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I will try to mimic Nixie tube digits in an application. For responsiveness and scalability I won't use any rasterized images of actual tubes, this will be a sufficiently adequate mock which just wants to give back the atmosphere of Nixie tubes. I'm planning to achieve this by coloring a matching font's digits and cast a glow effect too. For reference here are some real Nixie tubes:

Nixie tube digits (the photo was taken from http://danyk.cz/digitrony_en.html if you want to see many more examples).

I'm searching for a TTF format primarily. I was going through many dozens of fonts in Google Webfonts' Helper. I was primarily aiming for Monospace + Sans Serif fonts. Monospace would guarantee even spacing, but if it comes to push and shove I can work with a non Monospace font as well.

So far the closest I found is: Overpass Mono Overpass Mono 300 digits

What is great in this one is the digit "2". As you can see the bottom part has that curve. Almost all of the other candidate fonts I saw don't have that curve. However it has one major and a minor flaw. Major flaw is that central dot inside the digit "0". And the minor one is the serif bottom of the digit "1". Other slight thing is that it's fatter than I'd like it to be, it could be a 100 weight.

Other examples: Inconsolata Regular Inconsolata Regular digit screenshot

The digit "1" doesn't have the serif bottom, the "0" has a crossover instead of a dot, which I can live with. The digit "2" does not have the bottom curve what the Nixie tube "2" or the Overpass mono has. It is not offered in thinner than regular weight.

Roboto Mono 100 Roboto Mono 100 digit screenshot

Just like the Inconsolata the "1" does not have the serif, the "2" does not have the curve though. The zero has a crossover, the 100 weight availability is a plus here.

Major Mono Display Major Mono Display digits

The "0" does not have a dot, but a crossover, however the "1" has a serif bottom, the "2" does not have the bottom curve and the "3" diverts in style from the Nixie simplicity.

If anyone can point me towards a font which matches the Nixie tube's style better, please don't hesitate. The font doesn't have to be free (I'm just saying because the Google Webfonts above are free).

  • Out of the 4 I screenshotted now as I look the Roboto Mono looks the closest, but I wonder if Font experts can point me towards better ones. – Csaba Toth Dec 19 '19 at 6:58
  • I'm not going to say how overall common it is, but the few tubes that I own and have seen in person are of the "IN-14" type in the link you provided where the number 5 is just an upside down 2. Something to consider if you want to add some extra realism. – JPhi1618 Dec 19 '19 at 17:07
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    To my eye the '3' of Major Mono Display is closer to the pictured Nixie style than your other options due to the uncurved top half. The internal serif is definitely different, but curve vs. straight reads as a more significant difference to me.. – Timbo Dec 19 '19 at 18:31
  • Also consider the Dalibor Farney tubes, see this Vimeo video of his alphanumeric (and custom) cold cathode tubes (if you want a complete font). – Rob Dec 22 '19 at 14:02
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One family I've recently noticed is the TT Chocolates and the Extra Light looks pretty close to what you need, but note the '1' in the image below is replaced with an uppercase 'i' (as suggested by Chris H in the comments below).

TT Chocolates font family

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    Oh, this looks really promising. I didn't mention the digit "3" so far, and that even matches the style. I skimmed through 120+ typewriter fonts (1001fonts.com/typewriter-fonts.html?page=13&items=10 since that kind of a typewriter style "3" in my mind, I'm not a font expert), and 90% of them mimics the imperfections of type writer prints. The remaining clean ones didn't look as close as yours. – Csaba Toth Dec 19 '19 at 7:24
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    I'm not worried too much about the 4 BTW. I know it doesn't match, but it looks like that inside the tube because of how they are mounted and that affected the design. – Csaba Toth Dec 19 '19 at 7:26
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    Wow, so I don't know why I didn't search for this straight, but MyFonts has a specific font designed after the Nixie tubes: myfonts.com/fonts/kinobrand/nixin/ultra-light . However its digit "6" and "9" does not have the curve what a real Nixie tube and the TT Chocolate has. Even more interestingly its dot is a short vertical line (vs TT Chocolate has a "proper" dot) and the digit "1" has a very narrow serif bottom. So the TT Chocolate overall is a better match. – Csaba Toth Dec 19 '19 at 7:47
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    It would be even closer if you used I (uppercase i) as a substitute for 1. The simple vertical line for 1 is quite distinctive – Chris H Dec 19 '19 at 15:15
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    Nixie tubes are hand made, and they are essentially a stack of tiny numbers made with itty-bitty neon (cold cathode) tubes. So really, there will be some variance in the shape of the numbers even from the same craftsman, but there will be much larger variance in the different models of tube, different sources, etc. All I'm really saying is: perfection can be a fool's errand sometimes. These weren't manufactured then as they would be now. Here's a video of them being made: youtu.be/wxL4ElboiuA – AVLien Dec 19 '19 at 20:12
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You can try some version Bernhard Gothic. This is Extra Light:

enter image description here

It's not free and clearly it has different curves than the tube photo. I guess in your application idea the whole presentation with glows and tube frames will be more important than exact curve forms. It should be enough that the glyphs are plausible, technically possible to be and work in a tube (=do not cover each other too much, can be fasten)

You can make for your personal purposes an own simple enough version with font editor. You cannot distribute a modified version of an existing commercial computer font.

If you need only numbers, draw them in Inkscape or Illustrator on the tube photo. Or get an experienced person to do the drawing. Here's an example:

enter image description here

These are scratched together fast with Inkscape's Pen and Node tools, which fit perfectly for manual tracing. I guess there are actually used circular and elliptical arcs and straight lines.

Resembling glyphs can be drawn legally as long as you do not copy existing font software. If you need a font, you must start from scratch but that's not especially complex if you use a service or program which generates a font from your own drawings. Check for example Scanahand or Calligraphr. You can fill the handwriting form in the computer, there's no need to draw manually.

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  • Looks like a great choice as well. It'll really hard to pick the best one. – Csaba Toth Dec 21 '19 at 3:12
  • Are you... running Inkscape in Wine? – Nonny Moose Dec 21 '19 at 16:39
  • It is old Win7. – user287001 Dec 21 '19 at 16:46
  • @NonnyMoose I think he's using Windows instead of Linux - Inkscape is cross-platform – slebetman Dec 22 '19 at 2:15
  • @slebetman I was thrown off by the Windows 2k title bars. – Nonny Moose Dec 22 '19 at 16:21
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Here are a few options that you may find useful:

Code Light Regular enter image description here
NeutraTextTF-LightAlt enter image description here
Brandon Grotesque Thin enter image description here
Gotham Thin enter image description here

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  • These look nice as well! Thanks! – Csaba Toth Dec 21 '19 at 3:14
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Possibly worth looking at https://www.myfonts.com/fonts/kinobrand/nixin?tab=glyphs which appears to have been designed as a 'nixie alike' font. Though it puts a foot on the '1' in ultralight(but not on other font weights) and has a closed '4'. And of course it is not free.

Of course it depends where your nixie tubes were made... if they are genuine Nixie or just generic 'nixie' neon indicator tubes. My soviet-block 'nixies' use an upside-down 5 as the 2 glyph.

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1

I don't know the exact font but I have a few ideas for your project (would really like to know what font it is though):

Period accurate geometric sans serifs for a jumping off point: Univers - 1957 Futura - 1927

Also a condensed geometric font like Gotham Condensed (based on Futura but made in the 2000s) may give you the effect you want.

For the nixie tube only: On Google fonts, comfortaa somewhat looks like it and with the rounded edges may enhance the glow effect https://fonts.google.com/specimen/Comfortaa

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