Designing a font family with layerable weights. What am I getting myself into?

willryan42's picture

I'm designing a typeface family with three optical sizes (36pt, 72pt, and 144pt) and a few layerable weights per each optical size. I've been experimenting with how I can make each weight line up when layered on top of each other and I'm starting to pull my hair out.

I thought having the same width and left/right sidebearing info would be enough, but that's not the case. Since the weights aren't the same width (I have a regular weight and a 3D weight, for example), having the same metric info results in them not lining up.

I've been trying to reverse-engineer fonts that do this, such as Frontage. I've opened up a few of the Frontage weights and the characters seem to have different widths, left, and right sidebearing data (picture below). It almost seems like the designer had to line them up manually (can't see this being the only option...).

Anybody have any ideas on how I can accomplish this? I'm at the point of giving up because I can't see any feasible way of doing this.

willryan42's picture

Whoops, looks like those images aren't working... I'll repost them here:

Frontage weights

Examples of my fonts

And I'm using Illustrator and Fontlab if that makes a difference

George Thomas's picture

If I understand correctly what you are doing, the most accurate way to do this would be to do ALL of your art layered in Illustrator first, and all layers must have a common EM size and reference point so when you bring them into FontLab they would all then scale correctly and line up the way you want.

Don't give up because it is fairly easy to do, but it does requires a lot of attention to detail. You have to monitor closely the numbers for all the layers (width, kerns) and double check all your imported art for position.

HVB's picture

I would take the opposite approach from majus' - do everything in FontLab, where the same position will always map exactly. I find that no matter how I try, a copy and paste from Illustrator to FontLab introduces discrepancies. Illustrator's grid doesn't always translate precisely to FontLab's integral grid.

- Herb

willryan42's picture

Thanks guys. HVB, is there a way to have separate layers in Fontlab that I could turn on and off? That would really help if I wanted to line everything up in Fontlab instead of Illustrator.

eliason's picture

There's the mask layer, wouldn't that work?

HVB's picture

Maybe there is, but I just use brute force, doing a copy and paste to see if the two glyphs line up properly, then undo. It can also be done (equally kludgily) by adjusting the horizontal location of glyphs within their cells so that they overlay when entered one after the other in the metrics window. Essentially setting one to 'not advance'. I imagine that kerning overlaying pairs could also work. None of these are elegant; there's probably a way to write a script to do it, too.

- Herb

oldnick's picture

In instances like the ones shown, I usually import the shadowed characters, adjust sidebearings, then kern. I then make a copy of the font file, then delete the shadows and/or other decorations, which leaves the fill characters in precisely the same position as in the original file. Of course, you will need to reverse the path direction of the fill characters, and you may want to add a bit of trap by expanding the outline of the fill characters by a couple of em units. If you choose to do the latter, be very sure that you deselect "Keep original character size" because, in my experience, FontLab has a tendency to reposition characters when this option is selected--which kinda defeats the whole purpose...

Syndicate content Syndicate content