I forget how I heard about iFontMaker, but now that I have an iPad Pro and Pencil, this seemed like a great opportunity to try something completely different. I really don’t know much about fonts or typography, but I am intrigued by all of the different factors that come into play with modern typefaces and fonts. As a quick primer: typefaces describe a family tree of fonts (like Avenir) and fonts are specific blocks and weights of text within that tree (like Avenir Light).
I have only spent a few hours with iFontMaker but its interface is so straightforward that it was very easy to pick up. Once I’ve chosen to create new font, I can see the entire alphabet at the top of the screen. The bottom half is dedicated solely to the creation of the typeface, with markers for x-height, ascenders, and descenders. These guidelines help to make sure your letters and glyphs are all about the same size.
Another guide that iFontMaker provides by default is the outline of that particular letter or glyph as it pertains to a specific font (which I can change in settings). This was extremely helpful in providing a baseline for me to see how high my letters should actually go, or how much space in the margin I really had to play with.
Actually drawing the different letters in my custom font was a lot like using a vector app like Graphic. I used a calligraphy type of stroke to generate the capitalized letters, and it was a pretty smooth process. However, I did find that certain strokes — especially curved ones — could often be interpreted as separated, overlapping strokes.
This doesn’t necessarily affect the way that they look when drawn, but it does affect my ability to easily manipulate the paths of my letters with the editing tool. There can be a few too many overlapping Bézier handles (the circular tools for helping you draw smooth curves) sometimes, which can make editing confusing. I’d prefer the ability to look down specific strokes to “finalize” them, so that I don’t have to deal with their Bézier handles as I move forward.
I’ve also found that the app’s Pencil integration could use some work. Because of the sizes of the strokes required sometimes, I would often anchor my hand with only a finger, because resting my entire palm or fist on the screen would add a little too much friction for a smooth stroke. However, I did find that iFontMaker would often register the finger right alongside my Pencil strokes, so I’d actually end up with strange double stroke marks on the screen. I’ve read that the Pencil API is simply one that developers implement in their apps, but if iFontMaker could find a way to just have one available drawing point at a time, that could help the issue.
As you’ve seen above, I really only have the capital letters for my first play font. It took me a while to get the strokes approximately in line, without them bleeding out of the margins. The experience gave me a new appreciation for how much work can go into designing a typeface, and then the individual fonts that go into it. There’s a lot that can go wrong as your fonts are displayed at different sizes.
One of iFontMaker’s coolest features is not just that it’s a great vector app for designing a font, but it can actually generate usable fonts that you can then install on your iOS or desktop computers. There is an option to install the fonts from right within the app, but I did have some issues getting this to work. Tapping on install would bring me to the Settings app, but the page would just load up blank.
What did work was to save the font to dropbox first and then import it into AnyFont, a completely separate app that allows me to download and install fonts as certificates on iOS.
At $10 iFontMaker is not in impulse buy territory, but I think that’s totally fine considering what it brings to the table. It’s a niche audience that would be attracted to creating fonts on the iPad, but for those whose are interested, $10 is a very small price to pay for such a fun and useful tool that’s available any time you pull out your tablet. I don’t think iFontMaker is necessarily a pro-level tool yet, but it seems to be receiving regular updates over the course of 2015 and 2016, so I think its utility will only grow from here. But the ease-of-use and charm is certainly there right now.
This app was provided by iFontMaker for review on iPad Insight. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.