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Create a vector font, step by step
Create a vector font, step by step

Using Illustrator to make OpenType fonts

Franz avatar
Written by Franz
Updated over a week ago

Here’s what you’ll learn on this page:

  • Prepare your artwork

  • Turn your artwork into a font 

  • Edit & reopen your fonts

  • Delete or replace a glyph

  • Non-Latin alphabets

  • Accents, punctuation & more

  • Set font metrics with Illustrator guides

Prepare your artwork

Draw any letter, character or symbol as a single object. So if you’ve got complex shapes, you can Group them or use the Pathfinder > Unite tool, after turning on the Remove Redundant Points option in the Pathfinder's options menu.

The actual size of your shapes in an Illustrator document doesn’t really matter when you start a new font. What matters is a consistent size for all the shapes (you can’t yet rescale glyphs in the extension)

Other recommendations

  • All letters should be aligned on a single row to import them at once.

  • Alphabets should be aligned too, ordered from left to right: A to Z.

  • Numbers should be aligned, ordered from left to right: 0 to 9.

Turn your artwork into a font

  1. Select one or several shapes you want to convert into glyphs.

  2. Click on the Fontself panel buttons to turn selections into characters:- To create a single character, type or paste the related character in the Fontself text field and press “Create Glyph”. - To create a whole alphabet, press the “a-z” button if it’s a set of lowercase letters or press “A-Z” for uppercase.- To create any other set of characters, press Batch. Glyphs created with this method get assigned with a unique character key that you can change (it looks like an empty square). They are actually Private Use Area (PUA) characters you can copy/paste in other apps.

  3. Drag & drop on the Fontself panel also works as an alternate way to create glyphs. Just drop your selection on top of the relevant area.

  4. Adjust the baseline & margins around each glyph in the Fontself panel (just click & drag), and you can also change the keyboard key by typing a new character below each glyph.

  5. Press Save to save your font as an OpenType .otf file and click on the Open Font link in the green alert to install the font on your operating system.

On Macs, you can also press Install to automatically generate & install the font right from Illustrator, so it shows up automatically in your Character palette. But mind that it’s actually installed in a specific font folder that is not accessible to other apps. Use Save for all other use cases.

That’s about it. Now rince, repeat and have fun!

Edit & reopen your fonts

While you save your work directly as a font file, you can reopen and edit the fonts you’ve created in Fontself very easily: just press the “Open” button.

Note that you cannot yet edit any font that wasn’t built with Fontself. You can however open any font created with this tool.

You can change the margins, baseline and character for each glyph you’ve created, and also change the global spacing between characters & text lines.

You can easily rename any glyph by clicking on the text below each glyph: just type (or copy/paste) the character you want. Easy!

Delete or replace a glyph

To remove a glyph just roll over it on the Fontself panel and click on the crossed circle ⊗

If you want to update a glyph with a new design or replace it with something different, no need to delete it: just select the new shape (eventually along with a horizontal guide to precisely define its baseline), enter the same character you want to replace and press the Create Glyph button, and click on Replace.

Non-Latin alphabets

Fontself runs well with Latin-based languages and Cyrillic, but is still not yet optimized for non-Latin languages like Arabic, Hebrew, Thai, Greek, Chinese, etc.

Our goal is to broaden support to more scripts later on, when we can properly manage key OpenType features like right-to-left writing flow.

These updates will be released as part of our free updates.

Now, that being said, you can assign any Unicode character to a glyph, so it could also be a single character in a non-Latin script that is not yet supported by Fontself, like a Chinese 爱 or an Arabic ﷺ.

Accents, punctuation & more

As long as you can type it, you can assign any character to any shape or image you want. And if you ever dreamed about making custom bullet points or an alien language, you’re good to use any of the following:

  • Accented characters like à, È, ñ, å

  • Other characters like ø, ß, ş

  • Non-Latin characters like Ω, β, Д, б 

  • Symbols like €, √, ☞

  • Bullets & Arrows like ☑︎, •, ⇒, ➽

  • Punctuation like ¡¿, “, ’, or ❡

  • Pictograms like , ♛, ☯

You can easily rename any glyph you created by clicking on the text below each glyph: just type (or copy/paste) the character you want. Easy!

#Tip: On a Mac, press Ctrl++Space to display the characters palette in most Mac app… well, except in Illustrator :(

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