Font Characters

A font consists of a complete set of font characters - these are usually the upper- and lower-case letters of the Latin alphabet, as well as numerals, punctuation, and diacritics - in short, all of the characters necessary to print common text in a particular language. Font Characters describe what each character is in the logical font, and how they all fit together into words and lines of text. A font character is a set of attributes attached to each character that describes what that character is, and how it is stamped.

To get started learning about font characters, open the font characters tab in the wheel editor and follow these steps.

Adding Characters to a Logical Font

1. Click the Add Characters to Font button. A line for a new character will appear at the bottom of the font characters table.

2. Type a letter to add to this font, for example an uppercase A.

3. Click the Character Positions tab on the left side of the wheel editor. Look for an uppercase A, and find the wheel position where the A is mounted to the wheel. Type this number into the position field of the font character you just added. In this case it's position 38. You'll notice that the wheel editor automatically inserts the width for that character and the display character (Ch) - 202 for this character.

4. For now, type 77 and 77 into the KM and KL fields for this character. These are default kerning codes. To learn more about kerning and kern codes, see the page on Advanced Kerning.

5. Click the Save button.

You've just added a new character to this font.

Spaces Between Words

The space between words is a character like any other. In the font table, look for a character that doesn't have anything in the Ky or Ch field. The wheel position for this character should be zero (0). This is the space character. There actually is something in the Ky and Ch fields, but it's a space, so it appears empty. Every time iStamp encounters a space between words, it looks for this character and sees that it's at position zero. Position zero is special in iStamp. There is no position zero on the print-wheel, but it's still in the font table, so iStamp interprets this as a character like any other - it just doesn't get stamped. The only thing that happens is iStamp moves the product to create a space between words. The width of the space character can be changed by typing a new value into the width field for this character.

Invoking Special Characters

A character is invoked when it is called upon to be stamped. We normally invoke a character by simply typing it into iStamp's text editor. When typing a character into the text editor, you can normally only invoke that character if it corresponds to an actual key on your Keyboard. For instance, if I've defined a font character with a Ky value of A, then I must type shift-A key on my keyboard to invoke that character. But say you have an accented physical character on your print-wheel - for example an uppercase A with an acute accent - ÁThis glyph doesn't appear anywhere on an American keyboard, so how do we invoke it?

We sometimes use the word "glyph" to refer to the shape of a character. It's often useful to distinguish between a glyph and a font character, or physical print-wheel character. Two other methods allow us to use special glyphs that don't appear on your keyboard.

First, we can invoke a special character by using an alternate keystroke. For example, say I want to type the Á into iStamp's text editor. The font character contains a field labelled S for "Special combination". Adding an A to this field will allow you to use the Alt key on your keyboard to invoke this character.

The second way to invoke special glyphs is to load them directly from a job file. iStamp natively supports the ANSI or Windows 1252 character set. This includes the Latin alphabet, numbers, punctuation, and a variety of other glyphs that are common in European alphabets, such as these accented characters. If the job file contains any of these glyphs, they can be invoked in iStamp, but they must be defined in the wheel file first. To define a character that uses special glyphs, we need to add the glyph to the Ky field for that font character. Alos, to display the special glyph in iStamp's text editor, it also needs to be added it to the Ch field for that font character.

Let's define a character that uses a special glyph.

1. Add a new character to your font, and click anywhere on the new line for that font character.

2. Type Ctrl-S. This will bring up the Insert Special Character dialog.

3. Select the appropriate glyph. In this case we're looking for the uppercase A with acute accent. Click the Insert button.

4. Notice that this glyph has been inserted into the Ch field of the new font character. This just means that whenever this font character is invoked, this glyph will appear in iStamp's text editor. We haven't yet said anything about HOW the character is invoked, or even what the character actually is.

5. Highlight the glyph in the Ch field and type Ctrl-C. This will copy the glyph to the clipboard.

6. Click in the Ky field, and type Ctrl-V. This will paste the glyph into the Ky field.

Now we've defined how this character is displayed, and how it's invoked, but we still haven't defined what the character is. If the physical character is an uppercase A with acute accent, then you can now define this character like any other. If, on the other hand, this character is to be assembled using more than one character - for instance with the uppercase A, and an isolated acute accent - then we'll have to build a macro. See the page on Macros for more information.

Duplicate Characters

Sometimes we may want to be able to invoke a character using EITHER the keyboard OR a job file. In such cases we simply create TWO identical font characters, each with its own Ch or S values.

Kern Codes

The default kern code of 77 results in no kerning taking place. Complete kern codes for entire fonts are available on the Kern Tables page. For more information on how to use kern codes, see the page on Advanced Kerning.


Offsets allow us to adjust the position, depth, and dwell time of font characters when stamping. For example, say you have a comma on your print-wheel, but no apostrophe. In most fonts, these glyphs are identical, so we only use one physical character for both glyphs, but to do so we need to create two distinct font characters. Notice in the image below that we've created two characters, each with the same print-wheel position (124). The first character is the comma. It uses a comma to invoke the character (Ky), and a comma for display in iStamp (Ch). The second character is the apostrophe. Similary, it uses the apostrophe for both Ky and Ch. The real difference between these two characters are the the Y-offsets (YO and YOR). We raise the apostrophe one hundred forty thousandths of an inch (0.140") to bring it up where we want it to appear. The comma stays at the baseline where it's supposed to be. When setting X and Y offsets, always remember that the X-axis is left-to-right as you're reading text. The Y-axis is always up and down.

We might also want to add a depth offset to these characters. Often when stamping very small characters like punctuation, we need to stamp less deep, or the character might punch through the surface of your material. In this case we'll add a depth offset of minus five thousandths of an inch (.005"). Note that offsets are always whole numbers, and a negative depth offset is LESS deep.