Font Design

I am new to font design. What should I do to get started?

Some fonts in the library contain not much more than basic Latin A-Z. To make these fonts really usable, it would be great if you helped out by adding the basic accented Latin letters required for pan-European usage first, and eventually an even larger set of Latin letters needed for additional Latin-based orthographies, such as Vietnamese, some of the American Indian language orthographies, and various African language orthographies.

Another problem is that kerning pairs may only be present for the basic Latin letters, and not yet for the extended and accented Latin letters.

So, depending on your level of experience, helping to fill out some of the existing fonts which appeal to you stylistically by adding accented and extended Latin glyphs, or by adding OpenType kerning features, may be a fairly entertaining way to get your feet wet initially.

You'll need a font editor program to do this. We recommend FontForge (main website) and have a step by step guide about How to install FontForge.

I want to make a totally new font for the library.

Designing a typeface from scratch is hard work, and beyond the scope of this short guide. You might want to check out some books on type design, and read tutorials for whatever font design tool you have decided to use.

What kind of font is most needed?

The free software font movement needs fonts that people want to use, and the proprietary fonts many people use are a good guide to this. So search the web for lists of "most popular fonts" and see if anything inspires you!

There are two general sources for such lists: Proprietary font distributors, who list their 'best sellers,' and graphic design bloggers, who explain their opinion of what these lists are like.

Here are some examples:

I want to revive a historic design

If you are thinking of doing a "revival" of an existing typeface, make sure its copyright has expired and it is in the worldwide public domain - which is to say, make sure it is more than 70 years since its first publication (Please note that this is not legal advice.)

The "American Type Founders" company went bust and all its typefaces are clearly in the public domain and are likely to be free of any legal risk. Scans of ATF catalogues are available in our list of existing free fonts.

If you want to make a design that is similar to an existing design, you can do that straight away, as long as you are sure to make a new typeface design that is similar, and not copy the design as-is. Essentially, this means having different fundemental aspects. Monotype did this to some ITC typefaces in the early 1990s for Microsoft, and ITC sued them, and Monotype convinced an American court that their changes meant they had created new typeface designs and not copies. The fonts involved in that case are instructive. Here is a search query to learn more: and here is David Lemon explaining some details.

How to design a typeface

There is generally not that much documentation on how to design a typeface and develop a font in the world, and at the moment zero that is released under a Free license. The Free Font Movement, of which the Font Library is an important part, will need to write such documentation as it progresses.

64 Studio has a beginners tutorial. The Briem tutorial website is excellent. has a digitisation tutorial.

The nice Typophile moderators have created a collection of links to Typophile threads about type design methods.

The "Gerard Unger Method" is a good first exercise in typeface design: use Souvenir in a normal weight as a starting point, and draw a bold version from scratch. Then draw a normal weight based on your bold weight, and compare the differences.

The TeX Users Group journal "TUGboat" has published font-making tutorials by Karl Berry and George Williams.

There's also Metafont, which is a language for writing font descriptions in, and there's a great tutorial.

Be sure to license your fonts under the OFL or another supported license- here's how

WikiBooks has a wiki based Graphic Design textbook

LettError's Noordjiz pages explain his theory of the stroke of the pen.

Not Legal Advice!

None of the contents of this page is legal advice!