Initial fontening: success!

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Yeah, I think this is gonna work. There’s a lot of stuff about making fonts that still feels pretty mysterious but I’ll figure it out.

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There’s only one copy of each letter in the font right now. The first order of business is to write a few sentences that include enough of the letters missing from the image above. I definitely need an uppercase Q; it looks like I never used it in Absinthe chapter 1 at all. I may never use it. But it’ll be nice to have it. And several lowercase q’s, and z’s, and a bunch of copies of some uppercase letters and all those digraphs I’ve saved a few copies of. And numbers. And probably some other punctuation like +/*()%$#@^&;:. I need six of each of them, so I can make the font cycle between all these different instances of each letter to make it look more organic. That’ll be a few more hours of mindless tracing in Illustrator, plus somewhat-less-mindless cutting-and-pasting into Glyphs.
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My test words are, um, interesting.

(Glyphs has this cool feature where you can type a bunch of letters, then stay in one window to quickly edit the horizontal metrics of the letters, and to tweak the paths that make them up. I dunno if this is a standard feature of font editors these days; the last time I tried making one was around 2001.)

Right now the font’s called ‘Five Glasses’ but I’m probably going to change it to something like ‘Thieving Raccoon’ or ‘Procyonid’ or somesuch. I’m kinda tempted to use it as the human dialogue for Drowning City, too – I need to see how it looks against the ornate calligraphy I’ll be using for the elves.

Edit. Here’s the acid test – I took page 1 and turned off the layer with the hand-written dialogue, and typed in this font. Barring the lack of an apostrophe and italics, it looks pretty much the same as the hand-lettered page, albiet a little more regular (and a little bit smaller and weirdly leaded, I need to figure that out.). This is definitely working.



An important part of a comic is the lettering. Your choice of font will set the tone for the whole story, in some ways.

Most people are happy to just grab a “comic book” font and do it like it’s always been done in the superhero comics: all caps, in a font that probably looks like it was drawn in a brush. Not me. I don’t come from that world; my stories don’t feel right with that tone of voice. I like upper and lower case, for starters.

Rita used Myriad Pro for the vast majority of the dialogue. It’s got bold and italics and multiple weights, and it’s a nice crisp serif font that fit the tone of the comic.

But Absinthe? Absinthe was done in a different era of my craft. Absinthe was done back when I was still nailing things down on paper before taking them into Illustrator. And Absinthe was lettered in the real world, with dialogue that sometimes became a part of the overall design of the page.

I want the new pages to stylistically match the first chapter. But I really don’t want to hassle with getting a paper-based workflow going again. So…


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I’m gonna make my own font. I’ll still have to do some things by hand, or by doing a bit of paper lettering and bringing it into the computer. But I figure that tracing a bunch of these letters will give me a good start on a unique font that can have italics and bold. I’ll have to figure out how to have multiple versions of each character that change randomly; I hope that’s doable.

Right now I’m thinking of trying to make it with the lite version of Glyphs, which is a mere $50. If it does what I need then I’ll be delighted to not have to spend the $5-600 that serious font software costs.

(I may end up making the font available as a Patreon perk, as well. Dunno.)


edit. Here are some useful-looking links I found on making different character images cycle.

Engaging Contextuality

Contextual feature code samples – I like the idea of having a set number of variants for every letter that cycles with every character, rather than a lengthy hand-tuned set of variants. Seems like there isn’t an actual random number generator available; writing rules for selecting from multiple glyphs is what you have to do. (And what I ended up doing.)

also Common Techniques – I love the idea of making the glyphs move a bit by themselves, in the very last example. Might be a royal pain in the ass though.