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Try Your Hand at a Personal Font

About 14 years ago, my brother-in-law paid more than $100 to have his handwriting converted into a typeface or “font.” At that time, the concept was fairly new and there were few services available. I wish I knew then what I know now.

Try Your Hand at a Personal Font

A CorelDRAW Tutorial for Transforming Handwriting into a One-of-a-Kind Typeface

By Shon Roti, JDS Industries, Inc.

(Originally published in the March 2016 issue of Insights.)

About 14 years ago, my brother-in-law paid more than $100 to have his handwriting converted into a typeface or “font.” At that time, the concept was fairly new and there were few services available. I wish I knew then what I know now.

I’d often wondered how difficult it would be to create a typeface using my own handwriting, so I did some research. I was surprised to find very little information from CorelDraw or elsewhere online. By piecing together what I found watching YouTube videos and forums, I was able to gain a basic understanding and work through some challenges as I went along.

So why would we want to have our own handwriting converted into a typeface? To be honest, I didn’t have a good reason. I just wanted to see if I could do it.

It was only after I had succeeded that I realized the technique I discovered within CorelDraw could be used in a couple ways:

  1. It is an efficient way to add a personal touch to a letter or e-mail.
  2. It offers a way to preserve your child’s handwriting.
  3. A personalized typeface makes a creative and unique birthday or graduation gift.

I’ve already made plans for all of these uses.

By the way, if you create a typeface from your child’s handwriting, it can be used in place of the typeface Comic Sans (FIGURE A). Comic Sans happens to be one of my least favorite typefaces, one I wish everyone would avoid.

There are free online options to create your own personalized typeface. The site that popped up most often by online users was www.myscriptfont.com. I tried this option myself and the process was surprisingly simple, but the results were not very satisfying. The process included printing a template from the website, writing the characters in the template (FIGURE B), scanning the template and uploading the file. This entire process took about 10 minutes. On my first attempt, I noticed some issues with unwanted dots appearing next to some of the characters, kerning issues (space between the characters), and descenders getting cut off (FIGURE C). On my second and third attempts I made extra efforts to make sure to keep my writing within the allotted spaces for the characters, and yet I still had descenders and ascenders cut off (FIGURE D). Other sites that offer the free service and similar results were www.fontifier.com and www.paintfont.com.

Creating my own typeface in CorelX7 took me about 40 minutes from start to finish, but the results were much more satisfying than the free options. According to the online Corel community, the ability to create a typeface and export to a TTF (TrueType Font) has been available since at least version 9.

Handwriting to Typeface 101

Your first step is to write out the alphabet on a plain white sheet of paper in upper and lower case, then numbers 0-9 and the remaining symbols as in FIGURE E. I found that a Sharpie® with an extra fine point worked well for scanning purposes.

Next, scan your handwriting (FIGURE F). There are as many different setting options as there are brands of scanners, but they should be similar to the ones in FIGURE G. Save the file at 600 dpi. If your scanner does not designate the dpi by a number, you may have to select a “best” or “high resolution” setting. Choose a black and white document option if available. JPEG and TIFF formats will work fine.

Next, create a new document in CorelDraw and change the document settings to points (FIGURE H). Adjust the width and height to 1000x1000. By default, the document settings may be set to inches. Import (Ctrl+I) the file created from your scanned handwriting and place it in the document.

The scanned image is a bitmap and needs to be changed to vector art. Use the Outline Trace tool for this procedure. You may find better results with this tool if you first resample the image into Grayscale mode. To resample, select the image and go to Bitmap>Convert to Bitmap and duplicate the settings in FIGURE I. For the Trace tool, there may be a Property Bar option in the work space, but if not, select the image and go to Bitmap>Outline Trace>Detailed Logo. The window for the Trace tool will appear. Use a higher Detail setting and slight increase in the Smoothing and Corner Smoothing options (FIGURE J).

Here’s where CorelDraw has advantages over the free online services. If you see areas in the characters that you would like to improve, you can use a number of tools to manipulate the characters until you are satisfied with the results.

With the characters I had created, there were some issues where the Trace tool made harsh angles that I needed to correct. I used the Shape tool or Node tool, as I call it (F10) or the Smooth tool. Both of these can be used to reduce and “soften” the harsh angles. Once you have adjusted the characters, group them (Ctrl+G) and set them off to the side.

To get some perspective for how large your handwritten characters should be, type out a capital A and lowercase P in Arial typeface and increase the size to 1000 points. Place them in the center along the left edge of the document. Place a guideline at the top of the A and the bottom (FIGURE K). Now delete the Arial text. The guidelines you have created will be used to give you an idea of how much to increase the size of the handwriting characters. All of the characters should fit within the document size, flush with the left side, with each letter and character on its own page in the Coreldraw file. When the document is complete, save your file.

The next step is to export the file (Ctrl+E) to a TTF file (FIGURE L) starting from the first page of the document. After you click OK to export, name your new typeface in the new window and follow the settings in FIGURE M. Another window will open for you to identify which character you are exporting. Click on the letter or numeral that corresponds with the one that is in the document (FIGURE N). Move on to the next page in the document and export the file again, selecting the next corresponding character and save/overwrite the same file you’ve just created. You will be asked if you want to overwrite the file. Select Yes. Continue this operation until you have done this for all the characters.

Yes, this is the most tedious, albeit very simple, portion of the process. My next challenge will be to find a way to automate this part of the process, and that will be a tutorial for another day.

When you have finished exporting the last page, the last step before using your new typeface is to install it. You will do this as you would any other. Right click on the TTF file you’ve created and click Install (FIGURE O).

Now you can type away with your own handwriting, for better or worse.


Shon Roti is a sublimation specialist at JDS Industries, Inc. He has a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Sioux Falls with an emphasis in graphic design. He can be contacted at shonr@jdsindustries.com. JDS Industries is a leading supplier in the recognition and sublimation markets. For more on JDS Industries, visit www.jdsindustries.com.

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