Easily Convert Bitmap Images To Clean Vector Art

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Building A New Font

This tutorial was written by Howard Penner and is published here with his permission.

Download the tutorial (PDF)

Introduction from the Author

It was a little more than a year ago that a close friend pointed me to Vector Magic. A very short e-mail. The subject was “Have U Seen” and the content was a link to the once existing Vector Magic site at Stanford. My friend knew I had been playing with vector generation/tracing applications for over 15 years. Both of us had yet to find one that provided a tracing quality that actually saved time as compared to hand tracing using the pen tool. When I saw the term “rotational invariance” on the web site I smiled. I then saw the examples and I knew good things were coming.

At first it was only a web application and very limited in the size of the image that could be uploaded and processed. I put together a set of 20 images of all types and uploaded them to the server, one at a time, over and over, making sure to try each of the settings. These were a varied set of bitmap images of flat color logos, line drawings, litho and intaglio prints, photos, watercolors, and oil paintings. All of the vector output that I downloaded was exceptional.

It has changed the way I work and has greatly enlarged the volume of work I am able to do in the same amount of time. Do not let your clients know that you use this, or how much it helps you to respond to their potentially peripetia prone preferences. (Peripetia - noun. A sudden and unexpected change of fortune or reverse of circumstance.)

Using the desktop version of Vector Magic, as well as Photoshop, Illustrator and Fontographer, or their equivalents, this tutorial will show you how to take a scan of an alphabet (a page from a 100-year-old book on font design) and convert it to a usable, if not fully set-up, TrueType font. If you do not have Fontographer, you can still use this procedure to generate vectors from imagery other than letter shapes. The individual letters will still need to be hand kerned at final layout to get optimum results. However, when used for headlines, banners, and short lists, this can be a real time saver and allows access to custom and ancient fonts with reasonable processing and editing time. This tutorial presupposes a familiarity with the computer desktop and basic usage of graphics applications.

It is my hope that you will find this tutorial to be enjoyable and, possibly, informative.
        — Howard Penner, Free-Lance Graphicist

What does this tutorial describe?

This tutorial describes how to create a truetype font from a bitmap image or scan of a printed alphabet of the font.

What kind of images does this tutorial apply to?

The source material for this tutorial is an old book of decorative fonts, but it can apply just as easily to any scan or bitmap of a font. This tutorial describes the entire process, from scanning, to vectorizing to creating the font itself.

What do I need to follow this tutorial?

You will need access to Vector Magic, either through the Online Edition, or by purchasing the Desktop Edition. In addition, you will need:

  • Adobe Photoshop or equivalent
  • Adobe Illustrator or equivalent
  • Fontographer or equivalent

The Tutorial Itself

Unlike our other tutorials on this site, this tutorial is in the form of a PDF document. There are also a several other downloads associated with this tutorial. They are:

Download the tutorial (PDF) Download the font (TrueType) Download the raw scan (PNG)