This is my first posting here in English. It has always been the plan to write some articles in English and also to translate some of my previous writings from Icelandic to English. The reason is quite obvious. The Icelandic population is less than 300.000, so there is a limited number of people who actually can read my posts.
Secondly, I know for sure that for at least some of the subjects I write about there is not too much information arround. Hopefully I can add a tiny bit of missing parts some might be looking for.
Thirdly, the stats for this little blog of mine shows that just over half of the visits are from English speaking countries, people who have found this page on Google or elsewhere, only to find that they can not read a single word.
As a start I will try to shed a little light on a topic that I have seen many looking out for: How do I move my font that I made in Illustrator over to FontLab?
Some of us have used Illustrator for years as our main vector drawing tool. And some of us might also have drawn few characters, glyphs, symbols or even a whole font in Illustrartor that we want to move over to FontLab to make a real font.
Copy and paste works but will give you unexpected results unless you set all parameters right, both in Illustrator and FontLab. I am combining information from the FontLab msn forum with my own thoughts on how to prepare font design in Illustrator CS for either copy-pasting into FontLab or saving as EPS for importing into FontLab.
There are few preference settings that need to be set right in Illustrator.
- Preferences | Units & Display Performance. Set all units to points. Note: Learn this useful Keyboard shortcut to quickly shift between Units: Command+Options+Shift+U. Or click on the Ruler.
- Preferences | Guides & Grid. Set Guideline every 10 pt and Subdivisions to 10.
- Preferences | File Handling & Clipboard. Enable AICB and Preserve Paths.
In the menu bar:
- View | Show Rulers.
- View | Snap to Grid. Disable.
- View | Guides | Lock Guides
- View | Show Grid (Optional)
- First of all we have to measure the font / glyph drawings we are going to use. I used millimeters in this example but you can use points or inches as well. As long as you have the dimensions of the Ascent and Descent to get the dimensions of the Em Square it does not matter and the results will be the same. We will convert all the dimensions to FontLab units. It is basically proportions we are after. Let’s take an example to explain this in detail.
- Here we have a drawing in Illustrator of some glyphs from a font. A good way to find out the basic dimensions of the font is to look at H, d, x and p and measure it from the Baseline. From the H we see that the Caps-height is 40, Ascender (d) is 42,2 and the x-height (x) is 28,8. Descender is always a negative number in FontLab calculated from the Baseline. There is no need to use the numbers here as negative ones, as long as you remember that all the measurements are made from the Baseline. Descender (p) is 12,4 down from the Baseline. You may find it handy to put in Overshoots, (the green boxes) where rounded letter forms exceeds the measurement lines.
- The upper- and lower case g are fine to find that out. It’s extremely small but easily found out by zooming into the drawings. The dimensions are summed up in the table below.
Make boxes with a very thin stroke. Or you can use colored boxes without a stroke like shown in the picture around the glyphs. Get the height in the Transform palette. I prefer to use colored boxes with some transparency because the stroke thickness gets in the way. I recommend that you keep measurements exact. Later on we are going to convert those numbers and enlarge the drawings quite a bit, so it is better not to round off the numbers at this point.
In the example below I round off to the nearest one digit after the comma (or point, depending on where you live) only to make it less confusing. What we need to find out first is the size of the Em Square. The size of the Em Square is the height of the Ascender + Decender. In our example that makes 54,6. The width of the Illustrator work file we are going to make will be 1000 pt, FontLab UPM Em Square. And we need to convert the numbers to fit in. Here is a table that shows the numbers and how they are converted:
- Size, divided with Em Square size, multiplied with 1000 = New size
- Ascender (d) 42.2 / Em Square 54.6 * 1000 = 773
- Caps (H) 40.0 / Em Square 54.6 * 1000 = 733
- X-height (x) 28.8 / Em Square 54.6 * 1000 = 527
- Baseline 0.0 / Em Square 54.6 * 1000 = 0
- Descender (p) 12.4 / Em Square 54.6 * 1000 = 227
- Overshots (Gg) 0.65 / Em Square 54.6 * 1000 = 12
- Ascender + Decender 54.6 / Em Square 54.6 * 1000 = 1000
Now we have all the basic numbers we have to use in the Illustrator file. I have also made available online an Excel file that will calculate all the demensions for you as you fill in the measurements.
Illustrator work file
- Make a new file in Illustrator. Make the art board 1000 pt wide and the height 1227 pt. 1227 pt is Em Square 1000 pt + Descender 227.
- Drag the ruler zero point from the upper left corner where the rulers meet to the very bottom of the art board.
- Drag a guideline from the top ruler to the height of 227 pt. This guideline will be the Baseline of the font.
- Drag the ruler zero point to the Baseline and to the very left edge of the art board. Note: This is very important because this determines the position of the glyph when it’s transported to FontLab.
- Drag guidelines from the top ruler to where the Ascender, x-heigh, Caps and overshoots should be according to your table.
Zoom in to get it precise. You may even find it easier to make three boxes, let’s say 20 pt wide and in the heights of 773 pt, 733 pt, 527 pt. Align the boxes at the bottoms and place on the Baseline. Drag the guidelines to the top of the boxes. When this is done you can resize your font design to the guidelines for further designing and preparation for transporting to FontLab.
But there is even an easier way to do this, which is a great timesaver: Use the Keyboard shortcut to shift between Units and you see that 54,6 mm, the Em Square is 154,792 pt. We want to resize it to 1000 pt. 1000 pt divided by 154,792 multiplied by 100 is 646. This means that in this specific example it’s possible to use 646% to enlarge all of the design. It also means that you can take the colored boxes to your file and:
- Do the 1 – 4 actions of the previous description.
- Bring in the colored boxes. Adjust the shapes to a more square form by using the Direct Selection Tool (the white arrow), and move the right side of the boxes to left.
- Put the colored boxes so that the Baselines are aligned exactly.
- Option-Click with the Scale Tool on the Baseline. Put in 646% in the Uniform Scale field in the dialog box that opens.
- Set guidelines according to the colored boxes. Delete the boxes when you are done.
- The percentage 646% is now the key number to all your enlargements and you use it to re size the font design.
Few things to remember about drawing fonts in Illustrator
- If fonts are drawn in Illustrator and intended to be moved over to FontLab it must be filled, not stroked.
- The drawings must not exceed the top or bottom of the Art board / Document Size.
- Let all your Nodes / Anchor points fit the Grid / Guidelines.
- Keep Snap to Grid on. When the drawings are moved over to FontLab will round the drawings off if it does not fit the grid.
- If you think you need more precision recalculate all the numbers in the table with 2000 (instead of 1000) and increase the Illustrator document size accordingly. Also change the UPM in FontLab to 2000.
Few things have to be done on FontLab’s side before we can place the glyphs into it.
- Go to File in the menu and choose New. File | New.
- File | Font Info | Metrics and Dimensions. Keep it like it is: Font’s UPM is: 1000
- File | Font Info | Metrics and Dimensions | Key Dimensions. Fill in the dimensions from the table like is shown here.
- Go to Preferences | General. Be sure “Do not rescale EPS files” is checked.
Import – Export
Now everything is ready to swap your font design between Illustrator and FontLab in both directions. There are few options.
Copy the glyph in Illustrator or FontLab and paste it into FontLab or Illustrator. Works fine both ways in Illustrator CS and FontLab 4.6 and the glyph will stay proportional in either application.
You can also save an EPS out of Illustrator but it has to be exported as Illustrator Legacy EPS. Go: File | Export … Illustrator Legacy EPS in Illustrator CS. In CS2 it’s Save as … . Save as Illustrator 8 compatible file.
Individual characters or glyphs can be exported out of FontLab and opened in Illustrator.
Added: Note that this method does not work properly in Illustrator CS5. That is, pasting a glyph from Illustrator to FontLab Studio works fine. It respects the 0.0 ruler point which should be on the baseline. But pasting a glyph from FontLab to Illustrator CS5 with Paste to Front results in centering the glyph on the center of the Artboard.
Workaround is to make a little box for example on the 0.0 baseline in FontLab and copy it along and then drag this box along with the glyph to the right position in Illustrator.
I have no idea if this will ever get fixed, but if you like to use this method you might want to keep a copy of Illustrator CS4 on your computer, just for this purpose.