Spacing (width, sidebearings) and kerning workflow

tylor.reimer's picture

Alright so I'm quite new to the font design world but I'm working on a geometric sans (ala Avant Garde, Futura, and the like). I've got most of my glyphs made up and now comes the fun and hard part: spacing and kerning. I'm mostly interested in workflow, since a lot of you are quite experienced I figured I'd try to gleam some information from the veterans. Do you start by setting all your glyphs' side bearings to 0 and work out from there? Do you set all your glyphs to a certain width and bring them in or out? What's the best method?

Thanks so much for any help.

hrant's picture

First, decide what point size it's for.


tylor.reimer's picture

Sounds good. In my case it'll be more geared at a display font but I was thinking if I get the spacing even and optically correct that I could track it in for larger sizes. I'm more interested in the process of adjusting the side bearings and kerning. What is the typical workflow.

George Thomas's picture

HHOHOO nnonoo 000 are my key characters to determine spacing. Set these up and space them manually until you get the spacing effect you want. I usually do these before I begin the work of digitizing the entire font.

Measure the space between the stems of the HH, between the stem and curve of HO, and between the curves of OO; repeat for the lowercase nn, no, oo and the zeros. If the font you were working on had serifs, you would ignore the serifs for the purpose of determining spacing.

Everything else works off these numbers with adjustment for one side of those characters which don't fall into the basic shape of H and O or n and o, i.e. optical adjustments. Whatever character width you end up with for a zero becomes the character width for all numbers although for display faces this is sometimes not true. Punctuation and special characters need to be set up between the same key characters above and the best spacing determined for them.

This technique will also allow you to set up far fewer kern pairs than you might need otherwise. It all depends on the design of the font.

Basically, that's it. I've been doing it this way for years.

eliason's picture

There are very useful links on the Spacing How-To section of the Typowiki, particularly those by Briem and by Jamra.

I would advise you to not even think about kerning until you have the general spacing down cold. It's best to think of spacing to kerning as a one-way street.

hrant's picture

It's best to think of spacing to kerning as a one-way street.

When you're first starting. But to go higher everything (even the relationship of kerning and the black bodies) has to be linked.


tylor.reimer's picture

Thanks for the tips guys. I started by zeroing out the LSB and RSB and then worked with the o's and then n's and used those as a start. It's a great learning process.

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