How I make and sell fonts and what I wish I knew before I started

When I was 16 I found out you can make fonts, which blew my mind I think. There are templates like these where you can just print, write and scan your own handwriting then download it as a file. Which, if that doesn't sound magical, I don't know what to tell you.

I immediately did so. And I was a little bit obsessed with getting it to look perfect. I named it after myself and put it on DaFont so other people could use it. (I don't know what prompted me to do this, but I did and it happened)

The weirdest thing though is that people were actually downloading it, which is wild. Nothing really came out of it though. I just had the mindset that I had cool handwriting.

I actually didn't like the font though (I still don't. Look at that.) and I was interested in making really cool pro fonts where the lines didn't taper bc the computer is trying its best to read my writing. If you didn't know, fonts are made from vector shapes. That means that no matter how big or small you make the font, it will always be crispy clear. So you cant do cool fades and clean lines when the computer reads blurry lines as rounded edges.

Now, actual pro font designing programs are scary and expensive. Whoever designed Times New Roman is insane and powerful. I, on the other hand, use Fontself, an extension for Illustrator or Photoshop that can take shapes (that you can pre-edit!) and make them into a very customizable font. It's a very lovely program that I highly recommend. I haven't tried the PS version, but the Illustrator version just makes more sense to me because you can edit the vector points and really make sure the font will look the way you want. Any letter/number/symbol you can make on your keyboard, you can make a glyph for.

To actually create the font and use my own handwriting, I use an iPad with a pencil. Honestly, any program with a high-res image export will work. I use Procreate because it comes with a large selection of options and brushes.

This is my actual work in progress of some fonts I haven't completed. Because everything is literally my handwriting, I have trouble making them look really different. So I have to scrap a lot of ideas.

I've had some friends try to make fonts as well and have learned that dang, it's actually a little hard. Not to write, but to like do this whole process. It's long and boring. (I should make a tutorial maybe).

One mysterious day (maybe, I can't remember when) A start-up contacted me and asked if I'd like to sell my fonts! (What??) So of course I said yes without hesitation.

Rule 1 of collaborating, hesitate. I had made this mistake before when I was 15 and signed with Broadband TV, not realizing I could do better. I was just excited a company wanted to work with me. When I got an email from Fullscreen (back when that existed), I was low key disappointed. Do your research, is the point.

I began to use CreativeFabrica to sell font licenses with a 50% markup. Which is actually not that nice. No matter the price, I only get 50%. I also can't control the contracting (Cricut owns me I think). I don't make enough to live off of because of this thing I agreed to and I hate it here!!!

~If you're looking to make and sell fonts, here is all my advice~

(But don't take it as legal advice I am not a lawyer or else I would be making bank and wouldn't do graphic design for a living).

1. The difference between a font and a typeface.

A typeface is what you design. The font is the program that tells the computer how to read your typeface. It says 'hey this weird-looking letter is an A' and your computer is like 'ok' and when you press A, the according glyph should appear. (a glyph is what each letter you make is called.)

2. What kerning, tracking, and leading are.

These are super important terms that you should be able to look up if you're stuck. It's much easier to use a program and look up 'How to edit leading in Illustrator' instead of 'how to adjust the spacing of lines of text in Illustrator'. If you're planning to sell fonts, this is a big thing to make sure you get right to avoid complaints and rejected uploads to font sharing sites.

Kerning is the spacing of one glyph in its container. (idk if it's called a container but I'll explain). You want the edges of the container to match the width of the letter. For example, an I has a thin underline, while an M has a larger one. That's actually outlining the container's width. Without kerning, the phrase 'tax evasion' would read 'tax evas i on' which does not look right.

It's very useful when you have a letter that has a long tail or a decorative curl that you want to go under other letters and overlap glyphs.

Tracking is the spacing between all the glyphs' containers. Do you want them to be super close, or ~ f a r a p a r t ~ for the aesthetic. Maybe they all need to be touching because you're writing in a cursive font. Tracking is in charge of that. This is similar to kerning, except it is applied to all the glyphs at once.

Leading is especially important when you want to do some fancy looking stuff. It determines how far apart your lines are when you use your font. If you have a g with a tail that curls far below the base of your letters, your leading should be bigger to give it some room.

4. How to sell your font on your own.

If you manage your fonts on your own through Etsy, a personal site, or something similar, make sure you include a license of use that contains terms of agreement. I have a copy of this on each font listing, as well as a PDF that comes with the font that says 'READ BEFORE INSTALLING'. You don't want anyone abusing your font by reselling it, using it without permission, or really doing anything with it that won't make you happy. Here are some questions to ask yourself along with some elaboration and theoretical problems.

What are they allowed to do with it?

Are they allowed to use it as a logo? On a product? To edit? You can limit where your font is used. For example, it can be used on a blog with 500 views but not one with more than 5000 without a separate license. You can create licenses for different things!

Should they be allowed to use it as many times as they want or just once per license?

Someone wants to use your font in an ad for smoothies in March and for another in June. These are two different 'projects'. Every purchase is anonymous. Should they be allowed to use it forever and ever? If not, think about creating a subscription or renewal.

Can they download it on every computer they own or just one?

A company has a social media designer who will download your font and pays for it. But it can be distributed throughout the company to be used and worked on by other people. Believe it or not, you can limit the number of users who download your font per license. This company would now need a multi-user license.

Would your answers be the same if a giant company used it?

You don't know who is going to buy your font. Making it available to large companies under special licenses makes it more approachable and easier for both you and the brand. Keep this in mind when making a license that may seem fair to someone using on their website, but not if it's going to be a giant brand logo.

5. How to have a management sell your fonts.

It's quite easy to become a designer on various font and graphic downloading websites. You may receive an email or apply yourself. It's a lot of exposure you don't have to deal with managing and you can get offers for bigger deals. However, much of the time these managements have set terms that are required of all designers and are non-negotiable. I really don't see a good side to this and I wish I didn't do it.

5. Pricing your fonts to sell.

Fonts are sold at a range of prices. Some are free and some are $800 per computer. Think about how much work you put into it and what you'd actually be happy receiving if one person downloaded it.

Keep in mind, a lot of handwritten fonts you see in stores or on products are actually in the public domain such as Shorelines or Luna. It's much more likely to sell your font at a lower price, but again, you can always set tiers to how your font is priced or reprice. Nothing is set forever and it's totally up to you.

6. People can steal your fonts very easily.

Especially when you post a font on websites like FontSpace and Dafont, where you can give out trials of your font before purchase, it's very easy for someone to download it and post it somewhere else. I think every single one of my fonts is on at least 5 other websites I don't know about. There's a thing called ✨metadata✨which is super cool, where when exporting anything (photos, files, etc.) you can add things like usage terms, copyright, your name, website to purchase a license, etc to the actual file so you can take down fonts. Not that I don't want everyone to see my fonts, but many of these websites provide donation links to people who re-upload.

This however doesn't stop people from doing it which sucks. But it does help. HOWEVER...

7. You can SUE!

So like, obviously because you're so smart and used metadata, a company can easily right-click on your font and press get info, revealing your copyright and your info.

Of course mistakes happen and you are the judge of what you want to do about a situation like this, but as I said earlier, a font is a program that belongs to you. It is your intellectual property and stealing is stealing. Maybe you'll just ask someone to purchase a license, maybe you'll hire a lawyer. A company just sent me free stuff as an apology. But to let you know, you can sue. You can. Sometimes a company can be an untraceable shirt brand from China and you don't even know where to begin, but I mean, it be like that.

Anyway if you're just starting out as a font designer and don't know your way around this type of thing, email me! I was not fortunate enough to have someone guide me through this process, so thank you to Reddit and Google for teaching me everything ever in my life.


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© 2020 by Dominique M Demetz

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