Finishing Up

Today we're going to work on finishing up importing or copying our letters from Illustrator into Birdfont. Remember that you may need to save as individual characters as SVG files if copying isn't working for you. Once your case is complete, the next step is modifying the spacing and kerning.  

Spacing and Kerning

Screen-Shot-2015-03-05-at-7.28.01-AMSpacing is the default space or padding around individual letters, and we can control it in Birdfont in each character view (see left). It is best accounted for by starting with the largest square and rounded characters of a given case, referred to as the 'standards.' They are:
  • H and O for the uppercase and
  • n and o for the lowercase
After we're happy with the spacing of these letters – e.g. if 'HHHH' and 'OOOO' looks good – we'll use these standard letters to fix the default spacing between all other letters.



Kerning, you'll recall, is the adjustment of space between two unique letters (eg. the letter “L” and “A” in the word “LAWYERS”), and it's entirely dependent on the pair of letters being kerned. The way TrueType fonts (the font format we will be working with the most) stores these values for later use is in a kerning table:
Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 7.23.33 AM
Kerning is potentially very different between typefaces, so it can't really be standardized. Also, it involves all characters, including punctuation. In fact, punctuation (periods, quotation marks, etc.) is where kerning can become the most critical, as punctuation has so little spacing as it is. A period for example can easily be swallowed up by an adjacent uppercase L if the kerning isn't set:
L.L.L.L.L.        <---- yikesies!
But we'll worry about that later. For now, we're going to focus on kerning our complete set of capitals or minuscules. Begin with words that have diagonals mixed with upright characters: 
  • VAST,VATS, TATS, etc
  • nope
  • scope
  • navy
  • available

Also try a mix of rounded, square, and diagonal letters:

  • HANDGLOVES – or – hangloves
  • HAMBURGFONTSIV – or – hamburgfontsiv
  • MITTOMS – or – mittoms

Birdfont's Kerning Tool

Birdfont makes it surpisingly easy to adjust kerning. The kerning window is opened via the ⌘K command. Below is a simple tutorial about how the process works:
Kerning with Birdfont

Kerning Class

Kerning individual letters can be very time consuming. To help with this, Birdfont has what are called 'kerning classes.'  Here are examples of very broad character classes:  
  • letters with a straight upright stroke: BDEFHIJKLMNPRU – or –  bdhijklmnpqru
  • letters with a round stroke: CDGOPQ  – or –  bcdeopq
  • triangular letters AVWXY – or –  vwxy
  • the odd ones: STZ – or –  afgstz
You can create classes for the groups with individual letters to create a kerning class and save yourself a bunch of time. See below for a helpful tutorial:

Midterm Preparation

The midterm presentatins will be October 27 (in five weeks). [Click here] to see the project description.


Begin working on your other case. Remember to begin with sketches, then build these out in Illustrator, then assemble in your exisiting typeface file in Birdfont. We'll continue work on this next week. To give you a good understanding of spacing and kerning, read [chapter 10 in Letters of Credit], pgs. 70 - 80.