In order to trace an initial to make a font, I need to simplify the original picture as much as possible. I've already vectorized it, but I wonder how I could clean it up a bit more to make it easier to trace in fontforge.

Here is the vectorized version:

vectorized version

  • which tool you are using? – Jack Aug 1 '11 at 12:00
  • @Jack: Inkscape and Gimp. – ℝaphink Aug 1 '11 at 12:03
  • do u need to remove the area(artwork)? within character d or outside d – Jack Aug 1 '11 at 12:11
  • The idea is to get an initial as close as possible to original, but simply autotracing from the bitmap in fontforge generates too many points, so I'm searching for a way to reduce the noise before doing that. – ℝaphink Aug 1 '11 at 12:17
  • did you tried noise reduction plugin from gimp? – Jack Aug 1 '11 at 12:47

There's really no reason to make this a true font file. These are decorative initial caps and one doesn't actually typeset full words with it.

As such, I'd leave it as vector illustrations in EPS formats and distribute it that way.

As a font, this will become a file so large that you're likely going to run into performance issues on a lot of systems and within a lot of software.

Way back in the day I traced letterforms like this and it was very much a manual process. We tried all sorts of auto-tracing methods but found that the amount of time it took to clean up auto-traces of this level of detail far exceeded that of us just tracing these manually by hand.

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  • Well making it a font file makes it easier to typeset, and I don't have to have a big collection of eps files in my current directory to typeset initials with LaTeX. Also, it allows to actually associate it to an existing font (which is the goal). – ℝaphink Aug 1 '11 at 13:47
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    While true, just be aware that a font file with this many and complex letterforms may very well trigger memory issues in a lot of software. Do lots of testing. – DA01 Aug 1 '11 at 16:47

The best approach by far is to clean it up in Photoshop first, then vectorize. You could putz around in your vector application for hours, but it's incredibly tedious and you'll still have the problem of way too many anchor points.

Scan at the highest resolution you have available, bring into Photoshop and clean up all the rough edges, random spots, etc. Save this.

From this point, there are some optional retouching tricks that may help.

To smooth things a bit more, go to the Channels panel and create a new channel by dragging any of R, G or B to the New Channel icon at the bottom. Apply a slight Gaussian blur to this channel -- enough to see but not enough to make it fuzzy -- then use Filter > Other > Maximum (or Minimum, whichever works best). You want to keep a very slight amount of blur on the edges, to avoid aliasing.

Invert the channel and Ctrl/Cmd-Click to make it a selection, then click the RGB icon to make the regular layer active. Create a new layer and fill the selection with black. Pick any of the selection tools and use the "Refine Edge" command to make any further edge enhancements.

When you have the character looking exactly the way you want it, save it and use this file in Illustrator as your base for vectorizing.

As DA01 wisely points out: do lots of testing with your font editing program.

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