What is FontForge like?

I’m considering downloading FontForge + xQuartz to make my Illustrator vectors into a font, and am wondering if anyone using a Mac has tried out the software? Looking forward to hear your opinions and stories.

I’ve made several fonts with this software for internal/client usage. It works but has a VERY archaic UI that will likely make you reevaluate your purpose in life.

Determining the appropriate x/y location and kerning for each letter is probably the most challenging part. No good way to test the font within the software, so there is a lot of exporting and installing rough versions of your fonts just to test it out. Would not recommend if you are trying to make a font for body type unless you have a lot of time to dedicate.

Exporting and editing through the software sounds like it’d take just as much time as creating a font itself. That’s crazy. I’m making a poster using only type, so it doesn’t sound like the best fit. Do you have any recommendations for another software to use that has good value for the license you pay for?

When not at work, doing freelance work or doing stuff outdoors, I’m usually designing a typeface and building a font. For that matter, that’s what I’m doing right now.

Designing good, quality fonts is difficult, methodical, process-driven and very time-consuming. You’re greatly underestimating the complexity involved in putting a font together. Even if all you’re doing is drawing the glyphs in Illustrator and placing them into their Unicode slots in FontForge, it’s tedious and technical.

The last I looked, the user manual for FontLab (one of the more popular font creation applications) is around 900 pages long, which gives you an idea of the complexity of doing it the right way. For what it’s worth, I work in both FontLab and and application called Glyphs (which I like better).

I began, like you, thinking that Illustrator is a good type drawing tool, but it’s not made for designing or, especially, building fonts. Like people told me would happen at the time, I soon found that out and switched to designing them solely in the creation software and resorting to Illustrator for only those things that Illustrator can do.

FontForge is archaic, clunky and buggy, but it is usable (and free). For what it sounds like you’re wanting to do, it might be the best option for you. If at some time, you want to dig a bit deeper and get further into the technical details that separate a quality font from those typically found on the free font sites, I really would recommend looking into Glyphs.

I’ve faced multiple challenges already with trying to create a font in Illustrator, so I definitely agree with you. Thank you for all the insight. I’m a first year student in the graphic design field so it’s great to hear the perspective from users like you and silence04.
Looks like i’ll be giving FontForge a shot this week to gain a more educated opinion about it. I’m looking forward to all the research I have ahead of me.

If you want a window into how type design professionals look at things, head on over to the typedrawers.com forum. Some of the top type designers in the world are regulars there — people whose typefaces most designers are familiar with.

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