I connect “e” and “c” with “l”, then in order to have the same connection with “a” I have to modify the letter itself and it does not looks nice and consistent anymore. And I’m just circling between few letters for days, trying different techniques and designs, but there has to be some better way.

Also, to mention - I started creating this (my first) typeface out of fun, after watching 30 minutes Lynda course, but as I go deeper, and discover all these features, scripting and other possibilities, I got more interested and I’m really eager do to it right. My OCD doesn’t let me have a single letter or a combo that does not looks perfect.

So, overall, I don’t expect you to go much into details - I’ll find out how to do each thing, I just need a direction, what is the starting point when creating, let’s say semi-connected-sans-script-italic-monoline typeface :slight_smile: What comes immediately after that etc. I spent a whole day kerning at the beginning of this process, and then realized it was completely wrong, so I wasted a day, but ii did learn something valuable, i guess.

What I would do in your case is focus on the medial forms as much as possible, and make them work more or less without any alternatives.

And only then, I would start getting alternatives into the game. You have seen the positional alternate tutorials, right.

There is a good Typographics talk on YouTube by Victoria Rushton. For workshops, keep an eye on the Events page.

For books: which languages do you read besides English?

Can you show some of the problems you are facing?