A while back, while I was chatting to a publisher about lettering in comics, I remarked that I prefer comics to be hand-lettered. I think it looks better, and "warmer," too. "Warmer" is a bit of an ambiguous adjective, but basically it means that it makes me feel better to look at a hand-lettered comic than at one with a font generated by a computer. It might be because I grew up with hand-lettered comics and am used to them, or that I like to see the humanity of the artist's hand on a comics page. It's not that I never use computer-lettered comics, either. In The Sixsmiths,the scripter, Jason, letters each page on Adobe Illustrator. Sharing the labor means I can draw the page more quickly, so that's a definite advantage.
The publisher said she preferred computer-lettered comics. She agreed with me about the aesthetics of hand-lettered comics, but from her point of view it was much more sensible to have the lettering all computerized, as it made the publication of any foreign-language editions quite a bit easier.
The middle ground was to make my own font. I'd looked into it in the past, but hadn't ever done it, as it takes quite a bit of time and effort. However, now I had a motive to make one. I couldn't find much font freeware for the Mac; there seems to be more for the PC. I downloaded the free font-making software, FontForge.
First, I wroteall the letters I thought I'd need, and saved them as a bitmap file. Next, I copied and pasted each letter into Illustrator, and converted it to a "vector" graphic. Fonts have to be vectors, which basically means you can make the letters as large or as small as you want and they will always have smooth edges. I saved the vectors, and pasted them back into the FontForge software. It took a while, but eventually the whole thing was done. Letters can be made without Illustrator, by the way, but it takes a lot longer, as you have to trace all the letters into FontForge directly.
Then came the really tricky part - the kerning. Kerning means adjusting the space between certain characters to make them look better together. So for example there is a space between "b" and "o" - "bo." But for "T" and "o," you have to reduce the size of that space, and tuck the "o" under the top part of the "T" a little, or it will look unattractive: "To."
FontForge kept crashing while I was kerning, so I postponed that task for a bit. It does look all right sans kerning, though, and I have already used it on the masthead of The Sixsmiths. Hereis a sample of it in a comic, and hereis the hand-lettered version.
People make fonts for all sorts of reasons, and often share them for free. I found one made from Edward Gorey's handwriting, which I usedwhen I was studying his drawing style. Another one, called "Mom's Typewriter," was at a large, free font database. I presume it was made from a sample from someone's mother's old typewriter.I used it to add verisimilitude to this recipe at The Sixsmiths.
I'm glad that I have made my own font. It's satisfying for me and my publisher from both an artistic and a commercial point of view, and the process of making it was rewarding too.