Academic journal article Visible Language

The New Way of Making Fonts with Dtl Font Master

Academic journal article Visible Language

The New Way of Making Fonts with Dtl Font Master

Article excerpt


Software for professional font production appearing recently, DTL Font Master, is like no other program of its kind in its configuration and functions. This article is about the program, its new and improved features in type design and production, through the eyes of a day-to-day user, a type designer and coauthor of the program. Emphasis is placed on the structure of a suite of modules and their utility.


Excellent design is just a part of good typography. The other part is production, the number of actions that ensure proper function of a typeface. Font production technology is as important as the creative process of designing letters. A beautiful font is of no use if it doesn't function properly. That is why special professional font production software is needed. One appeared recently, DTL Font Master v. 2.5, and it is completely different from any other font production tools known today. It was developed for the Dutch Type Library, a font foundry that produces digital typefaces since the 1980s. As the foundry grew and font production became more complex, the requirement for a special font software also developed. Programming started in the second half of the 1990s, it developed, improved, changed appearance through time and now version 2.5 is available to everyone (Dutch Type Library, 2007). The software was developed in collaboration with URW++, a Hamburg based company, one of the most experienced companies on technical font production. The DTL Font Master team consisted of experts in the field of font production and design: Gu Jun, Hartmut Schwarz, Axel Stoltenberg, Dr. Jurgen Willrodt, Peter Rosenfeld, Frank E. Blokland and Nikola Djurek, author of this article.

DTL Font Master is comprised of several modules, or Masters, which is a completely new configuration for this kind of software (figure 1). Each module performs one of the key operations in producing high quality fonts, such as: data management, editing functionality, digitizing, tracing and kerning, interpolating fonts, testing, correcting contours, generating, etc. The modular structure of DTL Font Master underlines the differentiation between type design and font production and is specifically suited for batch production. Batch functions enable you to process large quantities of data at once and are controlled by simple text files; there is no need for any scripting. Because of the modular system DTL Font Master is very versatile for users and for programmers. Each utility can be obtained separately and functions independently of the other modules; users can define their own set depending on their production methods. Also, the technical functionality can be enhanced without effecting other modules. This guarantees a stable environment for font production that is always up to date. The user interface of the modules follows the standards of Mac OS and Windows, but can be changed according to one's preference, for example, the display of anchor and control points can be changed to small, medium and large. It is also important to say that all files generated by the DTL Font Master modules are platform-independent. This makes it possible to centralize font production files on a server and to work on these from Macs and PCs.

In this article I will present each part of the DTL Font Master software, concentrating on new, improved features that are not typical for other existing font production programs.

About the Modules

DTL Trace Master

First of the seven DTL FontMaster modules, necessary for turning a sketch into something more than a sketch, is DTL Trace Master. The module for autotracing scanned data is suited for tracing letters and logotypes. That means, for instance, that extreme points will be placed perfectly. It supports scanners directly through the Twin drivers, a standard for the most manufacturers. It is possible, with this module, to scan and directly convert analog data into high quality digital contours. …

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