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Making ft and st Ligatures

Posted: Thu Jun 15, 2006 7:33 am
by Bhikkhu Pesala
This Tutorial is easiest to follow with the Professional Edition, though Home Edition users can also complete the same task with a few more steps.

1. Insert Characters and Complete Composites

From the Insert Characters dialogue, select the Alphabetic Presentation forms block, and insert the ft and st ligatures, or (in the Home Edition), add two new glyphs and map them to 64261 and 64262.

Use "Complete Composites" to insert long s +t, and s + t into the two new glyphs. (In the Home Edition, copy each pair of letters in the overview, and paste into the appropriate glyph edit window).
  • Set a bookmark in the first new ft ligature glyph (e.g. Control Shift 0)
  • Right click on the long s, and jump to glyph member
  • Alter Enter and copy that glyph's advance width
  • Close the properties dialogue and return to the ft ligature with Control 0 to go to your bookmark
  • Edit the composite glyph properties and paste the advance width as the x-offset for the "t."
  • Right-click on the "t" and jump to glyph member
  • Alter Enter and make a mental note of the white space after the glyph
  • Return to the ft ligature with Control 0 and adjust the advance width to match
  • Repeat the same process for the st ligature
In most cases, ligatures should be the same advance width of the single character pairs that they replace. Some fonts may require a different design, but in my view a document's layout should not change whether ligatures are used or not.

2. Joining the ft Ligature Components

Decompose the composites (make simple) and draw a simple contour to connect them like that illustrated below:


Use Get Union of Contours to join the three contours into one.

Remove all unwanted nodes between the joined pieces. For a smooth curve you only need two off-curve nodes between two on-curve nodes. For the slanting stroke over the cross-bar of the "t" you need another pair of on-curve nodes. Use the Align Tools to ensure that the connecting stroke will be the same width as the stroke of the "t" as illustrated below


Select the four nodes above the cross-bar of the "t" and hide the screen clutter so that you can concentrate only on the shape of the connecting stroke. Press H + F10 to hide the screen clutter, and then perss Escape to close the menu, and return focus to the Glyph Edit Window. (Alter H + Esc twice will also work).

Now use the cursor keys (with control if required) to nudge the connecting stroke into the desired shape.


Press "H" to show the nodes and guidelines again.

3. Joining the st Ligature Components

Assuming that you have positioned the composite glyph members correctly as explained in part 1, you are now ready to join the s and t. contours.

Drag a horizontal guideline to the Caps height (Shown on the Format, Settings, Ranges, dialogue). Or you may wish to align the top of the ligature with the tops of ascenders in the font, like f, l or h.

Using the ellipse tool with shift held down, draw a circle big enough to join the s and t as illustrated below.


Use the measuring tool to measure the width of the vertical stroke of the "t."

Copy the circle you have just drawn, paste it in place, and resize it about the centre, subtracting twice the width of the "t" stroke to get the right diameter. Then click the "Change Direction" button on the standard toolbar to reverse the contour. The inner contour now becomes white.


The connecting contour may look better in most serif fonts if the left side of the stroke is thinner, like the upper stroke of the "s" rather than thick, like the vertical stroke of the "t." Adjust the size of the large circle about the upper right corner until you're satisfied with the result. Check the "Lock Aspect Ratio" box to keep the contour circular.


Move the two circular contours away into free space and use the knife to cut away the unwanted parts of the contours.


Move the connecting contour down to snap to the horizontal guideline and nudge it horizontally to connect the s and t contours. Use "Get Union of Contours" to join all three pieces.


Clean up the rough edges to finish the job.


I hope this tutorial has taught you a few tricks that you can apply to design more beautiful letter forms. I am not an artist. The only drawing I ever did was engineering drawings. Perhaps you will find other ways of accomplishing your aims after trying my methods.