Toolbox: Design Your Own Fonts With Fontstruct

Computers & Mobile Craft & Design
Toolbox: Design Your Own Fonts With Fontstruct


One of the first ways amateur type designers learn to create a font is by piecing together shapes in a vector design program like Adobe Illustrator. When the glyphs look the way you want, you can drop the vectors into a program like Fontlab that manages kerning, point sizes, and so on, then outputting an OTF or TTF file that your computer recognizes as a font.

Well, with Fontstruct, not only don’t you need a vector art program, you don’t even need a font utility. An interactive app on the website does it all.

Let’s take a look at how it works. You begin with a grid, with a library of shapes (called “bricks”) that you can use to form each letter. Simply click on the brick you want, then click on the square you want that particular brick. Handy tool windows float over your work area, though in truth you don’t need much beyond the bricks to make a font. Speaking of bricks, you have a lot to choose from — over a hundred. However, any time you include a brick in your font, it appears in the My Bricks pane so there’s less chance of wasting time looking for the right one.

OK, let’s say you create your font, a rather challenging task if you consider there are 52 letters as well as numerals, punctuation, accents, and so on — but if you do it, more power to ya! But what’s next?

Fonstruct lets you output your creation as a True Type font (.ttf) which most computers can handle. The only caveat is that the license is limited to Community Commons (CC-BY-SA) so you can’t sell it — but the utility is free, so that seems fair. Along the same lines, other people’s creations may be downloaded as TTFs or cloned, which means that you can create a copy to save to your “My Fonstruct” area for future tweaking. Users have even used the tool to create fontified pixel art.

Finally, one of the tools I found the most intriguing was the ability to embed the font in a web page. This means that the visitor’s browser downloads the font data so that the glyphs render as they’re supposed to without the requirement that the visitor have the TTF loaded onto his or her computer.

FontStruct: It’s cool, it’s easy, it’s powerful, and it’s free. Check it out!

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My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal

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