If you have used Gimp in the past, but never before made a Custom Font, try out this relatively painless way of making your first one.
Then you too will be able to transform plain letters like this…
…into exciting characters like this and use them in your own creations.
Before you begin you will need to download and install, into your plug-ins folder, the most recent version of Custom Font Tools from GimpLearn here.
There are currently 13 tools in the Custom Font Toolkit but we will only use three of these to make your first custom font. You will also need to decide which traditional font, as used by the Gimp text tool, to base the look of your new characters on and choose an image to use as the face of the new characters.
We will use the following plug-ins:
Custom Font Layers from Fonts – to convert a traditional font into a set of character images or Gimp layers;
Custom Font Face Maker – to copy and paste from an image onto your new characters;
Custom Fonts Effects Only – to apply a shine effect to the new characters.
Part 1: Getting the characters
This takes more time than the other two steps put together.
Please use a font that is available as ‘free to use’ for this purpose. Make sure that the font is available in Gimp i.e. you can use it with Gimp’s own text tool: You will previously have installed it into your Gimp font folder or, perhaps, into your system folder. I am using a fairly wide font called Ascardi-sans for this demonstration.
Set your foreground colour (I normally use white but black shows up better online) and create a new image (any size will do since the filter will re-size the layers anyway) with:
File>>New… (Ctrl + N)
Call up the ‘Custom Fonts Layers from Fonts’ filter dialog:
Filters>>Custom Font Tools>>Custom Fonts Layers from Fonts…
Select the font you wish to use by clicking on the font name in the dialog – this will throw up Gimp’s own font selector tool for you to use. Accept the default settings for the other options and click on OK.
When you add effects to Custom Fonts it is better to have a little empty space around the letters – so inspect the layers in Gimp and look for any characters sitting too close to the edges.
Click on a character layer (or use the up and down arrows on your keyboard) and make it the only one visible in the work area with Shift + click (in the region where the dotted rectangle lies).
You can clearly see, in my font, that the ‘G’ character is positioned at the extreme edge of the left-hand boundary and that the descender also touches the bottom boundary.
N.B. I have marked the character boundaries in red to make them easier to see in this blog.
The ‘S’ character looks as if it may have been cropped on the bottom edge and it is also very close to the right-hand edge.
The solution is to run the filter again entering values for the adjustments options.
Undo this first attempt with:
Edit>>Undo (Ctrl + Z)
Now re-show the last filter dialog using:
Ctrl + Shift + F
After a little trial and error (Ctrl + Z is your friend here) I ended up with the amounts shown below – but values will vary with different fonts; most fonts require no adjustments to be entered. I also recommend that you increase the font size (at least to 400) – you will get much better results when using your finished custom font.
This is how things looked on my Gimp set-up; you can see the character layers in the Layer Tool docked to the right of the work area. If you want to check how many character layers have been generated by Gimp you can use:
Image>>Image Properties or Alt + Return
Now the characters are fitting nicely within their layers – with just a little empty space available to use with any effects filters. Here is a better view of that tricky capital ‘S’ in all its intended glory.
Look out for any characters that are empty (appearing just as very thin layers); the simplest option is to delete these. They are usually the result of characters missing in the original font.
I found that there was no double quote character available in my font so I made my own – basing it on the single quote character.
If you find that the Custom Font image, created by Gimp, is larger than the size you intended (and it usually is) you can always scale it down using the Scale tool:
Now all you have to do is to save your plain, Custom Font file with a suitable name using:
Part 2: Putting a Face on the Custom Font
You will need to create or find an image, to use for the new face of the characters, to replace that boring, plain colour. For this guide I used an open-source image, freely available on Wikipedia Commons, of a spiral galaxy. Since it was a rather large image I scaled it down so that the most visually interesting areas would appear on each of the characters.
With other images, where the colour and/or texture varies, it may be more appropriate to use a larger version to copy from.
Ensure that both your Custom Font image and the image for new font face are both open in Gimp.
In the font face image make a copy of that image using:
Edit>>Copy or Ctrl + C
Then move to the Custom Font image and add it to this file by pasting it as a new layer:
Edit>>Paste as>>New Layer In Place or Ctrl + Alt + P
Call up the ‘Custom Font Face Maker’ filter dialog:
Filters>>Custom Font Tools>>Custom Font Face Maker…
Use the options shown below and click on ‘OK’.
When the filter has finished, save the Custom Font as before but with a new name.
The characters should now have been transformed by the image you used. Write something in your chosen Gimp Custom Font writing/painting plug-in; my own filter is called FontSlab.
If you get an error message when doing this it probably means that one of the characters is an empty layer – try looking at each letter in turn. If this is indeed the case, it is better to delete the offending character for now. You can always add a temporary letter (remember to name it as the single character followed by .png) by creating a new layer and painting something on – to see if that fixes the problem error message.
Part 3: Adding a little something extra
Although your Custom Font is ready to use as it stands, we can easily make it look better by using one of the options with the Effects Only Filter – the ‘Add Shine effect’.
Assuming that the Custom Font is still open in Gimp, call up the ‘Custom Font Effects Only’ filter:
Filters>>Custom Font Tools>>Custom Font Effects Only…
The dialog is quite long because it caters for four different effects to apply to all the layers in your Custom Font. Keep the default options as they are apart from changing the ‘Add Shine effect’ to ‘Yes’ and entering a value of 1 for ‘Trim shine in pixels’ as shown below. Click on ‘OK’ and let the filter do its work.
Re-save the Custom Font which is now, finally, ready for use.
As I said at the start, the longest part of the process lies in the preparation of the plain Custom Font; the other parts are quite quicker to do.
You can of course play with the other ‘Effects’ options – or combine different effects – but this one is the easiest to set up and always seems to produce good results.
More detailed information about the three filters used can be found on GimpLearn using the links below or by searching GimpLearn.
Layers From Fonts more info:
Face Maker more info:
Font Effects Only more info: