By Steve Bain
CorelDRAW provides powerful resources for creating custom logotype, symbol, or character designs. Discover how easily you can turn your design into a digital font you can use in any text-capable application in this continuation of my 2-part tutorial on creating custom fonts.
As I mentioned in part one of this tutorial, CorelDRAW has equipped users with a full set of font-creation tools to both design and export digital fonts since version 4. Creating your own digital font opens creative avenues and provides graphic solutions in many different ways. You can create a custom graphic or corporate logo font to use in any text-capable program or create your own special font design.
CorelDRAW includes all the latest tools for you to both design and export your digital font. With the creative part of your logotype or font design complete, let’s examine the steps you need to follow to export your creation.
Preflight Your Logotype or Font Design
Before you begin the process of exporting your design to a digital font format, examine what you’ve created for any potential anomalies or incompatibilities with the export filter. Doing so will ensure that your hard work will transition smoothly into a font that displays and prints just the way you want it to. Here are four common problems to check for:
- Use Single Objects or Composite Paths Only In order for your letterform design to be compatible with a digital font file format, each character must be a single closed-path object comprised of one or more subpaths. If your character or symbol design consists of more than one object, an error message (shown below) will appear when you try to export the character.
- Remove Incompatible Outlines, Fills Digital fonts use only the vector outline information to describe shapes, which means that any custom outline or fill properties applied to your design shapes may be incompatible with the export filter. Apply a simple black hairline outline and removing any fills before exporting (see below).
- Reduce Curve Complexity Highlycomplex outline shapes may cause problems during export or further down the line-for example, during printing. You can quickly curve complexity without visibly altering an object using the Shape Tool in combination with the Reduce Nodes button and/or the Curve Smoothness slider in the Property Bar (see below).
- Split tall or wide graphics/symbols If you are planning on creating a symbol font that includes excessively tall or wide characters such as vertical or horizontal logo, consider splitting them into two or more parts to be exported as separate character definitions.
Exporting Your Digital Font’s First Symbol or Character
When you export your first symbol or character to a new font file, two actions take place at once. The digital font file is created and the first symbol or character definition is added. Additional characters must be added separately as individual export operations. So, the steps to create a new digital font file differ slightly from appending the file with additional characters. In this tutorial, we’ll examine both operations.
We’ll begin by creating a new font and adding the first character using a simple font/symbol example. I’ll briefly define many of the font and character options you’ll encounter along the way. To get started, follow these steps:
- Download, unzip, and open this sample font design file in CorelDRAW. It includes three simple graphic shapes on separate pages. If it isn’t already in view, turn to page 1 to view the first character (shown below).
- Using the Pick Tool, click once on the object on the page to select it and choose File > Export (Ctrl+E) or click the Export button (shown below) in the Standard toolbar to open the Export dialog.
- Enter a name for your new custom font file in the File Name box. For our example, let’s use the default Face Font name provided by the document name. This will name the font file but will not affect how the font appears in your application font list selector once installed. Although CorelDRAW enables you to create either TrueTypeor Adobe Type 1, choose TTF TrueType Font for this example. Be sure to expand the dialog by clicking the Options button and place a check mark next to the Selected Only option (as shown below).
- Click the Export button to continue the process and notice the Options dialog is displayed (as shown below). This dialog appears only when you export the first character to your new digital font file and is skipped if (or when) you add additional characters to your digital font file.
- Enter a name for your new font in the Family Name box to specify the name that will eventually be displayed in the host application font list selector. Although you can enter a font name up to 80 characters long, keep in mind that font names longer than 25 characters may exceed the space available in most application font lists. In this case, enter Faces as the family name.
- Since our digital font will eventually contain only three symbol shapes, choose the Symbol option. This designates the font as a picture (Pi) font in the font header. Certain applications enable you to use symbol fonts prepared using this format in special ways. For example, previous versions of CorelDRAW gave access to symbol fonts through the Insert Symbol Character (historically known as the Symbol docker/rollup).
- If you were exporting a font design that includes a partial or full character set, you would need to disable the Symbol option. This would enable you to designate Normal, Bold, Italic, or Bold-Italic font styles using the Style selector.
- Leave the Grid Size and Leading options at their defaults. Grid Size options for Adobe Type 1 fonts are fixed at 1,000, while TrueType fonts default to 2048.
- Set the Space Width option to 375. This option enables you to set the amount of space created when the space character (0032) is used. Although it isn’t critical for our symbol-only example font, the default value of 1000 isn’t really a concern. But, for character fonts, this value is often too large.
- Click the OK button in the Options dialog and answer Yes to the prompt dialog that appears (shown below). This prompt appears only when the font is first created and signals that the font name and location are now set.
- Now that we’ve defined the font file name and general font options, the next step is to set properties for our current character. The TrueType Export dialog (shown below) opens next enabling you to choose character-specific options. The current character we’re exporting is shown in the preview window on the left side of the dialog with the character origin, baseline, and sidebearing guidelines indicating the character’s eventual relative text position. (For more information on these font properties, see part 1).
- Leave the Character Width set to Auto to accept the automatically detected value of 1472 for our example. When creating character fonts, disabling the Auto option enables you to set a custom width and in turn affect spacing to the next character.
- If it isn’t already, set the Design Size option to 720 points and leave the Baseline option set to 0. The baseline value enables you to raise or lower your character above or below the baseline for letterform shapes representing punctuation marks, accents, mathematical symbols, language-specific symbols, or other specialized letterforms.
- The Character Block option enables you to choose character blocks for the full range of supported character codes. For this example, choose Basic Latin if it isn’t already. Character codes for Basic Latin are displayed below this option with the T (character 0084) currently selected. This enables you to assign a corresponding keyboard scan code. For our example, we’ll use the X, Y, and Z keys. Locate and click on the X in the list to set our symbol to character 0088 (see below). Click OK to accept your selected options and close the dialog. CorelDRAW will create the new font file with the first character added.
Adding New Characters to Existing Fonts
So far, you’ve created a new digital font that includes just one symbol. If you wish, you can install this font onto your system and begin using it immediately. But let’s take it a step further and add two more characters to see how it’s done. To append the remaining symbols in our example to the new font file, continue from the previous steps:
- With your Face Font.CDR document still open, turn to page 2. Using the Pick Tool, click to select the symbol on the page (as shown below). Open the Export dialog (Ctrl+E) and browse to and/or select the Face Font.TTF we created earlier. Choose Selected Only and click the Export button.
- The True Type Export dialog opens with the embedded Faces family name embedded already loaded. Notice the X character you selected is now darker than the rest signifying that a letterform has already been assigned to it (as shown below).
- If you wish, you can click the Options button to open a dialog (see below) that provides access to options you specified earlier and more, including character width, space width, and a font metric options. A prompt will enable/require you to confirm any changes you make.
- In the True Type Export dialog, click the Y character (0089) in the list. Leave all other options as they are, and click the OK button. The new symbol is immediately added to the font and the dialog closes.
- Repeat this operation for the symbol on page 3 of the Face Font.CDR document. Select the shape, open the Export dialog, click the Face Font.TTF file in the browse area, and click Export. This time select Z in the list and click OK to add the symbol to the font file.
- With all three symbols added to the font file, the next step is to install the font onto your operating system. Running most Windows operating systems, this is done through the Control Panel Fonts utility. With the Face Font.TTF installed, return to CorelDRAW , choose the Text tool, and open the Property Bar Font List to verify that a font called Faces now exists in the list (as shown below).
- Select the font, click an insertion point on your page to begin a new Artistic Text object, and type XYZ. The characters you added to the text string (see below).
A Caveat for Professional Typographers
After you have successfully created and finalized your symbol or font design and the final TTF file is ready for use, there may be one final step you wish to perform. Although CorelDRAW provides you with to create a digital font, it lacks the tools and resources to implement professional-level kerning, metrics, and spacing refinements – often sought after by discerning typographers creating fonts for their livelihood.
This means if you’re considering using CorelDRAW for high-end font creation, you definitely need to consider picking up a robust font manipulation program. Try FontLab Studio for professional and advanced font manipulation (roughly $700 USD), or TypeTool for basic font editing (roughly $100 USD). Both products are available from Fontlab Ltd.
Aim for Originality
The font tools in CorelDRAW enable you to create and assemble your own custom fonts from virtually any compatible shape-even characters from other fonts. This presents and interesting ethical dilemma that needs to be mentioned. Like any copyrighted work, many fonts and symbols are the legal property of others. Creating fonts can be easy, but so is being sued for font piracy. Avoid legal perils by ensuring the digital fonts you create are the result of your own creative ideas.
Steve Bain is an award-winning illustrator and designer, and an author of nearly a dozen books, including CorelDRAW The Official Guide.