Back to Top
Design Cuts

Bonus Tutorial: How to Use Alternate and Extra Characters With Your Fonts


Swatches, contextual alternates, glyphs, ligatures… if you’re not familiar with how to use these font features, they can be a little intimidating to start with. However, once you master them, you really open up so many more possibilities when working with great fonts.

After getting so many questions about how to use the extra characters, glyphs and swashes available with the fonts in our current Monster Creative Font Bundle, Simon has been kind enough to put together this comprehensive guide.

This tutorial is a bonus tutorial, that leads on from Simon’s in depth poster design tutorial. You’ll learn exactly how to unlock the hundreds of extra characters and symbols available to you with these, or any extensive opentype fonts. To Simon!

Hey Design Cutters! One of the things I realized from my poster tutorial is that it’s using only two typefaces out of the ten families offered in the deal. While it makes sense from a design standpoint (ever heard of the “no more than three fonts” rule?), it doesn’t really do justice to the other amazing options that you have at your fingertips.

Let’s have a look again at the beautiful typefaces that are included in the creative font bundle.

Daft Brush by Pintassilgo Prints

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Brush Up by Pintassilgo Prints

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

The Amorie type family

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

D-I-Y Time (Complete Hand-Drawn Type System) by Latino Type

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Four Seasons by Latino Type

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Julietta by Latino Type

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Showcase by Latino Type

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Thirsty Rough by Yellow Design Studio

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Gist by Yellow Design Studio

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Microbrew by Albatross Studio

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

So, what about these typefaces?

All these typefaces have something in common. They feature characteristics (hand-drawn style and/or aging artifacts) that, in regular typefaces, would very obnoxiously show everyone that this type piece or block has been written using a typeface. Why? A lot of typefaces include only one set of characters. This means that you’ll only have access to one rendition of the letter “A” for instance (the most frequently used letter in the English language). The imperfections that should be part of a hand-lettered piece won’t be there, and the resulting piece will clearly be identifiable as a typeface, rather than a manually crafted type element.

But these aren’t “regular” typefaces. The creators of all these type families have painstakingly created alternative versions for their characters (along with some other cool goodies, like swashes, shadows, etc.), so the type blocks you’ll be writing don’t feature the same letter “A” all the time. This system of alternate characters allows compatible applications to be able to make your pieces look a bit more organic, and yet to keep the ease of use and flexibility of a typeface. That’s a bit of a summary, and if we had time I’d talk a little bit about the history of typeface file formats (OTF vs. TTF vs. AAT vs. Graphite), but that’s going to be for another time.

Luckily for us, both Illustrator and Photoshop allow us to use these alternates, swashes, and other awesome tips and tricks.

Using Photoshop’s Character panel

Setting up a document

I started by creating a 1920×1200 pixels @ 72 dpi document in Photoshop. Since this document is for on-screen demo purposes only, no need to create a print-ready document.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Anticipating on a potential Design Cuts-themed wallpaper design, I’ve added a few horizontal and vertical guides to get me a grid. My guides are at 300, 600, and 900 pixels horizontally, and at 960 pixels vertically.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Following that wallpaper idea, let’s add the Design Cuts color palette in my document. I’ve sampled the colors directly from the DC website (top: white – #ffffff, middle section: green – #1abc9c, and bottom section: blue – #34495e). The bottom section covers half of the canvas, while the middle and top parts cover a fourth each.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Contextual alternates and stylistic alternates

I used Brush Up in the tutorial, and took advantage of its alternates characters, but I didn’t get to use Daft Brush. Let’s fix this.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

As you can see on the type panel, I simply typed the text. I didn’t check any of the magic boxes at the bottom. Let’s engage the Contextual alternate functionality on.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Surprise! Our characters have changed.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Now, notice how we have two identical “S” letters in our type piece. Well, you could apply the Contextual alternate functionality only on “CUTS,” so it would look like someone quickly brush-penned that piece down. Start by turning the button off for the whole type layer, and then highlight “CUTS.”

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Then turn the button back on. Only “CUTS” will be affected this time. Nifty, huh?

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Another nifty feature that’s supported by most of these typefaces is called Stylistic alternates.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

These are yet another set of alternate characters you could bring in your type treatment to preserve its organic vibe. The styles depend of what the designer created for each typeface. In Daft Brush’s case, they look something like this:

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Say you like the effect, but just want to apply it on the “N?” Ask, and you shall receive.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

I simply turned the Stylistic alternates back off, selected just the “N,” and turned the alternates back on.

Simple enough, right? Based on these substitutions and alternate character sets, the Open Type format is capable of much, much more. But I’ll need to use a different typeface to demonstrate them.

Swashes

Swashes are a quick way to make a type element stand out as the focal point of your piece. Let’s use Amorie Nova Bold to get a sense of what these are about.

Start with everything turned off.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

My first order of business is to make sure that the two “S” look different, thanks to the Contextual alternates.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Let’s turn on the swashes!

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

The results are, let’s say, overwhelming.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Just like that “S” that I didn’t want to be displayed identical to the one prior, I’m going to turn the feature on only a few selected letters.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Much better, right? I left the swash active on the “D,” “G,” “C,” and “S.” It’s also worth noting that I had to size the “N” down quite a bit (from 258 points to 222 points) so it wouldn’t get “tangled up” in the G’s swash.

Here’s a view of the text on blue, so you can appreciate it in its entirety.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Given the level of care of the designers of all these typefaces, you’ll have quite a few combinations to try out and experiment with. Sometimes, the exact letter form you’ll be looking for will be available when turning the contextual alternates on on a swashed-out drop cap… Have fun.

One more thing we need to talk about: Illustrator’s Glyphs panel

I know that most of the readership here at Design Cuts favors Photoshop, and that’s okay. But I’d like to give Illustrator some love, especially that we’re talking about manipulating text, and since that functionality is available in Illustrator only (and InDesign, too). It’s called the Glyphs panel.

I’ve recreated my document in Illustrator, nothing fancy.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

If Glyphs panel isn’t showing up by default, you can make it visible through the Window > Type > Glyphs menu.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

What can you do with the Glyphs panel?

The panel can show you the whole font.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

It can show you the font’s available ligatures.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

It can also show you the font’s stylistic alternates. The more stuff you have in this view of the panel, the more alternate characters you’ll have at hand to make it look organic and analog.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Finally, and that’s in my opinion the best feature, it can show you the available alternates for the current selection. Sadly, it works only when selecting individual characters.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Switching characters around

But the panel isn’t just a tool to show you what the font has available. You can also, and that’s the main interest behind it, double-click on a character and it gets added to your active text element/block. Example.

Let’s start from the beginning. I’ve switched to Julieta Pro.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

After spelling Design Cuts out, I’d like to spruce things up a little. Let’s have a look at what’s available.

The “E” has a straighter version available, as well as a super cool swash version.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

With the letter you wish to replace highlighted, simply double-click the new glyph you’d like to bring in, and taadaa, it’s there. MAGIC.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

I’ve repeated the process for the closing “S” as well.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

And here’s the view on blue.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

One of the most interesting uses yet: the ornaments or extras typefaces

Indeed. The Glyphs panel can be your best friend when trying to navigate through a well furnished ornament/extras typeface.

Here’s an example with Microbrew.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

I’ve created my base text element, and I’d like to just add one of the many extras available underneath. Let’s say the two crossed keys, on the right.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Rather than sift through my keyboard to find the right letter to press, or to have to dive in a PDF, or worse yet, to have to open the character table, I’m simply going to use the Glyphs panel to track down the symbol.

Create a new text element underneath the first one, and switch its typeface to Microbrew Ornaments. Make sure the Glyphs panel shows you the full font, and locate the keys.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Note that the panel will also give you the code to type to obtain the symbol should you be tired to use the Glyphs panel.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Double-click, and you have the keys at your disposal.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

You can then re-arrange them, re-color them, re-size them, etc.

Monster creative font bundle demo tutorial - Glyphs panels

Last notes

This finally concludes today’s demonstration. I hope that you enjoyed both the poster design tutorial, and the initiation to Photoshop and Illustrator’s more advanced type options. As usual, if you have any questions, comment below or tweet at me @simonhartmann.

Remember, there’s only a few days left to get the Monster Creative Font Bundle for just $29, so if you don’t want to miss out, we recommend jumping on it now. Armed with your new font knowledge, what will you create?

Monster Creative Font Bundle (Including Web Fonts + Extended License) – 97% Off

45 Lovely Comments from our Community:

  1. Steve says:

    Hello, is there any tool for Linux (Ubuntu) users? I’ve tried the Ubuntu character map, GIMP, Inkscape, but to no avail… πŸ™

    • Ben Neeves says:

      Hey Steve,

      Thanks for your comment, I am really sorry but unfortunately we do not work with Linux or these design softwares so I am unable to test this on my side and provide a fix for you. I apologise for any inconvenience caused!

      I’ve been doing a bit of research into this and I’ve found an Ubuntu forum that may be able to assist you! I’ve popped them over to you in an email. I hope they help!

      • Steve says:

        Thanks very much Ben for your quick response and taking time to help. I’ll keep searching and will end up find a solution or a way around.

        All the best πŸ™‚

        • Ben Neeves says:

          You are very welcome, Steve πŸ™‚

          If there is ever anything else I could assist you with please do get in touch. I’m always happy to help!

          • ashley says:

            I am trying to use this in inkscape/design space for cricut. Was there a resolution on this to get them to work? I dont have photoshop or any of these programs you guys talk about : ( THANKS!

            • ben@designcuts.com says:

              Hey Ashley,

              Thank you for your comment! Unfortunately since we do not work in these softwares, we are unable to test this out on our side and provide a fix for this. I apologise for any inconvenience caused however, I have done some research into this and have popped you a quick email to assist you further. I hope it helps!

  2. Juan says:

    Is there something that I can apply to get material icons provided by google as font under sketch?

    • Carol Sweeney says:

      Hey Juan,

      Thanks for the comment! I’m sorry for the longer than usual time taken to get back to you about this. We’ve been receiving a record number of emails due to the popularity of our current deal, and we’re working really hard to keep on top of them.

      I really appreciate your patience during this time. I have popped you over an email which should hopefully help!

  3. Susan says:

    Hello, I don’t user Illustrator anymore but have been using Nexus font to access glyphs etc. for other fonts but I can’t access them for Octavia. Can you help? Thanks, Susan

    • Carol Sweeney says:

      Hey Susan,

      Thanks for the comment and my sincere apologies for the delay in coming back to you about this.

      I am so sorry that you are having an issue accessing the extras on your font- I have popped you an email to help you out with this and hopefully get you back working with Octavia!

      • Ashleigh B says:

        Hi Carol! I am having the exact same problem as Susan with Octavia. Would you find sending me some additional information as to how to access the additional glyphs too? Thank you!

        • Carol Sweeney says:

          Hey Ashleigh,

          Of course I can help- I just need to get some more info off yourself if thats ok and I have sent you over an email about this!

          Rest assured, we shall get you working with this!

  4. Meda Halmaciu says:

    I wonder if Corel Draw has a way to use the special characters or I will just have to import them from Illustrator. My printer uses Corel Draw so I have to use it for my external print design.

  5. Renee Hong says:

    Is anyone using the new Affinity Designer for Mac, as an alternative to Illustrator and could tell me how to use it in that program?

    • Carol Sweeney says:

      Hey Renee,

      I am not overly familiar with Affinity Designer to be honest but it does say that it is relatively easy to import .ai files into it. I am hoping you will be able to utilise the tutorial in it but perhaps not follow it as it is exactly as it was made using different software.

      Please let me know how you get on and i would love to see anything you create πŸ™‚

  6. Renee Hong says:

    Thank you so much. As a Photoshop CS4 user, I can now finally take advantage of all those beautiful font options!

    • Carol Sweeney says:

      Hey Renee,

      You are very welcome!

      Thanks for commenting- we are really pleased you enjoyed the tutorial.

      If you create something using the tutorial, please do send us some of the designs. We’d love to see what you’re working on πŸ™‚

  7. Melissa Bittinger says:

    I think what I’ve just learned from reading all this and the comments is…I will invest in Adobe illustrator for type/font manipulating and continue with the textures in another program like I’ve been doing. Possibly avoiding Photoshop monthly rental altogether! Since the Elements program I’ve had for…two years could probably do what I want as a ‘replacement’ for PS, that’s if I could figure out how to use it…which I haven’t had patience to do. I use Smart Photo Editor for layering textures on my photos. I’ll need something else for future typography work/art I want to do. Thank you!

  8. Well I just learned a whole lot! Awesome. Would you have a link to organizing fonts in Suitcase Fusion 5? I’m stumbling through their font management and would love another designers input.

  9. Bettie says:

    I use some of the font tricks/features, but this opened my eyes more. Often times I wasn’t getting results; now I know that the font just didn’t have the features to use.

    I think I may keep Illustrator open while I work to dive into this more (love that panel). This tutorial just drove me over the edge to buy these fonts and give it a whirl. Oh, DesignCuts – you did it again. <3

    • Simon Hartmann says:

      That’s a very good idea! I typically create my text objects in Ai, and import them in Ps through copy and pasting as smart objects. Ai has so much more flexibility than Ps when it comes down to manipulating text.

      That being said, when there’s not too much copy, like in the fake gig poster case, it’s perfectly fine to just rely on Ps.

  10. Jerry Brown says:

    Thanks, Julie and PSH …
    Good to know I’m not going totally nuts πŸ˜‰
    jerry

    • Julie Meredith says:

      You’re welcome. BTW… PSH’s comment was not there when I responded so apologies if it looks like I was simply repeating what had already been said.

  11. Thanks for the follow through on these tutorials. It’s much appreciated by us aspiring designers.

    • Ben Neeves says:

      Hey Tom,

      Thank you so much for your kind words! We really appreciate it and we’re happy we could lend a hand πŸ™‚

  12. Jerry Brown says:

    Where do I find the Glyph panel in Photoshop CC 14.2.1? “Text” is not in the Window menu. Am I missing a preference setting? Totally baffled.
    On a Mac running Mavericks, 10.9.2.
    Thanks!
    jerry

    • PSH says:

      Jerry, the Glyphs Panel is in Illustrator or InDesign, not PhotoShop. “…give Illustrator some love, especially that we’re talking about manipulating text, and since that functionality is available in Illustrator only (and InDesign, too). It’s called the Glyphs panel.”

    • Julie Meredith says:

      Hey Jerry, the Glyph panel is available in Illustrator and InDesign but not Photoshop so it’s not you… it’s just not there πŸ™‚

      • Marianne says:

        So that means there is no way to use the glyphs if you don’t have Illustrator or InDesign, right? Just wondering if there’s another option.

        • Simon Hartmann says:

          Oh there is! Photoshop doesn’t offer an easy access to them, that’s all. You’ll have to use the various functionality buttons of the text panel in Photoshop (swashes, alternates, etc.).

          If you wanted to see and access specific glyphs in a fashion similar to Illustrator or InDesign, you could do the following:

          – Use the character map (Windows)
          – Use the character viewer (OSX)

          A little bit of Googling made me stumble on this link: http://fsymbols.com/character-maps/

          Hope that helps!

          • Kay Hall says:

            Unfortunately, theWindows Character Map and similar maps inside Nexus Font, PopChar, MSWord, etc can only see those characters which are mapped to Unicode so it does not usually include all the characters you see in the glyphs panel in Illustrator, InDesign or Core Draw.
            On a Mac, you can see all of the glyphs in a font using Font Book’s Repertoire view. You can copy and paste or drag and drop the Unicode mapped characters into most other apps, but the non-Unicode mapped characters can only be pasted/dropped into TextEdit.

  13. Natalie Kinnear says:

    Thanks for this tutorial. I have PS CS5 but don’t seem to be able to find/access the contextual and stylistic alternatives in the Brush / Character menu. I can see the other options, strike through, underline etc. Is it the version of PS that’s the problem or am I missing how to view these extra options?

    Thanks

    Natalie

    • Julie Meredith says:

      Hey Natalie,

      I don’t have CS5 installed anymore (only CS6 and CC) so I can’t make a screenshot for you but I found one online that should help explain it better than I could with just words. Click on Menu Option > Open Type > Choose appropriate alternate or ligature

      http://typophile.com/files/up-kyra-open-type-font_5375.png

      Hopefully, that’s the issue and it’s not something else πŸ™‚

      • Natalie Kinnear says:

        Hi Julie

        Thanks! Yes that works, it’s a little more fiddly so they’ve obviously improved it with the various PS upgrades. But I also played around with all the fonts in AI, which I am a real novice with, but do use from time to time so the bit of the tutorial for that was also very helpful.

        I’ve been working on a poster ‘Keep Calm And Put The Kettle On’ (it’s a very British thing, whenever us Brits face problems we always start by putting the kettle on for a cuppa lol).

        Every element in this design is from the various bundles I’ve purchased from Design Cuts, except for the birds which I drew myself in AI. I was also inspired by the blog post about Brandi Fitzgerald. I certainly had a particularly fun time with the swashes and swirls, so my heartfelt thanks to the Design Cuts team πŸ™‚

        Here’s the design, I’m sort of still working on it, although this might be the final version … unless I decide to change something … again … lol

        http://www.nataliekinnearphotography.co.uk/p725292071/h3dc656a5#h3dc656a5

        Many thanks

        Natalie

  14. albert More says:

    Es muy bueno conocer y ver otros procesos de diseΓ±o y tener alternativas para trabajar.

    TRANSLATION: It’s great to meet and see other design processes and alternatives have to work.

    • Tom Ross says:

      Thanks Albert, we really wanted to answer everyone’s questions with a thorough font guide. I’m glad you found this tutorial useful.

Leave us a Comment