Ade Malsasa Akbar contact
Senior author, Open Source enthusiast.
Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 18:34

After learning Open & Save, now we will learn about Fonts, before we learn about Making Text later. This Part III of the tutorial for students series discusses what are fonts, how we use fonts, and to get them to design & illustrate with Inkscape on computer. You will learn from here font families like Sans Serif Mono as well as their styles Bold Italic Regular aside from basic knowledge about fonts across operating systems with examples and pictures included. Happy learning and let's go!
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[ In this series: Preamble | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 ]

About Computer

To understand the rest of this simple tutorial, it is good to learn a little bit of computing. The main topic is computer -- it is an electronic machine which works with operating system (OS) otherwise it won't. In short, to display text on screen, computers use digital files --in fact, a certain type of programs-- called fonts, that styles how a b c ... z being drawn on screen.

By OS, it is a choice between GNU/Linux - Windows - macOS. By fonts, it is like applications, there are so many fonts (sometimes called typefaces) such as Times New Roman or Liberation Serif, they can be copied and used between different OSes. You obtain new fonts as files with a certain format, .ttf and .otf are the most popular ones, either from your friends or by downloading from the internet.

A user sees choice of fonts on his computer via programs, mainly a word processor (like Writer), or an illustrator (like Inkscape), or file manager (like Nautilus).

A Font

Fonts are choices and shapes. 
Fonts (also called typefaces) are a part of computer operating systems (OS). Talking about fonts always involves a talk about OS choices. An OS brings its own fonts and will be different to other OS’ fonts for a user. For a user of Windows OS, you’ll be accustomed to these names – Arial, Courier, and Times New Roman. For a user of GNU/Linux OS, instead, you’ll know Liberation, DejaVu, and Free. A font consists of alphabets, numbers, and other characters in certain shapes. Every font is a file stored in a folder and used to draw text on screen. Fonts are the shapes of those text. Choices of fonts are choices of text shapes. Fonts are universal so they can be stored, copied, and used across OS choices – so you can use Arial on GNU and Liberation on Windows for example. Thus, a font is a collection of letters - numbers – characters drawn in certain style of shapes Bold - Italic - Regular which can be used repeatedly to produce text with computer. 

Types of Font

Serif, Sans, and Mono families are three kinds of font.

The particularity of Serif family is they are sharp. Look at the tips of every letter. Examples of Serif family fonts:
    • Times New Roman
    • Liberation Serif
    • FreeSerif
    • DejaVu Serif

The particularity of Sans family is they are dull. They do not have “serif” and thus the name “sans-serif” meaning “without-sharp tips”. Examples of Sans family fonts:
    • Arial
    • Liberation Sans
    • FreeSans
    • DejaVu Sans

The particularity of Mono family is they are square. Pick a letter and you will see the width and the length are equal – so are other letters. Seeing text in Mono fonts is like seeing text typed with the old typewriter machines. Examples of Mono family fonts:
    • Monospace
    • Courier New
    • Liberation Mono
    • DejaVu Mono
    • FreeMono

Styles of a Font

Every font has some set of styles a computer user can choose. An excellent example is Ubuntu or DejaVu font with the most complete style choices. However, most fonts usually only have the first three styles. They are:
- Regular
The default choice.
- Bold
Thicker text.
- Italic
Leaner text.
- Condensed
Thinner text, narrower letter's width.
- Light
Thinner text, smaller letter's stroke.
- Bold Italic, Condensed Bold, Condensed Italic
Combinations of available styles.

Sizes of a Font

A font supports multiple size. This makes computer can resize enlarge or shrink text very easily. To change a text size from one to another, thanks to fonts, a user clicks whatever size he wants on the computer and it changed. Below is my name typed with a Sans font with five different size (8, 10, 12, 15, and 20 points).

OSes and Their Fonts

Computer OSes bring some fonts by default and a user can add more if he wishes. You are good to know this as different OS creates different traditions or habits to the users because of their default fonts. What you need to know is that fonts are universal so ones from an OS can be used in the other OSes and vice versa -- that means Arial can be used on GNU/Linux, Liberation can be used on Windows, and vice versa, so does with Apple Garamond from MacOS. Below is OSes and their default fonts:
- Windows
Arial, Comic Sans, Helvetica, Times New Roman
- GNU/Linux
Liberation, DejaVu, FreeFont
- MacOS
Apple Garamond, Lucida Grande, Andale Mono

Where to get more fonts? 


Getting more fonts is as easy as copying some files to computer. Among the ways to get them:

- Ask your friends for copies
- GNU FreeFont 
- Liberation Font
- Libertine Font
- Ubuntu Font
- Comfortaa Font 

How To Install A Font

Fonts are installed on your OS, not in your application. A font is a stored file with the extension .ttf or .otf. To install one, double-click a font file and press Install button. Once a font has been installed on your OS, you can use them on Inkscape.

See a Font

In Inkscape,  enable Text Tool (T) and font selector will appear on the toolbar.
Click the font selector drop down and selections of font with their examples will appear.

Use a Font

To use a font is to benefit from its shapes. Once a font is installed, you can type text in Inkscape with that font with its choices of shape (Bold - Italic - Regular)

To apply a font to a text, first select the letters in the text with Text Tool then select a font from the selector.
To add more fonts to Inkscape, is to add them to the operating system (OS). See above to do it.


That's all. From this part, you learned about what is font, a brief explanation about computing and OS, understanding font families and their particularities, and of course how to get and use fonts in computer graphic design with Inkscape. Next time, according to our table of contents, we will learn to text -- do the basics of dealings with alphabets, letters, numbers, and everything else of writings. Enjoy learning and see you in the next part!

to be continued...

This article is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.