Managing Fonts for Digital Artwork

Text was once printed with individual metal or wood letters arranged in a form, rolled in ink and pressed to a page. Each typeface- for example Times New Roman- had it's own set of drawers storing individual fonts. One drawer stored letters for Times New Roman Regular 12 point, another drawer stored Times New Roman Regular 14 point and so on. 

Hand Set Letters

While we don't typically store fonts in boxes or drawers anymore, we still have to have a specific font on file in order to use it in digital art.

Font Files

Every font on your computer was at one point crafted in a vector editing program like Adobe Illustrator. Each letter is a different piece of art that was gathered into one file like a drawer of letters. To use that font for artwork, the graphic designer needs that "drawer", or file, of letters. 

There are three different types of "drawers" that a font may come in. Each one was developed over the years as digital technology improved. 

Type 1 fonts are preferred for use in printing and graphics. There are two important parts to this type of font file: the suitcase and the postscript. Both pieces are needed to use the font for digital art 

Type 1 Font Files
Type 1 Font Files

TrueType fonts eliminated the need for multiple files and improved the look of text on-screen. Only one file is needed to use a TrueType font.

TrueType Font File
TrueType Font File

Similar to TrueType, only one file is needed to render OpenType fonts. OpenType is the most recent improvement to font files and has many benefits for digital storage and cross-platform use. 

OpenType Font File
OpenType Font File

In Practice

The text in a graphic art file cannot be easily edited without having the font files. While many graphic professionals have libraries to store font files, it is always best to send the files with artwork you are forwarding to another person.

You may have created your artwork with a font found in another program such as Microsoft Word. These fonts are packaged into the program and cannot be extracted for use in another setting. In order to use that font, the actual font files would need to be purchased separately.

Summary

  • A font file is like a drawer: each font file contains a group of letters, symbols and numbers, much like the wooden or metal letters used in movable type printing. This "drawer" is needed to use the font for artwork.

  • Font Files: Three types: Type 1, TrueType and OpenType. Don’t forget, Type 1 font files have two parts, the suitcase and the postscript.

  • In Practice: Always send the font files with your graphic artwork to avoid potential heaches or additional expenses.