Using Glyphs with Fonts explained (swashes, swirls and extras)

Glyphs are also sometimes called Alternates, Swooshes, Swashes, Swirls and Extras.

Basically a glyph is the variety of different designs of the same character, or it can also be illustrations, or special characters, like hearts, flowers and flourishes.

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Let’s look at an example:

One of my favourite fonts with a huge variety of glyphs is called Asmara.

Below is an example of the alternate glyphs for the letter A. Also note the glyphs for interacting with other characters.

Missy Meyer wrote a fantastic post about the difference between OTF and TTF (OpenType and TrueType) font formats.

In short, if you have the OTF (OpenType) format, use that, as it is the newest format and will support glyphs (if the font has any).

Depending on your computer, either Mac or PC and the software you use, there are different ways to access glyphs.

For Mac, the standard Font Book that comes pre-installed is perfect to view glyphs. For Windows, Maintype is a great, free software to to the same. Usually, you should be able to just copy and paste the character from within either software and paste the glyph where you want to use it.

The image below is called a character map. This is where you will be able to see all of the available glyphs for a font, in this case Asmara. The example shown is from Adobe Illustrator.

You can access the glyphs directly in most design software.

Below are some tutorials for glyphs in different software:




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