Creating an italic font for Coelacanth

Two italics and their interpolation
Two italics and their interpolation

When designing the Coelacanth typeface, my remake of Bruce Roger’s Centaur, I created the italics from scratch because I didn’t feel that Arrighi, the italic normally used with Centaur, really matches the roman. Arrighi is very nice, but quite different. Here’s what I did:

  1. I hand-drew all the lower-case letters taking Francesco Griffo’s italic as inspiration, and trying to incorporate something of the feel of Centaur.
  2. I created an automatic version of italic from the existing roman font, using FontForge’s Element> Style> Italic, and choosing the same styles of serif etc. as my drawn version. The resulting italic was about as bad as you might expect from an auto-generated font, and needed a lot of clean-up, especially to get the serifs looking right. At this stage I also tried to simplify the nodes so they were in sensible places.
  3. Now, making a copy of the auto-generated italic, I used this to digitise my hand-drawn version, by manually dragging nodes into their correct location, without adding or removing any nodes. If I did need to add one occasionally, I had to add a corresponding node to the auto-generated version. The benefit of having the same number/order of nodes was that I could freely interpolate between the two versions, as I shall explain.
  4. The manually-created font was tweaked considerably as I experimented with what looked good. The resulting italic looked rather gawky and didn’t have as much ‘family resemblance’ to the roman as I would have liked.
  5. Now I started playing with interpolations to create a third font. Sometimes I just took parts of an interpolated glyph to replace what I’d drawn by hand; other times I used the entire interpolated character. Each character was different, and I tried a wide range of different interpolation quantities. I worked quite roughly and quickly at this stage.
  6. After the basic shapes looked good, I did a lot of clean-up.


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