Thursday, May 31, 2007

Comics Tips and Tricks: Create Your Own Handwriting Font

Zander and I are staunch advocates of hand-lettering, but that doesn't mean "font" has to be a four-letter word.

If you've got nine bucks to spare, consider building a font based on your hand lettering. While we wouldn't recommend using it for your next graphic novel, consider these scenarios:

Try using your clean, clear handwriting font on commercial storyboards, especially if you're working at a stage where the design department hasn't decided on the final font yet.

If you have to turn in layouts or sketches of your next comic or graphic novel, consider using a font version of your handwriting instead of quickly scratched text or empty balloons. The publisher will get a better sense of what the book will end up looking like and you can play around with varying balloon widths.

So your aunt in Dubuque wants a "cartoony" invitation for your cousin's Spiderman-themed birthday party? Since your entire audience for this project will consist of people who will be fooled by your hand-lettered font, why not use it? There's nothing wrong with phoning it in once in a while.

Speaking of your Aunt in Dubuque, why not make a font of her handwriting and give it to her for Christmas? I think custom fonts defintely fall under the "Say -- I didn't even know you could do that!" category. And with a ttf format, she should find it pretty easy to load on her Dell.

After a very quick google search we found fontifier, a fast and easy way to make a true type font for your use. Fontifier has you write out the alphabet on a specialized template, which you then scan in and upload to their site. Their compu-bots make a font out of your sheet in less than a minute.

Some highlights:

  • Only $9. PayPal or credit card. Cheap enough that you can make several fonts, or even several drafts of one font for less than the price of a night on the town.
  • Flexibility with customization. The font I made is all caps, so on the template I put uppercase roman as "lowercase" and uppercase bold as "uppercase." Also, want to draw a smiley face, or something not on the template? Try putting it in place of a character you may not use, like the British Pound.
  • Works on mac and PC.
  • Their terms of use says all ownership goes to you. So unless the fontifier people are big jerks, I don't forsee them selling your handwriting on the black market.

A note on the template: I wrote all of my letters on graph paper first, sometimes printing an individual letter two or three times until I got it right. Then I scanned it in at 600 dpi and dropped my best letters onto the template in Photoshop. (I had up-res'ed the template to 600 dpi as well.) When I had my template finished I dropped down the image size to 150 dpi or so on bicubic.

There are other make-a-font programs out there, but they seemed either too DIY on the programming end or prohibitively expensive (for recreational use, anyway). Zander and I aren't getting any cash from Fontifier, so if you know of other good programs, let us know!


Donn Ha said...

When I had a tablet pc it had a thing to make a font from your handwriting built in. It's currently out on loan though.

Kevin Cannon said...

I read about that ... could that font then be used on a mac or other windows platforms?

Donn Ha said...

Windows. I did it once but my handwriting is horrible. Where's the Big Time Attic comic???

Brittney Sabo said...

Man, this is the most helpfull 'hints' you've posted lately! I wish I'd knew about this earlier.

Kevin, it seems you've come in....'handy'...again! Get it? Handwriting? Handy?....

Kevin Cannon said...

How about ... "Write" you are, Brittney!

Zander Cannon said...

Britt-- It never pays to go toe to toe with the Pun-Master.