CREATING FONTS IN FONTOGRAPHER
Careless letter spacing may impede, or
divert our attention from, the act of reading, while
spacing that is well executed usually goes unnoticed.
Careful and systematic spacing can save us work later
by reducing the number of kerning pairs that a font
requires. And a well-spaced font is better suited to
applications, like the web, that may not recognize
kerning at all. Following are some details on spacing.
The Metrics Window, right, is where we do
spacing and kerning. Hit 3€-K to open it. Letters typed
into the field at a will appear below. The letters Я and
0 are traditionally used as the "control characters" to
establish sidebearing values that will apply to most
other characters. Each letter's right and left values
are the same, b and c, because they are both symmet¬
rical in design. The straight left side of f will obviously
have the same value as the left side of H, but the right
side, d, had to be eyeballed, or individually assessed.
FOG's default character slot width of 1000 units is
usually too wide. So, after drawing a letter, drag the
right sidebearing, a, closer in to the character, b, and
do basic centering by eye. Or METRICS>Equalize
Sidebearings will center the character for us. However,
mechanical centering based on a letter's edge-to-edge
width is often inferior to optical centering where we
can take a letter's weight distribution into account.
fields can be selected
for editing, or values can
be Copied and Pasted.
Spaces match counters
spaces maten counters . -4/*^ "■ ~m
Spacing too crowded . <^%i -m
Spaces match counters
Spacing between letters is traditionally related to
counter width, thereby not only setting up a pattern
of consistent space widths between letters, but within
them as well. It follows then that the larger a font's
counters, the more open will be the spacing between
letters. Heavier-weighted fonts, therefore, will
naturally have smaller counters and tighter letter
that looks nice
! and tight viewed large
in the the Metrics Window...
■ (.. .becomes loo light for small piint, impedes legibility.)
Don't space a font too closely—give it some air—so it
will be suitable for the largest number of users and
uses. Fonts designed mainly for small text should have
wider spaces so that at 10-point size, the letters don't
visually collide. Fonts for larger, display headlines can
have tighter spacing. Most fonts, though, will be used
large ¿nd small, so spacing should be a happy medium.
HIHOHIHO, A-Spacing We Will Go
Here's how to establish sidebearing standards. Open your font, then open a
Metrics window. Type H-H-H and drag one right sidebearing guide until you
like the spacing. Add a letter /to the string, or perhaps an N. Adjust spacing if
needed. Make sure these letters are centered in their slots and that left and
right sidebearing values are identical. Copy and Paste that numeric value into
the sidebearing fields of all other straight stem letters (see chart, page 221).
Next, type H-0-H-O-O-H to establish side values for round letters next to
straight letters. Then space lowercase letters, using strings such as i-n-h-n-i
and n-o-n-o-o-n. Make sure, despite their different shapes, that spacing ends
up looking even from letter to letter. Use the same values for all similar letters.
Start by comparing various straight-side letters to decide on the best spacing width.
Round letters always space closer to straight-side letters, and even closer to each other.
inhni nonoon ecd
The rule applies to lowercases, and to all letter styles: Set standards for all similar letters.
Right, depending upon the type style, a spacing
system can often be devised that applies to a
majority of a font's characters. In the first three
categories, all straight-sided letters should get the
same sidebearing value. Letters with similar right
sides, such as B-P-R, should have the same right
sidebearing values. But in every font, there will
always be "special needs" characters, requiring
individual spacing that must be done by eye.
Symmetrical Characters (& Quasi-Symmetrical)
HIMOQSUZ80! ATVWXY ilmnosu vwxz
Straight Left-Side Characters
BDEFHIKLMNPRU bhiklmnpru 5!
HIJMN adghijlmnqu BCEFJKLPRfjkrty47
Mono- and Uniformly Spaced Fonts
Spacing would be a breeze if the widths of all char¬
acter slots were identical, as in monospaced Courier
Bold, a, or if both left and right sidebearing values
could be kept the same for all characters. But this
usually applies only to geometric sans serifs, or novelty
fonts like Mekanik, b, and the author's DotCom, с
Spaces too wide, admits moth
holes into the line, looks bad.
Spaces too close, looks like ablinkin'
domain name; words don't separate.
Spaces better spaced, looks more
even and legibility is improved.
Spacing the Space
Don't forget to reduce the Space character's overwide
default width of 1000 em units. Reassess this width in
context by typing several words into the Metrics
window, reducing viewing size and adjusting as
appropriate. Some say the best Space width is about
that of lowercase /. Above, a comparison of spaces
from a, Palatino; b, Helvetica; с Bermuda Squiggle;
and d, Souvenir (only the pure of heart can see them).
Avoid giving negative-value (e.g., -23) sidebearings to
letters like W-A-V-Y-T, in an attempt to close spacing
gaps. Allow some clearance, b, so such letters don't
crash with quotes and other wide characters, as at a,
above. We can kern away some crashing, but first,
spacing should be designed to deal with it. Also, avoid
extreme negative-value left sidebearings. In Quark
XPress, such letters at the start of a column will
appear as though their left edges are chopped off.
Universal Spacing for Scripts
Above, at a, right sidebearings for Streamline's lower¬
case are set at 0. Left sidebearings are all negative so
preceding letters will overlap, b. Magneto's right-side
connecting strokes, c, are all identical and set at 0.
Precision is the key to designing ligatures for scripts
like Shelley Allegro, d. Easy option: The letter shapes
of Dorchester Script, e, suggest a script font, but don't
connect. Script fonts require only minimal kerning.
Spacing Character Groups
Larger foundries often monospace certain groups of
characters within set widths to obviate kerning.
Accent characters, a; narrow punctuation, b; wide
punctuation, c; and numerals, d will be centered
within a given set width for each group. This simplifies
spacing and makes an orderly font. I prefer to give
number / a narrower width of its own, however, so it
doesn't float in space. Also, accented composite
characters are typically spaced, but not given kerning.
All the left-leaning uppercase characters in my font
Peace Outline can transition to right-leaning lower¬
case by inserting one of eight symmetrical "turn"
characters (highlighted). Font uses no kerning; all
spaces are slightly negative (alphabetic characters are
all right side -36, left side -64), which allows letters to
snuggle up. This is just one example of a custom
spacing concept that is intrinsic to the font design.