The technical goal we set out to accomplish is now within reach. Since 2015, we have been stretching the known possibilities of computational geometry to achieve clean, well-plotted outlines of computed strokes. Our ambitions with this put us slightly out in front of the tools you may know, such as Metafont, BroadNibber and Power Brush. The goal is to provide as much flexibility and control of the result as possible.
In 2017, we released the first version of our algorithm, which only allowed you to draw strokes with abscissa (an object with a single dimension - width). Of course, it lacked the crucial second dimension, leading to extreme contrast, though we make the stroke stretchable at any point of its skeleton (and skeletons aren't fat anyway).
Because trailblazing is more troublesome than we originally thought. The challenge with emulating strokes out of a two-dimensional nib (or brush shape) was that no mathematical formulas existed that a computer could understand and use to produce clean outlines. At least not until now. But development was full of struggles. We couldn't even predict what we would have and when, because there was so much that we didn't know. The good news is that we've found the key to the closet with the skeletons in it and we are ready to harness their power.
And since time quickly translates to costs, we figure that having a buffer sounds like a great idea. On top of that, after spending so much time with those skeletons, we realized that they could use some extra publicity. So, we said YES to the Kickstarter campaign this autumn.
That's good news for you, because you’ll get the free updates of the newer versions, including the planned features we introduce below. That said, a movement like the one we're starting require, well, movement – and you can play a role in that. Once the campaign goes live, help us spread the word by sharing it with your friends and colleagues. And if you like skeletons as much as we do, you can pledge on merch and relics from this skeleton movement. They'll make a great addition to your otherwise skeletonless closet.
First of all, let’s cut through some of the confusion: Letterink is not just another BroadNibber; it is not even an advanced BroadNibber. Maybe some of you remember Frederik Berlaen's project Kalliculator, which is much closer to the idea behind Letterink, though what we're dealing with is more than just a parametric contrast generator. Aren't you glad we explained that?
The brush will be as flexible as a real one. You can resize it from 0 to infinity and independently rotate it 360 degrees at any control point. Actually, now that we think about it, it'll be more flexible than a real brush.
Imagine you are working on a calligraphic script. You can vary from a pointed nib to a pointed brush or whatever the brush shapes remind you of. At this point, every non-Latin heart should be jumping for joy.
I have to stress again: Designers long for (and deserve) full control of their output. So expect the outlines to always be plotted precisely as expected, as if you had taken the time to painstakingly draw the stroke manually. You can thank us later... or now... or both!
If you use the current Letterink for any amount of time, eventually you reach a moment when it feels like you are just recreating the same stroke styles over and over again. This is most common with upstrokes and downstrokes when drawing with a pointed nib. To save time, Letterink will have a feature for saving those values, making it easy to reuse them for the similar stoke shapes. When deciding to make upstrokes a little bit thicker, just do it once on the whole typeface, instead of redrawing everything node by node, and apply the change to the stored values. That’s stroke styles.
If you think skeletons are just imaginary heartlines of strokes, let's deal with that ridiculous idea right now — they're actually the easiest way for designers to control the entire form, that means and any other elements involved. Sound weird? That's understandable. I'll explain a little more.
Essentially, I am talking about the shapes that aren't stroke-based, but are still common in type design practice. Such shapes are meant to accompany strokes in cases where designers reach the limits of what strokes are capable of. We like to call them stroke components.
Components will be especially helpful with serif typefaces. For parts like terminals, brackets, ears, and caps, it is often more efficient to use a component that is entirely independent of the stroke shape. Consequently, it might be a good idea to stick them to a skeleton while manipulating the whole letter. It should allow you to keep a stroke while already working with its outline.
Now that the technical stuff is out of the way, it's time to meet the team. The necromancer responsible for development, algorithm implementations and other technical stuff — the left half of our brain, Martin. The dreamer in charge of vision, design and communication and writing this blog — our right brain hemisphere, Filip. Sure, there are more people involved. None of this would be possible without the kind support of our guru, Georg Seifert. We also want to recognize Peter Paulis as Martin's sidekick for one of our latest releases. Peter is an expert on Objective C and also a developer of Fontstand and Vernissage App.
We have decided to make things clear and simple: 99€. That's it. After that you can choose whether you want to pledge more and get some exclusive relics from the skeleton movement, like t-shirts, posters, and skeletons. Or if you already have a licence, you can still pledge some money to support us, because relics!
Now that you're completely convinced (if you're not, speak now or forever hold your peace), it's time to join the skeleton movement!
Our plan is to launch the campaign this month or next, depending on how preparations go. We'll announce the campaign launch through our mailing list, so if you haven't subscribed yet, do that now.
If you've got any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to us (Martin and Filip) through our contact form. We answer emails on a daily basis during the workweek. Remember, there are no stupid questions and no one's English has to be perfect (ours certainly isn't).