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ScanFont Photoshop Tutorial
Written by Yuri Yarmola   

Making Fonts with Photoshop

Introduction

Did  you know that you can apply almost all Adobe Photoshop's image-transforming effects to any font in your collection? Imagine an Arial that is solarized, pointillized, faceted, fragmented... Or you just want to add some texture to character? Not a problem. With the advanced tracing and font-handling features of our products nothing is impossible.

The general idea is simple: using an outline font create grayscale bitmap images in Photoshop; apply one or more image-transformation effects; convert the transformed grayscale images into black-white (or line-art) pictures; trace these pictures and create a new outline font with ScanFont.


Getting Started 

What you need to start:

1. One copy of Photoshop. You can use any other image-editing program, like Corel PhotoPaint or similar, but we used Photoshop (version 3.0) in our examples. 

2. One copy of ScanFont 3.x. You can download the free demo version of ScanFont to try the technique described here, but to build useful fonts you need to buy the full version. Please note that all screenshots here are made with Windows versions of ScanFont and PhotoShop. If you are working on Mac you need to have Mac version of ScanFont and Mac version of FontLab or TypeTool.

3. Fonts that you want to stylize. Note that you must be sure that the font's license allows you to transform fonts. In most cases you can't distribute transformed fonts, but can use them for your own purposes.

Stage One. Preparing The Image

1. Run Photoshop. Create an empty color image large enough for the all characters you want to include into the resulting font. The recommended image size of all the Roman characters (letters, numbers and punctuation) is 1500x1500. The image should have a white background.

2. Choose the black color. Select a text tool and click on the top-left corner of the image.

3. When the text tool's dialog box appears, select the font that you want to transform and 128 point size.

4. In the text entering field enter all the characters that you want to include into the resulting font. Insert a space between each character. Here is a sample set of all the basic characters optimized for future processing in ScanFont. You may copy text from here directly into Photoshop.

! " # $ % & ' ( ) * + , - . / 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 : ; < = > ? @
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z [ ] ^ _ `
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z { | } ~

5. Press OK and use the mouse to position the text block in the image.

Stage Two. Applying Effects

Now you have a source image that includes all the font's characters and you are ready to transform this image.

Select a Photoshop image-transformation effect that you want to apply and adjust its options in the effect's control panel.

Here are some examples of Photoshop effects:

Photoshop effects sample

As you can see, these effects were applied to a grayscale image. But fonts are black-white images and they have no information about gray shading. In the next stage we'll discuss various methods of grayscale-black/white transformation.

Stage Three. Getthing the Black-White Image 

There two methods to convert a grayscale image to a black-white image that are compatible with ScanFont's tracing algorithms: 50% threshold and Halftone Screen.

1. If your image was colored, convert it to grayscale. Use the Grayscale command from the Mode menu.

2. Convert the grayscale image to black-white mode. Select the Bitmap command from the Mode menu. The Bitmap dialog box appears:

Photoshop dialog box screen shot

3. Choose 50% Threshold for the simplest method of conversion:

Grayscale original
Source grayscale image

Threshold results
Black-white image after 50% threshold

4. For halftone conversion increase the resulting resolution to something like 150 or 300 DPI. Choose the Halftone screen method and press OK. You will see an additional dialog box to select the halftone line frequency and the type of halftoning elements. Experiment with these values to get the results that you want:

Round shape halftoning result
Round shape at 10 lpi and 45 degrees angle

Lines halftoning result
Line shape at 10 lpi and 45 degrees angle

Cross halftoning result
Cross shape at same lpi and angle

To complete the Photoshop part, export the bitmap image in TIFF format.
Then run ScanFont.

Stage Four. Making The Font 

1. Open the TIFF image that you created in ScanFont (Open command from the File menu).

ScanFont screenshot — Image

2. Select the Scale tool and set the scale factor for the image. Setting the scale factor is necessary to let ScanFont know exact the size of the image's characters. Read the ScanFont help for a detailed description of the Scale tool.

3. Switch the image into Split mode — press the Split button or select the Split command in the View menu. The image will be divided into strings and all the characters separated.

ScanFont screenshot — Split

If you see that some characters are not separated, use the Knife tool and the Merge and Split commands to correct them. See the ScanFont online help for more detailed information.

4. Select character cells (either individually or as a group) and choose the Place into Font command in the popup menu. The Font window appears with the characters autotraced and in place.

ScanFont screenshot — Font

5. Use any of ScanFont's features to edit your results. You can adjust the tracing options, manually select and place characters into the font, even edit the resulting character outlines right in ScanFont. The ScanFont help system has more information about specific features.

6. Open the Font Info dialog box (Font Info command in the File menu) and enter a name for the font and other parameters.

7. Save your font in Type 1 or TrueType format, install it in your system and use it in any application — including Photoshop!

Font sample 01
Gaussian blur effect applied to Myriad font (50% threshold)

Font sample 02
Crystallize effect applied to Myriad font (50% threshold)

Finished!