How to Edit TTF Fonts

by Scott Knickelbine

True Type Fonts, or TTF fonts, are used in most Windows applications, and many Mac programs can use them as well. You can edit and even create your own TTF fonts, as long as they are open-sourced. There are several programs available that let you get your hands on the basic mechanics of a TTF font. Once you see how much work goes into the creation of every character--or "glyph"--you'll gain a new appreciation for the thousands of TTF fonts available on the Internet.

Open your font-editing software.

Import the font you wish to edit by selecting either "Import" or "Open" from the "File" menu. You typically must specify whether the font is already installed in Windows or whether it's in its own file.

Select the character, or glyph, you'd like to edit from the gallery of font characters that appears.

Modify existing glyph curves and contours. You do this by selecting the handles (usually red boxes) that appear on the outline curves that make up the glyph, and dragging them to change the shape of the curve.

Add new characters, if you like. Select the Add Glyph option--often found in the main menu bar; this brings up a menu of all possible characters in the font. Select a character that is not yet defined in your font. This brings up a blank edit screen. You can create your character by adding new curves to it, using the "Add" option. You can also import a bitmap picture of the glyph and trace it with new curves. When you click "Save," your new character appears in the glyph gallery.

Save your font by selecting "Save" from the "File" menu.

Tips

  • Before you go plunging into modifying a font, take some time to make sure the look you have in mind isn't already available as a free download. It may take an hour or so of searching, but editing a font glyph by glyph takes a lot longer.
  • Importing a bitmap to help you trace or refine a glyph is one of the easiest ways to produce good-looking fonts. You can modify a highly enlarged character in any paint program, then import it into the glyph-editing screen to provide a model for your new or revised character.

Warnings

  • You can edit only open-source fonts. These usually show up in Windows with an icon that looks like an "O." If the font doesn't show up in the list your font editor shows during the import procedure, it's probably not an open-source font.
  • Always save your font as a new file before you begin to make any modifications. If you save a font after you mess it up, you'll have no choice but to download a new copy and reinstall it.

Items you will need

About the Author

Scott Knickelbine began writing professionally in 1977. He is the author of 34 books and his work has appeared in hundreds of publications, including "The New York Times," "The Milwaukee Sentinel," "Architecture" and "Video Times." He has written in the fields of education, health, electronics, architecture and construction. Knickelbine received a Bachelor of Arts cum laude in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

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