Denseman on the Rattis

Formerly known as the Widmann Blog


Font design

Normally when you design a font these days, you use a program like FontForge, which is basically a glorified drawing program.

You can do anything you want, but it’s basically up to you to make the individual characters looks similar so that they combine to form a unified and beautiful font.

If you use a program like METAFONT instead, you have more options. You can define a “pen”, for instance a rotated oval, that you can draw shapes with, and you can define functions, for instance to produce serifs in a given location. However, you have to sacrifice drawing the basic shape with your mouse and have to use mathematical expressions instead.

So I’ve been wondering for some years whether it would be possible/feasible to write a font design program that lets you define a sophisticated “pen” that not only has a shape, but also comes with serifs to leave at the start and end points of a line. The serifs and the shape could depend on the direction of the stroke.

So with such a pen defined, you could then draw the basic shape in your drawing program and all the sophisticated bits would appear automagically.

In other words, I suggest drawing the top character on the right manually in the drawing program, but using fancy “pens” to turn that basic shape into all the variants beneath.

The resulting font could then be loaded into FontForge for fine-tuning, but it should be much faster than drawing an entire font by hand.

Has something like this ever been done yet?

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