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Masterclass: Better Vector Drawing

Part 1: The Myths of Drawing Vectors

Benefit Empower yourself to draw difficult shapes.

For drawing vectors, the internet is full of simplistic explanations. Example: how to draw vectors using the bezier pen in Adobe Illustrator. (Adobe says vectors are “points, lines, curves and shapes that are based on mathematical formulas.”*

For font vector drawing, it’s not really different.

Many of the articles for drawing font vectors are based on two primary sources: Adobe Type 1 (1990) and Adobe Designing Multiple Master Typefaces (1995), and other manuals from the from the 80s and 90s.

These sources are 27 – 32 years old!

While many of these rules are still valid, the advancement in tools means that not all these rules are relevant.

First let’s debunk some myths about vectors.

Myth #1: You need to draw according to export rules

This is not an uncommon error to mistake a “result” with “how”.

People think that just because a novel goes from beginning to end, that a writer does it that way.

Maybe the writer started at the end? Or the middle? Or maybe in the shower, randomly figured out the meaning of his/her book!

Similarly, rules about how to make fonts often talk about how you “needed nodes at extremes”, “Needed nodes at inflections”, and a bunch of other rules.

But, your vectors after export (RESULT) and HOW you draw, are two different things! Following some of these rules while you’re drawing are going to make some shapes impossible, and limit your creativity.

Myth #2: There’s one way to draw all fonts

Actually, it’s very different to draw a standalone font and a variable font. (Or font family.)

They are two different beasts. Variations has stricter rules.

Myth #3: Vectors can draw any shape

The curves of the greats—Frutiger, Zapf, Bodoni, or Rosart—are very difficult or even impossible to achieve using vectors.

On some level, even an ellipse or circle tool is a lie.

That tool can’t draw an ellipse or circle!

Because cubic curves (the ones used for vectors) cannot draw a circle, not exactly. There are entire articles and threads discussing this problem.

So, the trick of vector drawing is how to most easily achieve difficult shapes.

We’ll cover that in Part 2.

Dave Lawrence California Type Foundry