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Set font metrics with Illustrator guides
Set font metrics with Illustrator guides

Aligning precisely your characters

Franz avatar
Written by Franz
Updated over a week ago

Alright, so if you’re like us (and like most of the designers we know), you’re probably 1) obsessed with pixel precision and 2) lazy like a sloth ;)

That’s exactly why we implemented a smart guide detection feature in Fontself for Illustrator to help you set vertical metrics:

  • Need to precisely set the baseline of your glyphs? Create a guide.

  • Need to precisely set the ascender line of your font? Create a guide.

  • Need to precisely set the descender line of your font? Create a guide.

Ok young Jedi, wanna learn more tricks?

  • Need to precisely set the xHeight of your font? Create a guide.

  • Need to precisely set the capHeight of your font? Create a guide.

Is there any hitchhiker who’s lost in this galaxy of nerdy terms? No worries, visit this awesome site to learn more about these:

So how does it work?

When you create new glyphs, SELECT THE GUIDES ALONG WITH YOUR LETTERING - otherwise the guides will not be considered. By default, we try to guess what each of the selected guides is supposed to do based on the number of guides you select:

  • If you select 1 guide, it will set the baseline.

  • If you select 3 guides, they will set the baseline, ascender & descender based on their vertical position.

  • If you select 2 or more than 3 guides, an error will pop (because we just don’t know which property they might impact).

Therefore, we recommend to use 1 or 3 guides per line of characters.

Ascender, capHeight, xHeight & descender only need to be set once per font. 

However, you can keep selecting the baseline guide for every new glyph you create to ensure a precise vertical positioning.

FYI, it’s super easy to create new guides:

  • Show the Rulers (⌘+R / Ctrl+R)

  • Click on the horizontal ruler & drag on you canvas to make a ruler guide.

Power feature: named guides

Now, you can also rename your guides in the Layers panel to define their exact behaviour when you select them.

Note that it doesn’t matter whether you rename them “baseline”, “Baseline” or “BASELINE”

Whenever you select one of these named guides along with your shapes, the guides will now behave as you’ve defined.

Normalizing the size of a font family

Did you create a set of different fonts that you want to use as a family, but had some troubles to set them at the exact same size?

You can actually fix this by creating 3 guides that will define the ascender, descender and baseline of your font.

  • Open the original Illustrator file that served to create the fonts.

  • Position the first guide so that it sits above your highest character, the second sets your baseline, and the last below your lowest descending letter (like g or p).

  • Then open one of the fonts you need to fix, select the 3 guides along with any shape and create a new glyph.

  • Delete that dummy glyph and Save your font again.

  • Do the same operation will all the fonts created with this Illustrator document. They will now all feature the same ascender & descender.

PS: keep a backup of your previous fonts, just in case ;)

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