Convincingly faking handwriting from fonts


Fed up of crap-looking printed IC documents? Read on. Beware, doing a proper job of this will probably take longer than just writing it by hand but it will look nice and you’ll be able to make multiple prints and digital images etc. if you want.

You need Illustrator or similar (e.g. Inkscape) for this tutorial. I’ve assumed that people reading on are familiarish with Illustrator, I’m not going into mega detail about where to find all these options.

End result. The text on the left in black is just the font, the text below the line has the stroke applied but not all the variation and ink splats etc. They are shown for comparison of the effect.

  1. Make some artboards the size of your final document. I’ve made mine A4 because I’m printing onto A4, even though I’m then going to trim the paper down.
  2. Only do this step if printing in colour onto bleached white paper or creating a digital image. (For preference print onto parchment paper and ignore this step). Google the parchment texture of your choice and use File --> Place to insert it into the image. For the love of god make sure it’s at a big enough resolution to print properly onto your paper size.

  1. Draw a text box and paste your text into it. Don’t make it A4 if you can help it. I don’t care what size/shape it is but the best way for something to look not-printed is for it to not end up A4 sized. Therefore, plan to trim your paper once this is printed.
  2. Choose the handwriting font you like the best. DO NOT choose something really fancy, first, it’s unreadable, second, you’ll get memory issues from the file later on. I’ve chosen Avocado.
  3. From the Type menu, mess around with the paragraph settings until you get as ‘uneven’ a look as possible. You might want to negatively indent the first line as I’ve done here and/or change the line spacing from what’s standard.
  4. Choose a font colour that is not pure black. I’ve gone for dark brown. If you only have access to a black and white printer, choose black but choose a brush that has a high variance between the dark bits and the (mostly transparent) light bits. You’ll also want to make your text more transparent overall for a ‘watery black ink in varying weights’ effect.
  5. Go to Transparency and choose Multiply.

  1. Make sure your text is correct. Double check. Any edits will be a right pain in the neck from this point onwards.
  2. Go to Object --> Expand.
  3. Go to Object --> Path --> Simplify and choose 99% Curve Precision. You can omit this step if you don’t have much text but any more than a side of text will cause memory problems and crashing if you don’t do this.
  4. With all your text still selected, choose a suitable brush from the Brushes Library (look in Artistic --> Ink). In my experience simpler is actually better as it’s not actually drawing the letters but the outline of the letters so a fancy brush won’t look right as it will double-draw what should be one line. I have made my own brushes. These are very simple inky brushes in a variety of colours - these are the ones that were used to make the Empire map (the colour version). My coloured brush pack is here (
  5. Make sure that the stroke width is appropriate for ‘normal’ looking text. I’ve used 0.25.

  1. Now, we’re going to make it look like the ink is running out as we write. Select some of the text that’s about how long it would take the ink to run out (bearing in mind a writer would probably finish a sentence if possible) and knock down the stroke a bit, I’ve gone from 0.25 to 0.15. (Use shift to select multiples so you can do it all at once).Without deselecting all the text, deselect just the first 2/3 of each section - try to do this in the middle of words as well if you can. Then knock this stroke down again, I’ve gone down to .05.

  1. Now you can deselect and mess about with the weights as you like til it looks good.
  2. Because you can see the difference you should now be able to select the first couple of letters after each inky running out bit and make the stroke heavier (I’ve gone right up to 0.5) to represent the ink being very heavy here.
  3. More important that the step above is to jiggle the alignment at the left (usually shift things towards the right as that’s how people tend to write) and also vary slightly the spacing between the lines. That’s a big giveaway of printed fonts.

  1. Now, as much as you can be bothered, select individual letters and vary them. Certainly the start of some of the sentences, any important names, make those letters bigger so they break the invisible line that the font stays between. You might want to tinker with repeated letters too to make them look different when they’re next to each other. Keep it subtle and focus on e.g. the start of each paragraph to get maximum effort-to-effect ratio. You could also vary the transparency of certain letters, e.g. make your thin strokes also more transparent as the ink runs out. You can also stretch or skew some of the words if you want for extra variation - go for as long as you can be bothered. (The images don’t show these last two as I was doing the tutorial as fast as poss).
  2. You could stop here if you want.

  1. Or, you could add some ink splatters. Use Illustrator’s ink brushes for these, in the same colour as your ink. Make sure the brush is on Multiply. Don’t go crazy, keep it subtle and in places where it makes sense for the nib to have jumped to create a splat. Again concentrate on the beginning and ends of lines for maximum noticeability for least effort.
  2. Then add something that clearly is hand drawn like a + sign or a breaker line or something.


Fonts and printing help?

This is great. I don’t get why you use a parchment background though - that’s great on screen but will look weird when you print your document onto some paper!



I’m going to edit to make this clearer but I’m talking about sneaking the printing through the work colour printer which prints onto bleached white a4 paper. I’ve found printed backgrounds look pretty good as long as you trim the edges and print both sides of course.

For printing at home, obviously printing onto lovely textured parchment paper is best.

I’m also going to add a bit about black and white printing as it’s a different technique to make it look vaguely real.

Ta for the feedback.



Cheers @Daisy that’s awesome :D. At some point I must try this.

Oh and because it’s been mentioned elsewhere, this is an excellent link to some excellent free handwriting fonts with alternate letters -

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I have now added a link to the coloured ink brush pack I created for the Empire map. Here’s the direct link:

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