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Handwriting in illustration

Where the wolf uses devious cunning to get a reluctant cub to write, and discovers a useful online resource.

There’s a wolf-cub in this house who draws like a dream, creating wonderful, intricate worlds with his pencil. These worlds, however, are pre-literate. Words and lettering are avoided… the order and shape of the letters become a jumble in the poor cub’s head. Though letters are beautifully formed, they’re flipped, the pencil is gripped and pressed too hard, there’s drama, frustration, refusal… And the cub is getting on in years. Some of his contemporaries are reading novels (some even seem to be writing them).

But the wolf is sly, with many methods… and so here’s yesterday’s strategy:

I complimented the reluctant one on his lovely handwriting style, and suggested it would make a wonderful font for a book, adding reassuringly that the book need not have too many words. As it happens, the cub has been putting together a book. It’s an ‘early reader’ with the title ‘Dracula Junior goes to Luna Park’. Of course, there have been loads of pictures, but no words as yet:

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For people with reading issues, using a keyboard can be much easier than forming letters. There are less steps to worry about and so, while good handwriting is important in the long run, typing is a useful stepping stone. And so I looked up ‘turning handwriting into a font’ online. I thought this might be a good way to connect the art of handwriting with the broader world.

The best resource I could find was MyScriptFonts.com – free and simple to use. You’ll need a printer and scanner, and to know how to load a new font into your system**.

First, download a template (the pdf is here)

myscriptfont-working

Write your own letters in the spaces shown, taking care not to write outside the grey boxes. Here’s the cub’s:

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Then scan in the sheet with your new letters, in greyscale at a high resolution – between 300-600dpi. If – like ours – your scanner is covered in scrapes, scratches and the odd stubborn inky blot, you may need to tidy your scan up a bit in a photo-editing package.

I use Photoshop and, after tidying, I also upped the contrast as the letters had been done in pencil rather than the black pen suggested.

Save your file as a jpg.

Finally, go through the steps on MyScriptFonts.com to upload your scanned sheet and download your font. You can download as TrueType (TTF) or the more modern OpenType (OTF) format. Opentype is preferred over here.

Load up your font and try it out.

And here’s a couple of pages from ‘Dracula Junior goes to Luna Park’ with the type in place. So good!

dracula-junior

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It took us a couple of goes to get our font right – a little splotch in the wrong place can affect the kerning (the space between letters), but the final results were pleasing. I’m going to put my own font together now – called ‘GRRRRRRR’. Meanwhile, the cub has grand plans for his personal font foundry.

** To load up a new font, I use FontBook on my Mac though there will be many other ways. PCs cause much huffing and howling in this house, but I see there are instructions online.

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