How to Create Your Own Font Online and for Free!
Have you ever thought how cool it would be to be able to just type images out in your own handwriting? You probably think that it's pretty difficult to create your own font, but it's actually quite easy! In fact, there are a variety of web services that can help you create your own font. They can base your created font off of your handwriting or even your doodles. You should note that this isn't the way to create a font that's widely used. Professional typefaces take a lot of hard work and time to develop. The fonts that you create with these services won't be considered a professional font you might market; however, creating a personalized font can be very beneficial. For example, icon fonts are growing in popularity. With most of the following services you can assign icons to letters that let you add them to your designs. So, if you wanted to use a house icon to represent your home page, you can pre-assign that icon to a letter (say, "H") and then use that when designing your site. An added bonus of this approach is that these fonts are easily scale-able (like any font), and can be set to adjust to a variety of screen sizes.
To create your own font online (and for free), follow these six steps:
Outline your objectives in a design brief.
Do your early design work on paper.
Choose a font design tool.
Upload your images, use a finger or stylus, or utilize software tools to create your letters.
Refine your font by testing different spacing, kearning, sizes, and styles.
Follow the instructions to upload your font, or use a font plugin.
We go into greater depth below, so keep reading!
You probably think it’s pretty difficult to create your own font, but it’s actually quite easy. In fact, there are a variety of web services that can help you create your own font for free. These tools can base your font off of your handwriting, your unique design, or even just doodles.
Of course, this isn’t the way to create a widely-used font. Professional typefaces take a lot of hard work and time to develop. But, although the fonts you can create with the resources we list below won’t likely be marketed, they can still be very beneficial to you personally and professionally.
Why You Should Create Your Own Font Online
Why do the professionals believe you should create your own font online? StormID, a strategy/design/build/marketing firm, says you should consider a custom typeface to:
Build your own brand image.
Show more personality.
Stand out from your competitors.
Designhill, a “global creative platform for businesses & individuals,” says the significance of creating your own front for your brand is that it:
Grabs viewers’ attention.
Conveys a mood or feeling.
Wins the trust of customers.
Koos Looijesteijn, a user interface designer who once worked on an engineering project at Apple in Cupertino, tells us the three reasons that creating a custom font online is beneficial are that they can:
Complement existing fonts, including missing glyphs.
Improve the performance of websites by loading subsets of typefaces instead of an entire set.
Make logos and wordmarks more accessible than by using an image.
If the pros offer such encouragement, shouldn't you at least give drawing your own font a go?
The Basics Behind Typography
To be successful at creating your own font, you must understand the basics behind typography. This is a surprisingly vast field of study that professionals spend years mastering. For our purposes here, we will just go over some of the most basic (but important) terms and concepts that will help you along the way.
Here are some of the most vital parts of a letter’s anatomy. You should become familiar with them since you’ll hear these terms often:
Stem: The first main stroke of a letter, such as the vertical line in uppercase R.
Shoulder: The curved line extending down from a stem, as in lowercase m.
Arm: The horizontal line that does not connect to a stem on one or both ends, as in uppercase E.
Leg: The short descending stroke, as in lowercase k.
Cross Stroke: The line that extends through the stem, as in lowercase f.
Crossbar: The enclosed horizontal line, as in uppercase A.
Apex: The top connecting point where two lines meet, as in uppercase M.
Crotch: The inside angle where two lines come to a point, as in uppercase W.
Bowl: The closed, rounded curve, as in lowercase b.
Counter: The enclosed white space, as in lowercase e.
Ascender: The element that extends slightly higher, as in the tall line in a lowercase h.
Descender: The element that extends slightly lower, as in the long line in a lowercase y.
Letters on Lines
Lines of typography, and how letters sit on them, is another important concept to understand. It’s more memorization, but learning your lines will ultimately make you a faster font creator.
Baseline: The stable axis where the letters sit, as in the line you write on.
Cap Line: The upper, stable boundary of the tallest letters.
Cap Height: The distance from the baseline to the top of the capital letter. This measurement determines the point size.
X-Height: The height of lowercase letters.
Line Spacing: The vertical space between separate horizontal lines of text.
A Few More Essential Terms
We know, you’ve already learned a lot, but here are a few more essential terms for you to know:
Kearning: The horizontal white space between two letters.
Swash: The decorative extension (swoosh) of a standard character.
Ligature: The connection of two or more letters for embellishment.
Now you can get started creating your own font online without getting lost in all the linguistics.
8 Handy Tips to Draw Your Own Font
To draw your own font, you need a healthy dose of both technicality and creativity. It also helps to have some handy tips to follow, so here are eight:
Have a clear vision of the purpose of your font. If you’re being purely self-expressive, that’s fine. But, if you want it to accomplish something (set a tone for your website, say something meaningful about your brand, etc.) then you should have this laid out concretely before you get started.
Study best-selling fonts and see if you can determine what makes them so desirable. What stands out the most? What is more subtle, yet still effective? What lessons can you apply to your own font?
Decide what will make your font unique. With all the possibilities available, narrowing down what you like most will keep you on track (rather than veer you into a deep rabbit hole where you will waste a lot of time).
Try to create the shapes you want by hand with a pencil before you try to do it digitally where it is more awkward. The hand naturally draws a smoother, more accurate curve which can then be refined in a font editor.
Design the lowercase letters ‘n’ and ‘o’ and the uppercase letters ‘H’ and ‘O’ before moving on to other characters. These “control characters” define the curves and lines that help to test basic proportions.
Explore your font in different widths and weights. Test it in italics and bold styles.
Try icon fonts. For example, if you want to use a house icon to represent your homepage, you can pre-assign that icon to a letter H and then use it to design your site. Icon fonts are growing in popularity because they are fun, easily scalable, and can be adjusted to a variety of screen sizes.
Test, test, test, and tweak your font until it flows.
Free Font Fabrication Tools
To create your own font for free doesn’t necessarily mean you must compromise on quality. We’ve gathered some great places to start, so have fun and go forth with fonts!
You can transform your own handwriting into a font by filling out a customizable template, snapping a pic of it, and modifying characters to your liking. You can create an unlimited number of fonts, so have fun!
Building bold, modern fonts here is made easy by using geometric shapes. All you do is select a letter or character, pick a shape (or “brick”), and choose a drawing tool. You’ll end up with a very unique font that is quick and fun to create.
This open-source software that uses metafont to customize fonts allows you to “generate a large range of font families with very little effort.” If you’re hesitant to try open source, don’t be. This project was nominated for both the Federal Swiss Design Award as well as the Design Prize Switzerland.
Take It Up a Notch with Paid Font Fabrication Tools
In addition to the tools below that you can buy, many free font tools also have paid versions that offer extra features, such as a number of variants, ligatures, and prioritized processing, so be sure to check out any upgrades they offer.
As the world’s first font editor that was designed for iPad, it takes iFontMaker less than 5 minutes to create a “handmade” typeface with only your finger. You can also adjust a stroke with bezier handles or draw vector shapes. The app only costs $7.99 and then you can embed your fonts on your website for free.
There is a 30-day free trial you can try before committing to the $459 (or $89 per year) license fee for FontLab7. This is an evolved professional font editor that gives you simple tools that can be used to design a complex project. Designers all over the world have used this app to create font families, and now you can too!
This tool for creating OpenType fonts is an extension for Illustrator and Photoshop CC. It’s so good that their clients include Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe. Why? Because it only takes one click to adjust the spacing and kerning of all elemental symbols at once, saving hours.
Where to Learn More About Fonts
The subjects of fonts and typography in general are fascinating. Trust the experts at Pluralsight—you want to learn more about how to create your own font.
To do so, read the following articles and then go ahead—draw your own font!