I needed to put together a font file so that I could type using a standard keyboard to output shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) music notation.
The first thing that I found I needed to do in order to create a font file was obvious, I needed to create images for each of the characters I wanted in my font set. This was easy, I was able to use an already scanned shakuhachi fingering chart to obtain my images from. If I did not already have a scanned image of my characters, that would not have been a problem. Even though I do not own a scanner, taking a digital picture of a hardcopy document with the characters and uploading it to my computer would have worked fine.
I used the MS paint application that comes installed and fully functioning on Microsoft systems to break the chart with the characters into individual image files for each character. Another option would have been to use a similar online program like pixlr. I saved each of the images as a .PNG file. These simple image editing programs are fairly easy to use, although I had to resort to using the program’s help facility and some trial and error before I was able to create the images quickly.
The next step is that the bit mapped images I just created needed to be changed to scalable vector images. The reason for this is that bit mapped images like .PNG or .JPG may look fine at the size they were created, however since the information stored in the files are for each pixel, if you try to enlarge the image it will lose quality. By converting the image into an .SVG file (SVG for Scalable Vector Graphic) the information is converted to describing the lines in the image rather each pixel, allowing the image to be re-scaled without any loss of quality.
Unlike converting bitmap images from one file format to another, it is not possible to just use a simple conversion tool. The images need to be traced to obtain the outlines so that those outlines can then be used to create the .SVG file. Fortunately, I found a free open source tool, namely Inkscape, to accomplish this task.
Not only can Inkscape be used to convert a bit mapped image file to a Scalable Vector Graphic, but Inkscape also includes a handy font file editor. I put together a tutorial describing the full process of creating a font file in detail, it can be accessed directly here. I also created the following video tutorial and placed it on Youtube.