Custom Typography

How to Create Custom Typography

Last updated on: 2019


Typography is bringing out the inner life of fonts. It’s not a first impression or what the typeface is, but the potential it holds. Highly regarded designers like Paula Scher have mastered creating custom type by using it to create “images”. In her words, typography is how she draws and a way that makes letters become imagery and enhances the reading experience.

Learning how to create custom typography gives you a chance to reinvent and repurpose. But to be successful at it, you need to understand the basic anatomy of typefaces and understanding why certain curves or placement of crossbars make sense. Check out this article for a glimpse into the breakdown of typeface anatomy.

Once you’ve analyzed why some letters curve a certain way or have a certain amount of spacing within its shape, you will have a better idea on how to manipulate the type to fit your vision.

 Custom Typography

Now, How Can I Create Custom Typography?

Everyone’s process will be different, but here are the basics of how to create custom typography in Adobe Illustrator.

1. Start Off with a Hand Drawn Sketch

You should always start off the process by sketching out your type. Here is where you will accentuate curves and lines in the type. What I sketch is usually based off how the text makes me feel. Don’t be afraid to let your emotions drive you in your sketching and let your fonts really come to life through them.

2. Bring the Type Into Adobe Illustrator

After the sketch, I take a photo on my phone and place it in a layer with a low opacity and lock it. Then, create a second layer on top where you can play.

3. Create Your Custom Font!

After uploading into Adobe Illustrator, you can work on customizing your font. From there, you can find a font you like then right click “create outlines”. Sometimes there are fonts that can work really well as a base to create what you want to do. If not, you can instead go ham with the pen tool and width tool.

It sounds simple, but this process can get tedious because you still want to stay true to the anatomy of how text should be. There are a lot of tutorials that can show you how to add cool effects to enhance your typography, like this article from Web Designer Depot.

Tips for Creating Custom Typography

  • Know what you like. Thinking like a designer is knowing what you like and why. It will help you create work that you’re proud of, but also understand how viewers think which is the most important thing for designers.
  • Pay attention to the curves of each letter. Whether you’re manipulate already existing text or creating your own, it’s important to make sure that every edge is smooth and seamless. It’s easy to have jagged edges from the pen tool, so pay close attention to the proportions and smoothness.
  • Don’t mix too many fonts. When you start mixing too many different types of fonts, things can start to get messy. Three is the maximum, but two is the best for mixing typography. Personally, I always like to use a sans serif font and match with either a script or serif font.

Exploring typography from different designers will help you get a feel for what you like and inspire you when creating your own. Now get out there and start designing!

Looking to learn more about graphic design? Read up more here.

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