How to Generate a Glyph Icon in Gimp


Most font-creation programs allow you to create each individual character form --- or "glyph" --- contour by painstaking contour. But you can save a lot of time by designing glyphs in a program like GIMP and then importing them as images into your font-creation program. This is especially useful if you're doing highly irregular fonts, such as handwriting fonts, special symbol fonts or comic fonts. Font design software can convert this line art into the contour and point data it needs to generate your final font.

Things You'll Need

  • GIMP 2.0 or later
  • Font design software, such as Hi-Logic FontCreator or FontLab
  • Scanner (optional)
  • Open GIMP, and create a new image that is 150 by 150 pixels and 72 dots per inch. Drop down the "Advanced Options" menu in the "Create a New Image" dialog box and set the Color Space for "grayscale."

  • Draw a letter or character with the drawing and painting tools in GIMP, or scan a hand-drawn character. Save the character as a flat bitmapped file, such as JPEG or BMP, or whatever file format your font design software supports.

  • Open an existing font file in your font-creation software or create a new one. You'll see an array of glyph boxes corresponding to each character in the font. Double-click on the box corresponding to the character you created in GIMP to edit that glyph.

  • Click the "Import image" option in the tool bar or Import menu of the font-creation software. Navigate to the image you created and click "Open." The font program will let you set several options for converting the image into vector-based curves; set these according to the look you want and click "Generate."

  • Use the frame handles on the imported glyph to move and size it so that the glyph is aligned properly to the baseline and left alignment guide and fits the the x-height, cap height and descender guidelines. Then close the editing box.

  • Create a new image in GIMP and repeat the procedure to create the next character.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can add all sorts of graphic effects to each character in GIMP before you import it as a font glyph. For instance, you can spatter it with a paintbrush, add a drop shadow to it, distort its perspective, or apply a gradient to it. Just make sure the effects you use work in grayscale, because that is the way it will be imported as a glyph.
  • One very fast method for creating a new font is to type two alphabets in any font in GIMP --- one all caps and one lower case --- and then distort the alphabets using GIMP's transform tools. For instance, you could make a "super italic" font by selecting the alphabets and using the Shear tool to slant them over to the right or left. Then copy each character, save it as a BMP file and load it into your font software.
  • Your glyph image should be at least large enough to fill your 150 by 150 dpi image. If the glyph image is too small, the font-creation program may not be able to derive enough information from it to convert it to a set of points and contours.
  • Making only minor modifications to a preexisting font and issuing it as your own may be a violation of copyright laws.

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  • Photo Credit John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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