Your Handwriting Is Now Your Font

They say your handwriting is as unique to you as is your fingerprint. Maybe they are right – perhaps every person adds a little bit of his or her personality to their penmanship. Just maybe there are enough ways to vary pressure, speed, stroke, and a dozen other almost imperceptible factors that all 7 billion of us have a slightly different style.

The study of handwriting is called Graphology, and people have been at it for a quite a long time. Most experts agree that a person’s handwriting can reveal their gender, where it starts to get fuzzy is that others claim they can tell much more including age, race, weight, and even mood. Going further down the rabbit hole, some employers have tried to use handwriting analysis to determine if an applicant is a match for a position. That seems a bit of a stretch to us.

Now, if you want to digitize a tiny bit of what makes you, you – then all you have to do it to fill out this (PDF) form and upload it to the interwebs. Out the other end will pop a true type font that you can save for yourself or share with the world. Why would you want to do that? This hack caught our eye as a way of adding annotations to our work in a more informal, yet still personal manner. Or maybe we just wanted to upload it to the cloud in hopes it would live forever. Either way, if you want to see some really amazing style, head on over to the “Penmanship Porn” subreddit where you can find some amazing chicken scratch.

Hack an Editor: Fonts for Programming

We’ve recently noticed two different fonts aimed at programmers, each with a different approach to editor customization. The first, Fira Code, transparently converts common programming digraphs into single characters. For example, <- becomes an arrow and != (or <>) becomes a proper not equal sign. The other font, Hack (can’t argue with the name), aims to make commonly confused characters distinct. For example, the zero glyph has a very distinct appearance from the letter O.

It is pretty easy to understand how Hack works, but Fira seems a mystery at first. Your C++ compiler expects <- not an arrow, right? Fonts support ligatures–sequences of two symbols that run together (like æ). Clever use of these ligatures means that the compiler still sees -> but the screen displays an arrow.

Continue reading “Hack an Editor: Fonts for Programming”

Finding the average of every font

An old book – the smell, the texture of the slowly rotting paper, and the smudges and margin notes accrued over decades – is one of the finer points in life taken for granted much too often. We’re bombarded with high precision vector typefaces all day, but [Dan]’s Avería font is beautiful in its irregularity. [Dan] made a font that is the average of all the fonts installed on his computer, and the result looks surprisingly great.

[Dan] started his journey down the generative font path by making images of every letter of all his fonts and mashing them together with a PHP script. The result was a terribly blurry font, and unfortunately this had been done before. [Dan] wanted a font with clearly defined edges, though, so the obvious solution would be to take the grayscale result of his first experiment, set a threshold, and make a monochromatic image. This plan didn’t pan out, and [Dan] needed a cleverer way to go about things.

The solution to the problem is astonishingly simple; [Dan] took the perimeter of each font glyph and divided it into hundreds of points. These points could then be averaged in 2D space making a real ‘average’ font.

Even though this project isn’t the usual ‘Arduino doing something’ fare, [Dan] came up with a really clever way of doing something that produced something really cool. It’s enough of a hack in our books. Tip ‘o the hat to [Aleks Clark] for sending this one in.

Inkscape plugin for engraving fonts

[Windell] developed an Inkscape extension called Hershey Text that helps you process fonts into vector representations. If you’ve tried to 3D print, plot, or mill text in the past you may have run across the problem of generating vector paths that deal with the outline and fill of the text appropriately. The problem stems from how fonts are defined; either by the area that they enclose, or by the path that is used to draw the outline. Check out [Windell’s] tutorial for this extension where he explains each of these issues and shows how to overcome them.

The image above illustrates the stroke options, which allow you to vector multiple paths to best fill in the correct parts of each character using path-based hardware. The package includes a wide variety of interesting font sets that are in the public domain, and includes tools such as a glyph map generator that make it very user friendly.

How to create TrueType from an image


[Viacheslav] wanted his virtual terminal to have the look of a DEC VT220. He was unable to find a font set that looked just right so he set out to make his own TrueType font. He managed to find a sample image of the glyphs that the VT220 used as fonts. Using a collection of free software he sliced the image into 256 different parts, resized and converted to one-bit index images, and converted these to vector graphics. This was accomplished with a bit of python, an image tracing program, and font editor called FontForge.

Take some time to dabble with these font tools. With an adequate sample you should be able to reproduce any font set. We won’t achieve anything as sophisticated as the font printed with bacteria, but this will be a start in the right direction.

How to generate font and picture header files


Displaying custom fonts or images on an LCD screen using a microcontroller usually requires quite a bit of work. We’ve used some readily available tools to make this a bit easier for your next project. Our python script will convert BMP files into a header file ready for use with AVR microcontrollers. We’ll walk you through it after the break. Continue reading “How to generate font and picture header files”