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Create a color bitmap font, step-by-step
Create a color bitmap font, step-by-step

Using Photoshop to make color fonts

Franz avatar
Written by Franz
Updated over a week ago

Fontself Maker is to creative adults what Play-Doh is to kids: an instant classic, and a really fun thing to play with.

Install it on Photoshop CC 2017 or newer, and it can even become a powerful tool ;)

Dream, then draw

Whatever crazy lettering idea you may have, just do it. Use any tool or material you want. As long as you can picture it into an image, go ahead.

Joël Boucheteil, Dinh Nguyen, Fulguro & Pierre Terrier. Gone wild.

Prepare your lettering

Once you’re done with the creative part, it’s time to import your artwork in Photoshop. If you’ve scanned or photographed your lettering, clean it a bit.

To easily remove the color background behind your letters, create a new Levels adjustment layer, pick the third Eyedropper tool in the Properties panel, and click on your image where your brightest point stands (this will set you white point). Then manually adjust with the right-side slider to fine-tune.

Once you’re done, go to Layer > Flatten Image. You now have a clean source image, with a perfect white background, ready to extract your lettering.

Cleaning your color font sources

Extract your lettering

In most cases, you’ll probably want to remove the background behind your letters. There are countless methods to do so in Photoshop, but let’s try a simple one.

No need to be an extraction ninja to enjoy clean letters. Just follow the next steps:

  • Double click on your Background image in the Layers panel to turn it into a layer (this allows you to add transparency to your layer).

  • Pick the Magic Wand Tool, set a Tolerance of 10, uncheck the Contiguous option and click anywhere on the white background.

  • Now go to Select > Inverse to revert the selection (this will select only your lettering) and press Select & Mask… in the toolbar.

  • To preview how Photoshop can extract your lettering, drag the Opacity slider to 100%, click on the image preview near the View Mode and pick the On Black mode to see your letters on a distinct background (rest assured, the output will be transparent ;)

  • Time to play with a few settings (feel free to experiment with each slider, as they can dramatically impact the quality of your extraction).

  • You’re almost done, now click Ok and enjoy the difference!

Extracting letters with no white background

Another solution to extract black textured letters from a white background - if you need no color information - is to load the RGB channel of your letters as a selection, invert this selection and fill a new layer with pure black (click on the dashed circle at the bottom to load the RGB):

Isolate your letters

You’ve got a whole set of glyph wannabes on a single image layer? Let’s move these individual letter images into their own layer, so they can easily be identified as single characters.

Just complete the extraction mission: +10'000 points !!!

So how do you put each letter into its own layer?

Easy: just pick any selection tool — like the Rectangular Marquee Tool — and drag a selection around your first character. Press Cmd+J (or Ctrl+J on Windows) to duplicate the current selection into a new layer. Select your transparent letters layer again, and repeat the process with all the characters from your source image.

Congrats, you’re almost done!
Stick with us & see how you can turn your lettering into an actual font.

Prepare your letters

To import each of your letters in Fontself, we recommend to use the fastest way to do so: by importing a whole series in one go. To do so, you need to align all your characters in a single row.

  • If needed, go to Image > Canvas Size to extend your document’s width.

  • You should also create a horizontal guide to ensure your letters are perfectly aligned: show the View > Rulers, and click & drag on the top ruler to create a new guide.

  • Pick the Move Tool, click & drag a whole selection around a group of letters, and move them altogether.

Adjust the glyph sizes

Before you start importing your letters into Fontself, we recommend to set the size of most glyph around 500 to 700 pixels in width and height (the pixel resolution doesn't impact your font size, only the pixel count) and no larger or wider that 1000 pixels and no smaller or tighter than 300 pixels.

This will provide sufficient quality for screen usage on Retina devices as well as small prints while keeping the font size manageable in the computer's memory. 

Usually, it’s safe to keep bitmap fonts below 50 megabytes, otherwise the extension may crash. The font size will grow depending on the size and also the complexity of the glyphs (how many colors, whether there are textures, etc.).

Hot it? Then let’s have some more fun…

Create a color font

  • Go to Window > Extensions > Fontself Maker

  • Select the 26 layers of your alphabet & drag them on the Fontself panel.

You’re done ;)

Resize the Fontself panel to see your whole font in its full glory:

Use your color font

(Because, yes, that’s the whole purpose of creating fonts…)

  • Press the Save button in the Fontself panel.

  • Type a name for your font. 

  • Install your font file on the system (Photoshop will need a restart when you are updating an existing font). 

  • Pick the Text Tool in Photoshop.

  • Pick your color font.

  • Type some text.

And now? Enjoy!

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