Typography is an art that helps a writer express their individuality, as well as beautify windows, terminals, and even text files. Font designers usually have years of training and an artistic background before the fruits of their labor appear on your screen.
With Glyphtracer, it’s easy to create your own font in Linux and see how your skills stand up to those of the professionals.
What is Glyphtracer and how does it help you create your own fonts?
Glyphtracer is a Python application that accepts a one-bit image containing images of letters and helps you mark each letter with a Unicode code point. It then converts the images to vector form and writes them to an SFD file.
Glyphtracer was designed with Linux in mind, although the developer, jpakanne, says “it might work on OSX or Windows. It might not.”
Install Glyphtracer on Linux
Before you can install Glyphtracer, you need to install pip3 and pyqt5:
sudo apt install python-pip3
pip3 install pyqt5
Install Potrace, a tool to convert bitmaps to vectorized images:
sudo apt install potrace
Now clone the Glyphtracer GitHub repository:
git clone https:
Move to the new directory using the cd command and install Glyphtracer by typing:
sudo python3 setup.py install
You can now start Glyphtracer from any terminal with:
Getting started with Glyphtracer
The first thing to do is write your alphabet. To start, print only lowercase letters and, if possible, use black on a white background. Be sure to leave enough space between characters. You’ll get the best results by scanning hand-drawn calligraphy or using a graphics tablet. With a simple touch, you can draw with a mouse.
Before using Glyphtracer, you need to use ImageMagick to convert the image to one-bit PNG:
convert -monochrome your_alphabet_image.jpg new_image.png
Open Glyphtracer and in the dialog window, give your new font a name. Choose the input file and the file you want to output.
The next window will show you your alphabet. Glyphtracer will be able to recognize that there are characters on the screen, but cannot tell what they are. Select your character set from the menu at the bottom left of the screen. In our case, it is “tiny latin“, then click on each letter in turn.
If you forget where you are, take a look at the letter counter in the center of the bottom bar.
When you’re done, click “Generate the SFD file“.
Finalize your new font in FontForge
Your new font is a Spline Font Database (SFD) file. Before you can use it in your favorite text editor, you need to convert it to a TrueType (TTF) font. Although there are a number of online converters that can do this for you, it’s best to use local tools, in this case FontForge.
First, install FontForge:
sudo apt install fontforge
Open the FontForge application, then select your SFD file. FontForge will present the characters you have drawn. Check that you have the characters you need, then choose Generate the font in the file menu.
In the dialog box, select true guythen press Generate. Your new font will be saved under the file name you specified.
Use your new font in your system
Installing your new font on Linux couldn’t be easier: just open your file manager and double-click the icon for your new font. You’ll see a preview of your alphabet in a range of sizes, and if everything looks good, click Install.
You can now use your font in any application.
Take a course to improve your design skills!
Designing custom fonts is fun and a great way to personalize your Linux system, but it’s only one part of user experience design.
If you enjoy designing more intuitive and user-friendly systems, consider taking a course in other elements of UX design – you might even be able to make a career out of it!