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Intro to Glyphs App 3 Interface | Type Design Masterclass Freebie

Starting out in Glyphs and type design can be intimidating, whether you're a student or professional. In this video, I talk about the basics of the Glyphs interface so you can get started drawing type!

This blogpost and accompanying video will look at the glyphs interface. This will help familiarize where things are and what to look for in the Glyphs App interface. Please note that this demo is on a Macbook. 

First, open Glyphs 3 and when Glyphs 3 launches it'll pull up a starter window which is way better than Glyphs 2 used to be. The Glyphs interface works like Adobe programs and opens some recent font files. For this walkthrough, start a new document.

Starting a New Glyphs File

When starting a new file, Glyphs has the capability to prepare any number of languages. In the panel, there is an amazing plethora of starter files the software has taken into consideration. In order to follow along with this Glyphs walkthrough, work on a Latin base of characters. Select Latin, check that “Yes, I would like to prepare glyphs for a Latin alphabet.” Choose basic for now and note that for larger font families, Glyphs can populate more characters at the outset of the project.

Again, Glyphs is going to prepare the initial files. For the purpose of this blog post, start by selecting “Basic” then select “Create Document.” 

Glyphs App Main Interface

Once the document is created, the Glyphs interface will launch to its primary viewing screen. To start, Glyphs brings users to a home page or at least what I consider a little home area where Glyphs houses each letter form. The interface displays letters “A”, “B”, “C”, “D”, and so on all the way through the lower case letters and “space” character. 

Consider each letter or character as its own file. Glyphs is letting type designers put all these things together, sort of like a checklist of what letters, numbers, and symbols need to be drawn. 

Drawing Letters Panel in Glyphs

Since the home area of characters is the meat and potatoes of the Glyphs App interface, start by double clicking the capital “A”. It opens what looks to be another tab: notice now Glyphs shows tabs on the top of the interface. There should be a tab called “Font” and another panel that’s currently active labeled capital “A”. 

Readers who are familiar with typographic terms or who are in the Type Design Masterclass will notice some of the terms from previous videos. Glyphs shows a baseline, cap height, ascender, and descender. These are words around the letter forms. Keen readers and fellow type-nerds might notice that there is no x-height, which is a similar measurement to the others. That's because Glyphs is telling users,  “Hey this is a capital letterform”, which means there shouldn’t be a need for a lowercase x-height. 

To get back to the Glyphs homepage, select the “Font” tab at the top and it'll return to the home view. To run through the letterform editing action again, double-click the lowercase “a”. With a lowercase letter open, Glyphs now displays the x-height, ascender, baseline, and descender. 

Font Measurements and Guidelines in Glyphs

Next, the Glyphs interface shows horizontal dark brown lines, and some softer colored thick lines. Users can zoom in and move around as if the letter is an artboard. Zoom in far enough and Glyphs displays a pixel/point grid which is where the measurement units come in.  The dark brown line splits pixels because that’s how it’s programmed in the Font Info Panel. Other lines that cover a few pixels in thickness are programmed to have that thickness, and users can change those inputs in the Font Info Panel. 

Notice that the x-height marking line is made up of both a dark line and a lighter brown portion. According to typographic measurements and terms, Glyphs is allowing users to set font measurement and overshoot, or a portion of round characters that extends a bit further than flat characters for optical balance.  When setting masters (featured later in the Type Design Masterclass online course), those measurements for overshoots, x-height, ascenders, descenders, and more can be input to match the font characteristics. It's important just to note that that's where the measurements live. The dark lines in the interface are for flat characters, and the lighter brown areas for overshoot.

Filtering, Sorting, and Adding Characters in Glyphs

In the left shelf of the Glyphs interface, there are categories and languages listed. These are not only filtering systems for viewing characters in a font, but also good tools for adding other letter forms. If, for example, a designer wanted to add a set of numbers, they could go into the left panel and select the number drop down, then choose decimal or old style lining figures,  (whatever numbers they might want to generate) and with a simple right click, could choose to generate those characters. Selecting a character set in the left sidebar will change the Glyphs homepage view to only show those characters. To return to viewing all, select “All” at the top of the left side panel. Notice, too, that now the home view will contain any new generated characters.

Similarly, to add other characters individually, scroll down to the bottom to reveal a little plus and minus symbol.  Selecting that plus button will auto populate with something called “new glyph”. To make this a character that software will recognize, simply double click the name to rename it, for example, to generate an “@” symbol or maybe an “ampersand,” just type in the name area those characters and tap enter. 

One additional note in Glyph’s sidebar interface is the labeling system. In the bottom left panel there are color swatches which users can select. With a character in the home section selected, users can apply a color which won’t color the actual font, but label the character. This can be used in character development workflows. For example, I like to use it at the very beginning of my process with the color red which means that my letter forms are at the beginning of the process and as they get refined I move them down the color scheme from red to orange, yellow, and green, until ultimately they're labeled publishing colors like the purple.

Font Weights and Layers in Glyphs

In the right hand panel font layers. The layers in Glyphs function like different weights or styles of a font. Once users add a bold or a light in the Font Info panel, those will show up in the layers side panel. There's also measurements and tools in the bottom right panel that help designers rotate or slant elements, tools that align elements, and so on.

The Best Way to Become Familiar with Glyphs App 3

The best way to become familiar with the Glyphs interface is to start to use it. By using Glyphs to draw a font, the interface will quickly become second nature. Until then, this is largely what designers need to know to start using the Glyphs interface.

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