Stuck - need an actual starter font

Community: please add a comment if you’ve been in my situation. It would be great to know I’m not alone, and if you have any details of your use case it would be useful to me moving forward or Franz developing fontself to help people like us.

Franz: You’ve helped me out a few times and I imagine you’d have some good guidance.

I would like it to be much easier to use existing font art as a starting point, instead of facing the blank page.

Here’s why: I am not a pure typographer, but a person who often needs a basic font to do a functional thing. I usually need a font to do a thing (example), which is counter to building a font from full cloth. Not that I’m interested in violating legal or ethical principles to do so.

fontself make the work of slightly modified font creation possible but cognitively and technically laborious

Cognitively because I have to think through so many implications at the outset of a project, picking a font or conceptualizing one from thin air. All this planning and thinking while the reality looms that I’ll complete the project and have to start over again.

Technically because there is no good import option even if I’ve selected a starting font that is free to use as starting point, so laborious hand-labor is involved even to create a bad font for early testing.

I envision a solution as fontself offering a handful of generic actual starter fonts available to use.

But that solution isn’t reality, not that I know. So what am I to do?

Issue history:

In this topic from 2020 I asked if anyone could share a starter file. In it, you provided an extremely useful starter template, with ghosted/locked characters. As far as I remember it’s not stated on the document whether those characters are free of intellectual property implications.

In this topic from 2017, someone asked you if you could open an existing font and edit it, and you mentioned that it was an in progress feature. You cite philosophical reasons, which is understandable. I’m not sure if the technical issue has been surmounted, which is the second issue. Can you please update us on both blockers and the status of product development?


I don’t know what kind of font you want to create or modify. However, there are a lot of fonts that have an Open Font License (OFL) and can be freely used and modified according to the licence terms, as long as they are not offered under the same name. See or in German on my website

If you want to start with an OFL font, there is a very quick way to get the necessary letters and symbols into Fontself. 1.

  1. type or copy the necessary characters in a good font size, I usually use 30 pt, into Illustrator. I usually have about 50 - 80 glyphs per line.

To copy:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 . , : ; ! ? < > / \ ( ) [ ] $ & # ^ % * + - = ~ " { } _ @ | ` ’ … Á Ă Â Å Ä Ǟ à Ą Ā Æ Ć Ĉ Ċ Ç Č Ď Ḑ Đ Ð É Ê Ě Ë Ė Ę Ē Ĕ Ğ Ĝ Ġ Ģ Ĥ Ħ İ Í Ì Î Ï Ĩ Į Ī Ĭ IJ Ĵ Ķ Ĺ Ļ Ł Ŀ Ľ Ń Ň Ñ Ņ Ŋ Ó Ò Ô Ö Ȫ Ő Õ Ȯ Ø Ǫ Ō Ọ Ŏ Œ Ř Ŕ Ŗ Ś Ŝ Š Ş Ṣ Ș ẞ Ť Ţ Ț Ú Ù Ŭ Û Ů Ü Ű Ũ Ų Ū Ŵ Ý Ŷ Ÿ Ȳ Ź Ž Ż Þ á ă â å ä ǟ ã ą ā æ ć ĉ ċ ç č ď ḑ đ ð é ê ě ë ė ę ē ĕ ğ ĝ ġ ģ ĥ ħ ı í î ï ĩ į ī ĭ ij ĵ ķ ĺ ļ ł ŀ ľ ń ň ñ ņ ŋ ʼn ó ò ô ö ȫ ő õ ȯ ø ǫ ō ọ ŏ œ ĸ ř ŕ ŗ ſ ś ŝ š ş ṣ ș ß ť ţ ț Ŧ ŧ ú ù ŭ û ů ü ű ũ ų ū ŵ ý ŷ ÿ ȳ ź ž ż ª º × ÷ ° ± ‰ ‱ ¬ ≠ ∞ ≈ ¨ '¸ ∆ ∂ ƒ ∫ √ π ∏ Ω ∑ µ ½ ¼ ¾ ⅕ ⅙ ⅛ ∓ ≂ ∀ ∃ ∄ ∤ ∇ ⌈ ⌉ ⌊ ⌋ ⁄ ⁰ ¹ ² ³ ⁴ ⁵ ⁶ ⁷ ⁸ ⁹ ₀ ₁ ₂ ₃ ₄ ₅ ₆ ₇ ₈ ₉ ∛ ∜ ≤ ≥ ≦ ≧ ∅ ∈ ∉ ’ ’ " " ¡ ¿ " " ’ ’ { } ❬ ❭ ‛ ’ " ⸮ ‽ ʔ - ¤ ¢ € £ ¥ © ® ™ § ¶ ◊ ⧫ ➔ ➚ :arrow_forward: ▲ ▼ :arrow_backward: ⌘ ⏏ ␣ ✆ :email: :slight_smile: :frowning: :black_medium_square: ★ ☆ ℻ ℅ ℁ - † ‡ ¦ ↑ → :arrow_lower_right::arrow_lower_left::left_right_arrow: :arrow_up_down:

This gives you all the characters for over 40 (Latin) European languages. More information in German: or English:

I set the guides baseline, ascender, descender to the appropriate positions.

  1. if you now select all characters and call the normal Illustrator command to convert the characters to outline, you lose the names of the glyphs. This is very annoying. So I wrote a javascript that converts the characters to outline and keeps the names in layers:

  2. in case the names are difficult to recognise in Layers, you can also have the names converted to Unicode or back again:

  3. it is a good idea to start with a character set that is very thin like Light. With a Javascript you can make the stroke thickness thicker:

  4. if you create a lot of ligatures to make a stop sign out of words like (Stop:).liga, it is helpful to automatically add the necessary letters to the names in Layers.
    With “($).liga”, “Stop” then automatically becomes “(Stop:).liga”.
    Here is the Javascript for this:

With the help of these 5 steps, I created my font “TimeSaver One” (OFL) in quite a short time. You can use this as a basis for your work.
The fonts can be imported from Fontself or you can go the way from 1 to 3.

Compared to expensive font design programmes, Fontself doesn’t have all the possibilities - what I was missing, I supplemented with javascripts - but it is easier and faster to create or change fonts.

I hope that helps you for the time being. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Either here in the forum or directly by e-mail: info (at)