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Using dingbats for artfinished picture

... you've got'em, why not use'em

Most people have figured out by now that dingbats are characters in a pictorial font.

To rephrase, a dingbat fonts uses graphics in the character places. As such, these fonts make a wonderful source of clip art once you know how to deal with them. I'm just going to use images from Zapf Dingbats (Mac) and Webdings (PC) here.

There are hundreds of dingbat fonts

In many cases, this is first place that published clip art appears. Buying a doingbat font with a couple hundred characters is an excellent way to expand your clip art library.

Let's make some art with a dingbat

selecting the pictureI'm going to use Webdings first.

Open a new InDesign document and make a text frame with your type tool (just marquee an area with the tool).

Pick Webdings for your font and then open the Glyphs palette. Find the Ship and double-click on it to drop it onto the page. (See Fig. 1)

Select the character (Command/Ctrl+A) and change the size to as large as you want. I used 400 point.

With the character still selected choose Type > Create Outlines.

Change to the selection tool and select the type.

Cut it to the Clipboard (Command/Ctrl+X)

Select the text frame and delete it

Paste the character (Command/Ctrl+V) back onto the page. (See Fig. 2)

Select art and choose Object > Compound Path > Release (C/C+O/A+8)

With all the paths still selected, give them a fill of none and a stroke of a quarter point (See Fig.3).

You need to do this so you can see all the separate paths to control the color.

finished pictureWith the direct selection tool click once on the path you wish to modify. If you want to colorize more than one path with the same attributes, then use the Shift Key and Click additional paths. Now, color to suite by clicking color chips in the Swatches palette. Have fun, experimenting with patterns and gradients if you like. Remember, you can also use the Eyedropper tool to colorize other paths based on the attributes of any pre-selected path.

When you are done, export the graphic as a PDF so you have it ready to import into any Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, Quark XPress or other software of your choice. (See Fig. 4)

You are limited only by your imagination, and the picture fonts you have available.

This technique is the perfect solution for quick and easy spot illustrations or diagrammatic pictograms for use in any publication -- best of all, the drawing is already done for you!

David Bergsland

PS: You can find lots of new picture fonts online, just use your GOOGLE advanced search capabilities to search for dingbat or picture fonts.
* To get started, Andy Nortnik offers this collection of Free Retro Picture Fonts, (Windows) that you can download in this : RetroFonts_PACK2.zip package.

Also by David:

BEST Gradient Paragraph Rules
BEST Run-in Headlines
BEST New Typography: What difference does it make?
BEST Complex Tables in Adobe InDesign
BEST Using Numbers in the proper Case

David Bergsland

David has been a graphic designer, art director, teacher, and author on digital printing and publishing for nearly forty years. He has written several books, See his books and tutorial materials) designed well over a hundred fonts, and taught on the digital publishing industry needs for the past fifteen years. Presently he is working for a large printing company developing training materials for InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Acrobat. Most of his recent works are published by Radiqx Press and available on his Website: bergsland.org

Copyright ©2006 David Bergsland This is reprinted here with permission and kudos to David for contributing some of is extensive knowledge for DTG readers!

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