Saturday, January 23, 2010

Scanahand: turn your handwriting into a font

One of the first things you probably consider when you are learning digital design is to create a typeface from your own handwriting to use in the computer. For a normal user, the process isn’t exactly intuitive nor simple, and it might be necessary to hire the services of a professional type designer.

However, there are some applications that simplify the creation of a digital font from a standard set of characters. Scanfont (from the same developer as Fontlab) and Scanahand are such programs. The latter, Scanahand, has been developed to quickly convert a handwriting into a typeface. The developer is the dutch company High-Logic, a specialist in type software. This week the third version of the program is released. Creating a working font is fast and easy, even for people with no knowledge of digital typography or the programs usually needed to develop typefaces. Scanahand is rather intuitive and user-friendly, and it guides you through the necessary steps to create your fonts, with a clean and well-organized interface.

Scanahand is available only for the Windows platform, but you might try to make it work in other operating systems using emulation or virtualization software.

Many different languages are supported, together with their specific characters: not just the english standard character set, but also german, dutch, swedish, norwegian and many more (including several regional languages such as euskera and galician.)

To use Scanahand you only need to:
  1. Print a copy of the template it provides to write the characters;
  2. Write or draw the characters on the template, with a marker, ballpoint, soft pencil or pen;
  3. Scan what your filled template;
  4. And finally, Scanahand automatically generates (and even installs) your freshly created digital typeface.
The first time you print the template, you also print a clear instruction page:

This instruction page is always available, anyway, to print it again if necessary, from the program meny. The template may include or not some guides to draw the characters, with configurable colours, and they may print or not depending on your preferences. If the guides are active you make sure the heights of the ascenders, the x-height and other parameters of the font are consistent from letter to letter.

Alternatively, it is possible to open the template in any drawing or painting program and use a tablet (or a tablet PC) to draw the characters digitally. In this case, the process is slightly different:
  1. Start Scanahand and save an empty template as an image (choose the option on the right side).
  2. Import this image in the program you want to use to draw the characters with a tablet.
  3. Save the template with the drawn characters in a format you can open with Scanahand: gif, jpeg or png.
  4. Open the completed template image in Scanahand.
  5. Generate the font.

There are several templates, ready to use, and you can either print them or save them as an image file; it is also possible to print them as a PDF with a virtual pdf printer, such as PDFforge, CutePDF or Adobe Acrobat. The premium version of Scanahand lets you create symbol fonts, and thus create dingbat fonts. Another extra feature of the premius version is the ability to change the template and modify the character sets to support, if needed, other languages not included in the basic edition.

According to its developer, Scanahand is so intuitive that even children are able to use it with success. Indeed, it has to be very motivating and exciting for them to create their own font and start using it right away to create invitations, cards, posters or school work. Including a personal signature or a logo, ready to stamp in any program, is also very easy in Scanahand.

Although Scanahand is a Windows-only application, of course any font you create with it can be used in the rest of the most popular computer platforms, Mac or Linux.

Scanahand 2 works in any Windows version: Vista/XP/2003/2000/NT4/Me/98/95. The price of the basic version is $49(US) and the advanced, or Premium, version has a price tag of $79(US). You can download and try a demo —just visit, the developer website. Besides Scanahand, High-Logic offers some other utilities to manage and create typefaces, the excellent MainType font manager and the powerful FontCreator.

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1000 Heads: the book

1000 heads, my illustration book

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My GTD (Getting things done) illustrations

I conceived this blog basically to share my visual side notes of the Getting things done process. My most recent posts about GTD software and related topics have “masked” the original posts.

You can access most GTDrawings in the archive of december 2005 and january 2006.

Here's a miniature with most of my sketches: this is what you will find, commented and in larger sizes, in those previous posts.

See also the article about GTD drawings.

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