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Biggest Mistakes Designers Make Drawing Their First Fonts and How to Avoid Them

Avoid these mistakes to take your type designs to a new level.

It’s easy to tell the beginner fonts from professional ones. Be sure to avoid these beginner mistakes in letterforms!

Making the lowercase ‘t’ too tall

The lowercase ‘t’ isn’t quite what it seems when thinking about an ascending character. The ‘t’ is less like the lowercase ‘l’ or ‘h’, and more like the ‘g’. The crossbar of the ‘t’ sits under the x-height line. Then, the top bit only extends a little bit above that!

Not Making a Stick on a Bowl

In most cases, letters like the capital ‘D’ and ‘B’ first extend to the right. These first ‘sticks’, or horizontal strokes, give the letters volume before transitioning into the curve stroke. Without these horizontal strokes preceding the bowl, the letters look closed, clumsy, and non natural to handwriting.

Not Adjusting Diagonal Strokes

Just as it's important to adjust the vertical and horizontal strokes to be optically related, diagonal lines need the same care. The straight vertical and horizontal lines in type design should optically have the same thickness, not mathematically in monoweight fonts. 

Not Looking at the Past

Many first time type designers struggle with common letters like a double story lowercase ‘g’, the ‘s’, or even the ‘x.’ Luckily, font designers have been doing this successfully for centuries. When typeface designers run into trouble, look at how other type designers have successfully drawn the letter. 

Drawing Every Serif

Glyphs and other font design tools are built to make the process better. Whether you decide to use character components or corner components, type design software like Glyphs will let you draw just one serif component to apply to most of your letters. Plus, this makes editing the typeface a dream!

Setting the Crossbar too High

Unless a new font is going to be a display font, make sure the crossbar sits below the center of the ‘A’. Plain text fonts need to balance the white space in the ‘A’ in the counter and below the crossbar. If, however, the new font is going to be a display font, then make sure the crossbar on the ‘A’, ‘E’, ‘F’, ‘H’, and others are all visually similar. Most designers draw a display font as their first attempt because the lack of nuanced understanding of letterforms, like the crossbar height.

Using the R for the P and Vice Versa

It can be tempting to use the capital ‘P’ do draw the capital ‘R’. While that’s a great starting point, the bowl of the ‘P’ sits a little lower than the ‘R’ as the ‘R’ needs more space underneath for that diagonal leg. The goal is to balance the negative space around the letter, and in the "R" the diagonal leg takes up space, so the upper bowl needs to be a bit smaller to compensate.

Not Using Overshoot

The x-height is your primary guide when drawing the lowercase letterforms. For flat letters, that guide is pretty self-explanatory, but when drawing pointed and curved letters, designers need to use overshoot. Overshoot letters have a small portion that extend beyond the base- , x- and cap-height lines to ensure they don’t look smaller than other letters.

Don't make the lowercase 't' too tall.

Use a "Stick" to connect vertical stems to bowls.

Adjust diagonal strokes to be optically equal (usually means make them thicker).

Look at the past when you're stuck, confused, or something doesn't look right.

Use Glyphs Components or Corners to reuse Serifs instead of drawing each one.

Set the crossbar so the negative space above and below it are balanced for text fonts.

The "P" bowl is slightly larger than the "R" bowl.

Use overshoot in round and pointed characters to visually balance them.
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