9 Simple Steps to Designing Your Own Font

So you’ve started your own business and taken the step to move it out of your home into a small office or co-working space. It’s time to spruce up your website but you can’t find the perfect font. Design your own! A bit of knowhow and dedication is all it takes to make your font dreams a reality. Here’s Dark Horse’s top tips for designing your own font.

Define your brief

Whether you’re designing for yourself or for a specific project, it always helps to have a clear idea about what you want from the new font. What will it be used for? Does it have to fit in with another design? What image do you want to present?

Set some guidelines

Particularly if you’re working with a client, agree on some basic guidelines for the font.

Important considerations are if the text will have serifs, and whether the font is for long documents or titles. If designing for the web you also need to ask if it needs to be read by different browsers, and if it has to be accessible to people with disabilities.

Go freestyle

Some designers will tell you to start with a graphics program. That’s fine for people who are used to working with graphics programs, but if a pen and pencil is more comfortable for you then they are probably the best tools to help unlock your creativity. Start by doodling around the alphabet letters. Try pens with different thicknesses and swivel the paper around, rather than your hand, to get truer curves.


Certain characters can help define your style. In the lowercase typeface these ‘control characters’ are n and o, and in the uppercase these letters are H and O. Define your style with these letters and build up your other characters to write “adhecion”. When “adhesion” – without the tricky S – is looking harmonious, you’re ready to take your design onto a computer.

Go digital

There are several ways to get your font onto a screen. Most font apps can import your sketches. If the camera on your phone is good enough you can use that it import your images. You can also draw your designs onto a graphics tablet or scan your images into Photoshop and turn your image into a bitmap. Many beginners find that manually tracing their drawings gives them more control over their design. Start with a fine tipped pen and then fill in shapes with a marker.

Get the right tools

Most designers will start with Illustrator, but soon find that is isn’t the best tool for letter spacing and word creation. The current industry standard isFontLab Studio  (for Mac and Windows), withGlyphs andRobofont also developing a fan base. There are also a variety of free font programs you may want to have a look at.

Beautiful type

Matthew Carter’s words are often quoted by typographers: ”Type is a beautiful group of letters, not a group of beautiful letters”. Once you’ve perfected a few characters, you need to see how they look together.  Run them throughAdhesion Text, to see how they look in a word. Create a document in InDesign to see how your font looks in a document, adjusting the text sizes according to whether it’s for a title or long text.

Export your typeface

Once your typeface is looking perfect in InDesign you’ll be keen to start working with it. Most font software will give you an option of exporting your font into a variety of font formats. If you’re planning to submit your font to the Open Font Library, make sure you export it into a file format which most people can access. “OpenType” is the defacto industry standard and will work with Mac, Windows, and Linux platforms.

At last!

Install and use your font … … and maybe start thinking about designing your next one?

Did you find this article helpful? Looking for more graphic design advice and expertise? The friendly team at Dark Horse are here to help with your next graphic design project, so contact Dark Horse today.


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