All About Fonts: Finding, Installing, Organizing and Using Fonts

We digital scrapbookers love to obsess over fonts, often devoting as much time to browsing, choosing and finessing our fonts as we do papers and elements. No longer the exclusive realm of professional graphic designers, fonts now come in a dizzying array of styles to add the perfect personalized touch to scrapbook pages.

They create a mood, from  fun, flirty, childish and romantic to masculine, feminine, funky, neat and messy. Fonts evoke a particular era or atmosphere, like the Roarin’ 20s, the circus or the psychedelic ’60s. Instead of painstakingly writing out journaling and scanning it in for every layout, we can choose a script or print handwriting font that’s even prettier than our own. Or, for a few dollars, a designer can convert your own handwriting into a custom font.

Imagine writing the family newsletter in your own handwriting, without the cramped fingers at the end! Darcy Baldwin and WM[squared] Designs both offer a custom handwriting font service for around $10(US). Also, check out Kevin and Amanda’s Fonts for Peas site for a chance to get your handwriting turned into a font for free.

Free vs. Purchased Fonts

Why pay for a font when there’re so many free ones available? The answer: it depends on what you’re looking for. Purchased fonts often include special features like extra characters (smiley faces, hearts, stars, doodles, international symbols, etc.) and ligatures. I’ve often found some of the best and most realistic handwriting-style fonts are the paid ones. In addition, many free fonts are approved for personal use only, so if you’re looking to use a font in something beyond that, you will need to buy a commercial-use version.  Like anything, you tend to get what you pay for and it takes time and a personal touch to design a great font. On the other hand, free font sources abound and can be a great resource for a huge, fun variety of specialty, funky, obscure and everyday fonts. Here are a few of my favorite scrapper-approved sources for fonts:

Favorite Places For Free Fonts:

Paid Fonts:

Installing Fonts

After downloading and unzipping your newly download fonts like any other digital scrapbooking product, you need to install them before you can access them in Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro or any other program. Installing fonts in Windows 7 and Vista is as simple as right-clicking the font name and selecting Install from the pop-up menu. The font will be instantly available in any program that can access system fonts, although if the program is already open you may need to restart it to view newly installed fonts. For detailed instructions on installing fonts in earlier Windows versions, MyFonts.com offers this guide. If you have a Mac, version OS X 10.3 and above, double-click the font file and choose Install Font at the bottom of the preview. Or, in any version of Mac OS X, you can put the font files into /Library/Fonts (for all users) or into /Users/Your_username/Library/Fonts (for you only). In Mac OS 9 and earlier, drag the fonts suitcases into the System folder. The system will prompt you to add them to the Fonts folder.

Organizing Fonts

Too many installed fonts slows down your computer and makes for a poky Photoshop, so it’s a good idea to use a font organizer program if you have more than a handful. Font managers vary, but they usually allow you to organize, categorize and preview all your fonts, including uninstalled ones. Then you can selectively install just the font(s) you want to use at the moment. Leaving the majority of your fonts uninstalled should improve Photoshop’s start-up time and overall operation speed, since it doesn’t have to load and sort through all those fonts every time you open it.

Font organization, just like digital scrapbook supplies and photo organization, is highly personal. What are your favorite types of fonts? How do you use fonts? A few examples of possible categories you could create: handwriting (script and print), script, typewriter, sans serif, serif, themed, grungy, chunky, title fonts, specialty fonts. I encourage you to organize your fonts the same way you organize your other scrap supplies – using whatever method works for you! Think about what kind of fonts you often search for and structure your collection so that you can easily find your favorite fonts. Perhaps you could even create a favorites category or folder.

I recently organized my own fonts using AMP Font Viewer, and created the following categories: Childish, Fancy Script, Handwriting – Print, Handwriting – Script, Plain and Clear fonts, Specialty and Title fonts, Symbols and Dingbats, Typewriter, and Unused System Fonts. Which font manager you choose depends heavily on your computer. Some older, free programs aren’t compatible with Windows 7, for example, and some programs work only with Macintosh PCs.

Font Management Programs

Ligatures and Special Characters

f ligatures All About Fonts:  Finding, Installing, Organizing and Using Fonts Ligatures and Special CharactersA font ligature is a special character that combines two (or sometimes three) letters into a single character, mostly for aesthetic reasons. It just looks better than having two characters crashing into each other, like the swash on an f and the dot on an i. Look for ligatures included as alternate characters within a standard font in the character palette, character map or any keyboard layout utility. Sometimes ligatures are located in separate fonts, such as expert sets with extended character complements.
Open Type submenu 213x300 All About Fonts:  Finding, Installing, Organizing and Using Fonts If you want to experiment with ligatures in Photoshop, first make sure you have an OpenType font selected when using the Type tool. From the Character Palette menu, select the Open Type submenu and explore the options listed – depending on your chosen font, some options may not be available. Be careful when adjusting the spacing between characters in your journaling, since the internal spacing of a ligature won’t change because it’s treated as a single character.

Fitting Your Font in a Journaling Spot

adjust the leading 269x300 All About Fonts:  Finding, Installing, Organizing and Using Fonts Have you ever tried to use a cute, lined journaling card or brush and found that your journaling wouldn’t line up properly? You could create a new text box for every line of journaling and individually adjust them on the lines, or you could quickly and easily adjust your line spacing, called leading, to perfectly match any element! Open up the Character Palette and adjust the number in the leading box (in PSCS3, it’s to the right of the font size) until you get a perfect fit.

For more information on fonts, check out these resources:

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