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Create ZigZag Font using Illustrator and FontLab tutorial

creating a zigzag font shape in Illustrator

How to create a zigzag using Illustrator paths and fontlab. Create the zigzag path in Illustrator CC CS6 CS5 etc by using the pen tool in the toolbar. The zigzag path can be made in a variety of ways but the basic one is to create and up and down path with the points in Illustrator.

  1. Select the pen tool in Illustrator for the creation of a zigzag shape / font set

  2. Click on artboard

  3. Move upwards at 45 degrees and add another point

  4. Move back downwards at 45 degrees in alignment to the first point

  5. Up

  6. Down etc for zigzag

  7. Set color

You can use the pen tool with shift key to force a 45 degree position (smart guides in Illustrator also help with the zigzag path). Set the fill to nil for the zigzag path and set the stroke width (and any profiles) via the Illustrator top bar. Use the direct selection tools to select the anchor points and align as well (if that helps). Expand the zigzag path in Illustrator via the object menu expand. Select the newly created Illustrator zigzag path and copy. Start Fontlab or Fontographer. and then with a newly created font, go to the glyph 'A' or 'B' etc and double click that to open it and paste the zigzag path and use the edit tool to position and the scale tool to scale the zigzag path in fontlab. Repeat the creation of the zigzags (make variants) and then copy those into the other glyphs. You don't have to fill all the glyphs. Setup the font information such as copyright. Export the zigzag font TTF truetype file from the file menu in Fontlab and you have your zigzag font. There are other tools that can be used such as fontself extension for Illustrator as well as open source font tools. The zigzag font can then be used in other applications. This tutorials shows you how to take a zigzag path from Illustrator (and repeat for many others) and paste into Fontlab and export your zigzag font. The key thing for creating the zigzag font is that you have a tool that can create fonts and Fontlab is a good choice but it is not free. You can find open source font tools as well.

Basics of zigzag font

The key thing is that you need a tool to create a font, without that you will not be able to go any further. If you have a font creation tool then the next step is the actual creation of the zigzag and I generally use tools such as Illustrator (or Affinity Designer or Inkscape).

Create the zigzag vector path In Illustrator

zigzag font path illustrator creation
  1. Select the pen tool in the illustrator toolbar

  2. Click on artboard

  3. And then move upwards at an angle to add the second point

  4. Click again

  5. And then go downwards again in the same approximate angle past the original vertical line (of the first point) to the same distance as the second point

  6. And then click artboard

  7. And then go up approx at the same angle towards the same line of the second point and so on and

  8. Just repeat that back and forth.

One useful way to create an exact zigzag would be to use the shift key with the pen tool so the angles are exactly 45 degrees and also using view / smart guides ON.

Zigzag design

zigzag font shapes designs

There are millions of possible combinations in that you could have all the alternate points along the same vertical line or perhaps you could change the angle or make a more rapid angle change with each anchor point clicked. Once you have finished and clicked your last anchor point for the zigzag, you may find that you have a fill (solid color) and no stroke, so select the path and set the fill to nill and set the stroke to black and now you can set the stroke width to perhaps 5 pt or 20pt etc and also set the width profile if you wish to have a more interesting zigzag You can also manipulate the artwork using tools such as Vectorscribe (Astute Graphics)

Alignment of points for the zigzag

I would also suggest turning the smart guides on if you wish to line up points or perhaps add other paths as guides. Another option would be to use the direct selection tool and select all the points at the bottom of the path and use the vertical align center. Likewise, for the points at the top if you wish to align them as well. You can also use the distribute command to distribute them equally horizontally by using horizontal distribute center.

Expand zigzag

If you wish to leave it as a stroke that is fine but you want it as a zigzag character in a font then

  1. Object menu

  2. expand the artwork using the expand command

and now you can copy it to Fontlab or another tool to turn it into a TTF etc. Before you expand the set, you may wish to modify various stroke properties.

Font tools and in particular, FontLab

zigzag fontlab glyph creation shape font

I use generally Fontlab (though many of my earlier sets were created using Macromedia fontographer though earlier AltSys) to create truetype TTF files. Fontlab does require a little trial and error on copying the paths from Illustrator to Fontlab as the units upside down and I would suggest you check up on the web on the exact details how to copy any of the artworks from Illustrator to Fontlab but a bit of trial and error should enable you to copy them and move the artwork to the correct position in the glyph (select a letter such as 'A' and not a more obscure character). It requires the setup of a quadrant for the artwork in Illustrator.

  1. select shape in Illustrator

  2. copy

  3. Go to fontlab

  4. Double Click on a glyph such as A

  5. Paste

  6. Use the edit tool to position the zigzag as required (such as in a position above 0, 0 and to the right of that)

  7. Use the scale tool in the Fontlab toolbar to re-size as required to fit the current glyph (that depends on the various settings for the font but in the default, between the 0,0 and 800,800

You can add all kinds of different zigzag variant to the other glyphs

Set font information for the zigzag

font info for the fontlab zigzag

You will still have to set up the font information / properties such as give a name, give copyright information etc. You can find some videos on the font creation on the graphicxtras channel.


Export TTF font file

generate font zigzag

You can then export the TTF via the file menu and the generate font command. You can also export the EPS equivalents (as I do with my sets) via the export command found also in the file menu.

  1. file menu of fontlab

  2. generate font command

  3. file menu

  4. export command

  5. add TTF to the control panel font section on the pc or use fontbook on the mac or right click the TTF and select the install option (if available).

  6. Access the artworks then via your keyboard by typing A or B etc depending on glyphs used.


font self zigzag shapes extension

A new font creation tool is now available and perhaps one that will make it even easier to create zigzag fonts or (of course, any font) in Illustrator and that is the FontSelf extension. I am surprised Illustrator has never added a font creation feature but I think I will be waiting forever for that. Fontself is a wonderful tool for creating zigzag fonts as well as any other kind of font designs (though not in TTF but in OTF) and I have found it super easy to use and create font files without the need to copy and edit in another application. It is worth checking out a demo from the Fontself website. They have also released a similar extension for use in Photoshop and that can be used to create color emoji fonts.

Other tools

There are other tools that can be used to define a zigzag font such as CorelDRAW which has a truetype feature also there is Fontographer (from the same people who created FontLab) and also applications like the open source FontForge but there are a number of other tools such as FontCreator, Glyphr Studio, TypeTool etc

Other Tutorials

1. quickly create fonts using the fontself extension in Illustrator

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