Creating & using ligature glyphs

Mohamed avatar
Written by Mohamed
Updated over a week ago

A ligature is the substitution of a group of glyphs by another glyph, for aesthetic or linguistic reasons. 

The most common ligatures are ff fi fl ffi ffl and less frequently ſt st - but the amount of ligatures can vary a lot based on the design of a font and the creative intentions of its designer.
In Fontself Maker you can create ligature glyphs as intuitively as for any character. 

The OpenType specifications define several kinds of ligatures to cover the needs of all languages across the world. As for Latin-based languages, which are supported by Fontself Maker for now, there are still multiple kinds of ligatures (liga for standard ligatures, dlig for discretionary, hlig for historical clig for contextual, rlig for required).

To cover most of the users' needs while keeping things simple, Fontself Maker currently supports 2 types of ligatures:

  • liga: standards ligatures (usually for historic ligatures like ffi or st) which are displayed by default in apps that support ligatures (Illustrator, Photoshop InDesign, Pages, Word,...)

  • dlig: discretionary ligatures (for unusual type of connections, or even specific words). They are displayed only if user enables them. The way to do that depends on each app (see below).

Before creation your first ligature, you must keep in mind that since a ligature is a substitution of multiple glyphs by a single glyph, all the single characters that compose your ligature must preexist in your font before you create the ligature. For instance to create the fi ligature, your font must already have glyphs for both f and i.

Create a ligature

Ligatures can be created in 3 different ways:

  1. Individually, by pressing the Create Ligature button (first select your ligature shape, then type all of its letters in the text field Type any character). Fontself Maker will ask you for the type of ligature you want.

  2. Or you can simply rename an existing glyph into a ligature in the Fontself panel.

  3. Many at once, by pressing the Batch button (first rename your shapes with the appropriate letters, followed by a .liga  or .dlig  suffix to specify whether they should imported as standard or discretionary ligatures, for instance like ffi.liga  or boom.dlig  )

Change the type of a ligature

In your glyph table, each glyph cell shows at the bottom right the current type of ligature (liga  or dlig ). Just click on it to change this type if you need.

How many ligatures can be created?

Since Fontself Maker 3.2, your font can't exceed a total of 2303 ligatures and alternates. In ealier versions, this limit was 767.

Enable your ligatures in Adobe Apps

Adobe apps let you enable or disable your ligatures via dedicated panels.
Illustrator proposes an OpenType panel via Window > Type > OpenType. Just remember to select the whole text (or just a text selection) before you click on one of these icons.

On Photoshop, you have to use the Character Panel via Window > Character. Same thing in InDesign via the Character panel (click on top right menu).

Enable alternates in other apps

MacOS apps generally propose a font menu accessible via  Format > Font > Show Fonts (or just press Command-T).

Here you have access to a typography submenu that lets you enable multiple features, in particular ligatures. Standards ligatures are activated by Common ligatures  (enabled by default) and discretionary ligatures are activated here by Rare ligatures

Microsoft Windows apps generally propose a Font menu by right-clicking on a selected text. This Font menu lets you setup several font features, in particular ligatures.

Got any issues when using ligatures? Check this article.

Did this answer your question?