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Bitmap Fonts?

Welcome! Forums Revivals X–Z Bitmap Fonts?

This topic contains 1 reply, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  jch02140 1 year, 6 months ago.

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September 17, 2015 at 9:41 PM #23989


Chapel Members have concluded that certain complex 19th-century typefaces are impossible to digitize—at least in the usual way. Recently, I was reminded of a “dinosaur” font format in use until the early 1990s, when scalable Adobe Type-1 and Apple/Microsoft TrueType fonts were introduced.

Before then, digital fonts were “bitmaps,” meaning raster images [tiff, png, etc.]. Each font was manually generated in a specific size and orientation, so multiple files were necessary for even the most routine tasks:

  1. 10-Point Helvetica, portrait
  2. 10-Point Helvetica Bold, portrait
  3. 10-Point Helvetica Italic, portrait
  4. 10-Point Helvetica Bold-Italic, portrait
  5. 10-Point Helvetica, landscape
  6. 10-Point Helvetica Bold, landscape
  7. 10-Point Helvetica Italic, landscape
  8. 10-Point Helvetica Bold-Italic, landscape

And so on, endlessly… Today, bitmap fonts are back for games, mobile devices, etc. So I’m wondering whether these impossible fonts might be do-able as raster images instead of vector curves.

The FontLab manual includes a chapter on bitmap fonts. This information is too technically advanced for my limited experience; perhaps revival-developer Partners can make use of it. Enclosed in the same zipfile is a screenshot of Microsoft’s dandy Font Properties Extension (Windows only) advising that Adobe Helvetica does not include embedded bitmaps.

A Failed Experiment. Fontographer and FontLab can import individual glyphs as EPS files exported by mainstream Adobe and Corel applications. As a test, I cropped the letter “X” from a high-resolution tiff specimen of Arboret, exported it as Arboret-X.eps, and tried to import it with FontLab 4.6. Nothing happened, with or without the PostScript header [preview image].

BitFonter. This promising FontLab product can import raster images and output them as TrueType fonts for print or web design work. Trial versions are available for Mac OSX and Windows systems—the price tag for the full program is $149. I downloaded the PDF user manuals for both platforms as an overview.

FontCreator (Windows only). Recommended by THP Partner Roger Seganti, who developed revivals of the super-complex Argent plus ornamented versions of Commonwealth. Imports raster and vector images in all three versions priced at $69–299. Online User Manual.

Font Forge, pet open-source project of George Williams, who produced some extra-nice revivals during the 1990s. Instructions for developing a bitmap-only font. Free downloads for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Other Bitmap Font Editors. These may be worth a look? Most google matches involved converting existing fonts to bitmaps. The following are “Chinese” to me—they seem geared to games and font file formats that may be useless for print- or web-design work:

As recommended for game fonts, it is best to generate high-quality bitmap revivals in fixed sizes or a limited range of sizes. For example: XYZ Font, 24-36 Points would be assembled from a 36-point specimen and safely downsized to 24 points.


September 18, 2015 at 6:04 AM #24035


I think bitmap fonts have a very limited usages, since the size of bitmap cannot be changed, when you resize them to larger size you lost the details and sharpness.

It would be best to provide user with scalable format such as PDF or illustrator file formats like AI or Postscript. Since you can then import them and resize them to whatever size you need without losing the details and sharpness.

It is still possible for complex vintage typefaces (for example having a very ornate designs) to be digitized, by separating the designs as individual fonts. An example of how this is done like HWT American Chromatic:

This would also mean it will be a much more time consuming job for revival as you need to match the ornaments and the characters itself perfectly. As far as I know the Mac program called GlyphsApp ( supports chromatic fonts making by default and the program has layers support… Although it seems chromatic fonts are gaining popularity today…


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