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FontForge (GNU/Linux, Windows, Mac) is a design tool and editor for Type 1 PostScript and TrueType fonts, among other formats. It isn t a standard GNU/Linux distro package, but it s available via Ubuntu s Add/Remove Applications tool. You should also install the optional autotrace package using Synaptic (System Administration Synaptic Package Manager), because you ll use that shortly. FontForge is Free Software and primarily made for UNIX-like platforms. Ready-made packages are also available for Windows and the Mac from the FontForge web site at http://fontforge.sourceforge.net. When you run FontForge from Ubuntu s Applications Graphics menu, you re presented with an Open Font dialog. Click New, and you see an empty font-editing window (see Figure 4-30). Doubleclicking a glyph space brings up an outline glyph window. This is where you can edit the Bezier splines that make up the individual contours.
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CHAPTER 4 ILLUSTRATION AND FONT DESIGN
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Figure 4-30. FontForge opens with a new, empty font there are no glyphs in it yet. Give your new font a name by choosing Element Font Info. You can also set a copyright notice here and a lot of other information that affects the font (see Figure 4-31). The defaults are suitable for PostScript fonts, so you can accept them for now. TrueType fonts may benefit from different settings; but fortunately, FontForge usually manages to do the right thing automatically. You may also wish to choose Encoding Reencode to change the characters that are available in your font. FontForge generally creates new fonts with an ISO 8859-1 encoding, which contains most of the characters needed for Western European languages such as English.
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Figure 4-31. The FontForge Font Info window allows you to specify basic settings, including the font s name and copyright information. Copying and pasting the scan of all your letter shapes from the GIMP into FontForge doesn t work well. Instead, use the GIMP to split the scan of the alphabet into separate PNG files, one for each letter, and then import them individually into FontForge by choosing File Import. Choose Format Image in the Import dialog box. The FontForge native file format for creating fonts has a .sfd extension. This format is suitable for sharing and storing font designs, rather than installing for use as a font in other programs on your computer. Before you go any further, now is a good time to save your work in that format (File Save).
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After you import the pixmaps from the scan, you may need to resize them to fit correctly inside the FontForge 1000 x 1000 pixel box provided for each glyph. Double-click one of the glyphs, and, in the small floating Layers dialog, click the button in the E column next to Back; doing so enables you to edit the background pixmap. You can then drag the background image around so that it sits on the baseline and fits inside the box in an appropriate manner (see Figure 4-32).
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CHAPTER 4 ILLUSTRATION AND FONT DESIGN
Figure 4-32. Use the buttons in the Layers dialog to toggle visibility and editing of the guides, background and foreground.
Tip If you re working from scratch, I recommend that you create a base glyph with all the lines your letters
need. A circled cross is often a good starting point; you can edit it to create all the letters you require, starting with A, R, O, H, and T. Many letter shapes are related to one another, so you can create new glyphs by flipping shapes on the horizontal or vertical axis. This technique can be used to fill in glyphs that are missing from the original design, and produces consistency in the final look of the font.
If you have the autotrace program installed, you can generate an outline from the pixmap image by choosing Element AutoTrace (see Figure 4-33). Otherwise, you have to add the node points yourself. Make the Foreground layer editable, and select the Curve Point tool from the Tools dialog (its icon is a red circle on a curved line). Click around the shape on the corners and straight lines, preferably in a clockwise fashion, making sure you close the path by adding a new point on top of the old start point. It s then possible to fine-tune the contours using a combination of Point menu items and dragging the Bezier control points around with the mouse. Remember to select the Pointer tool, with the black arrow
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