Type is both very limited (it's a single color) and very adaptable. Anything that you can create an outline with can become a typeface.
You can start with either:
Original art you've drawn, or another source like a very old book (remember, it's not copyright free in the US unless it's older than 75 years old!)
A bitmap, preferably in high resolution, or
Vector art, such as a Corel Draw, .EPS, or Adobe Illustrator file.
Scanning, Bitmap Files, Etc.
If you're starting with an image on paper, you'll need to scan it in or use a digital camera. If you're scanning, be sure to scan at around 300dpi or higher, as the next step (vectorizing) yields the best results with higher dpi.
Once your image is in bitmap form, you can clean it up in a paint program like Photoshop, Corel PhotoPaint etc. You can also alter your image by experimenting with filters. (You may need to change your image to grayscale or RGB in order to apply filters). Once you're finished with this step, you'll want to move on to vectorizing.
Below you'll see the original character, and one of Photoshop's Distort filters applied:
Before and after distorting a scanned letter
Just remember that the final result will be black and white so any subtle filters won't work well when you go to the next step, vectorizing.
Once you're ready to go, you'll need to select a method to change your bitmap into a vector format. Type is a vector format. Bitmaps (Tif, BMP, PICT, GIF, JPG, etc) are measured in a finite number of pixels. Vector Files (type, CDR, AI, EPS, WMF, etc) are stored as mathematical formulas that determine the curves of the objects. That's why vectors resize so nicely and bitmaps don't: bitmaps are dealing with a fixed set of information. If you've ever tried to enlarge a GIF, you'll understand why vectors are more flexible than bitmaps.
So, to go from bitmap to vector you'll to choose one of the following methods:
If you're not happy with the results of your first try at tracing, try resetting some of the trace settings from within Streamline or CorelTrace. If you're still not getting a good tracing, open your bitmap up in the paint program, convert to grayscale, and try increasing the size of the image. My traces seem to do best if each letter bitmap is around 600 pixels or larger.
If you have CorelDraw, open your bitmap in CorelTrace and convert it.
If you have Adobe Streamline, open your bitmap in the program and select File/Convert, then save the new file.
Note: Both CorelDraw and Adobe Illustrator have "autotrace" functions built in, but they aren't nearly as good as the results you'll get from CorelTrace or Streamline.
Once you have your traced bitmap. you can then bring your vector files into your font making program. You can use Fontographer, one of Pyrus' font software programs, Corel Draw 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8, or you can try a shareware program called Softy for Windows.
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