I've found that the best way to learn anything on the computer is to give myself an assignment and follow it through. I decided to design a typeface that had some of the same qualities I strive for in my illustration work. I wanted the typeface, which I later named Scat, to be whimsical, lively, and memorable. And I wanted to learn and test the capabilities of Corel's TrueType export function.
My first step, as with any project, was to look at reference materials for inspiration. As I sketched, I found several characteristics beginning to emerge that seemed to reflect the personality I wanted Scat to have. These characteristics included random tilting of the letters, heavy verticals, and serifs replaced by curls.
I used graph paper for all of my initial drawings to keep the size and proportion of the letters roughly consistent. Later I inked and scanned the drawings into CorelTrace. Of course, my first tries weren't perfect, and I ended up drawing and inking some of the letters again. I used the Outline Trace function from within CorelTrace to convert the scans to EPS files.
Next, I opened a new document in CorelDraw. Using the Page Setup dialog box under the Layout menu, I set the page size to custom. I changed the units of measurement to points and set the size to 720 points both vertically and horizontally. I used 720 points because this is Corel's default size for exporting TrueType fonts. I made sure that the 0,0 ruler point was set to the lower left corner of the character I was creating.
After importing the traced EPS files into CorelDraw, I discovered that there were too many nodes on the letters. I ungrouped the trace (Ctrl+G), and manually removed the excess nodes.
Using the Combine command from the Arrange menu, I combined the pieces that made up each letter form (for example, the inside circle and the outside circle that make up an "o").
I reduced the nodes in this way with each letter and then zoomed out to take a last critical look at the design of the typeface as a whole. After making some final changes, I moved all the letters off to the side of the actual page. I then set up some guidelines for the page.
The bottom edge of the page became the baseline for the letters, and I used several letters to mark where the guidelines for x-height, ascenders, cap height, and descenders should be. I was then ready to export.
I made sure the TrueType font was the file type selected, and then clicked on OK. This brought up the Options dialog box. I typed in the name of the font, and left the style setting at normal Clicking on OK in the Options dialog box brings up the TrueType Export dialog box. Using the scroll bar underneath the characters, I found and selected the corresponding letter. Some of the symbols on the scrollbar are hard to read; for instance, it's difficult to tell the difference between a period and a comma. I dug out my "Character Reference Chart" that was packaged with CorelDraw 4.0 and found that character number 44 is a comma and character 46 is a period. I left the Auto Character Width check box selected (this determines individual letter spacing), and clicked on OK.
One of the difficulties in using the Export box is that you can't tell by looking if you have already exported a character. You will, however, get an error box asking if you want to overwrite a character if you've already exported one. When the entire typeface, which included letters, numbers, and symbols had been exported, I exited CorelDraw and installed Scat using Window's Control Panel. I typed a few lines with the font in Windows Write and noticed that the letter and word spacing was too loose. I uninstalled Scat, reopened CorelDraw, and changed the space width from the default of 2,048 to 900. The space width can be found under the Font Export dialog box by selecting the Options button. Then I reinstalled Scat.
You can view some typefaces I've designed here.here.
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