FontLab Valar Ilis! A Song of Conscripts and Conlangs

Some of our users of FontLab VI who live in Westeros have been asking what the “VI” actually stands for. Since the TV tale of Westeros (that is, Game of Thrones) has just ended, we’re here to provide a spoiler‐free answer: “VI” is an abbreviation that in High Valyrian means “Valar Ipradtis” (all men must eat). Or was it “Valar Ilis” (all men must have a registered place of residence*)? One of those, it was.

Peterson at a convention. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Part of what lures viewers into author George R.R. Martin’s fantasy world is the sense of rich history and detailed background in the book series A Song of Ice and Fire that the TV show is based on. Much of this can be credited to Martin, but one thing he didn’t do, beyond a few words and phrases, was create the languages. That is instead the work of a remarkable linguist named David J. Peterson, who has invented dozens of languages, including at least 20 for films and television shows.

For Game of Thrones, Peterson first won a contest to create Dothraki, the language of the barbarian/nomad horse people of the plains, a tribe that key player Danaerys Targaryen marries into and becomes the leader of, after the death of her husband. Peterson followed that up with a rendition of High Valyrian, a dead/scholarly language occupying a role similar to that of Latin in Renaissance Europe; not spoken natively by anyone, but the language of scholars everywhere, particularly written.

These are just two of the couple of dozen languages Peterson has made for various media properties, primarily films and television. He has done so many that it is easy to lose count, but one simple metric is: how many separate shows has he created an Elvish language for? Three to date, and one suspects there will be more. He has at least six films and nine TV shows to his credit so far, including two Marvel movies (Doctor Strange and Thor: The Dark World), The 100, Bright, and more in the works, including the upcoming Denis Villeneuve version of Dune.

Peterson’s Sheli script

Peterson didn’t create writing systems (also called scripts) for the Dothraki and High Valyrian languages for Game of Thrones, since both the books and the TV show spelled the phrases using the Latin alphabet. However, he has invented the scripts for many of his languages, especially the many he has designed for his own entertainment, on his own schedule. He also designed fonts that represent his invented scripts. While the visual representation is not his first focus, he still needs a flexible and powerful tool to make fonts for these fictional languages — and his tool of choice for years has been FontLab. First FontLab Studio 5, and now FontLab VI.

Peterson’s Epiq script

The invented or constructed languages even have a shorthand name: conlangs. There is a whole conlang community around them! While some people are fans of just one particular conlang because of the media associated with it (such as Star Trek fans who get into Klingon, or Tolkien fans who get into his Elvish Sindarin and his Dwarvish Khuzdul), others get into the entire idea of inventing languages and scripts. Constructed scripts are called conscripts. Some are used to write just one conlang (usually of the same name), some are used for multiple conlangs (just like the Latin script is used to write English, German, Polish or Yoruba). Some people even invent conscripts to write existing human languages.

From a font creation perspective, conlang fonts offer a number of challenges, beyond just figuring out what the characters should look like. At least some written languages have characters that combine or alter depending on context, or group in some interesting ways. In our world, the Indic writing systems (such as Devanagari, used to write the Hindi language) are a good example of this. Coding this involves using OpenType layout features — found in the Features panel in FontLab VI.

Peterson’s Sidaan script

Another wrinkle is that these newly‐invented characters have no standard slots in Unicode, so the designer is faced with the less‐than‐exciting choices of either using existing assigned slots “incorrectly,” or making use of Unicode’s Private Use Area (PUA) codepoints which have no standard meaning, and are not easily typed with standard keyboard layouts.

Peterson’s Tan Tils script

If the idea of making your own languages appeals, you are not alone, and making the fonts for them can be great fun. The ConScript Unicode Registry project coordinates the assignment of PUA codepoints for constructed writing systems, including scripts for conlangs, while the ConLang Code Registry provides ISO‐639 – 3‐compatible language codes — so if you’d like to take a shot at making a Ferengi, Ssûraki or Tengwar font, make sure your glyphs are properly encoded!

More on conlangs and conscripts:

*) “Valar ilis” literally means: all men must “be” or “reside”; from High Valyrian “ilagon”: to be there, to be in a certain place, to lie, to reside, to exist. The phrase is used in Westeros by the officials of the Bureau of the Master of Coins to remind everyone that you need to have a registered place of residence when you’re applying for a permit to excavate minerals, to sell minerals, to sell swords or sword‐like objects that are longer than 21.5 inches, to operate an establishment that serves alcohol after 9:35 pm, or when you wish to import live chickens or other birds that resemble chickens from the distance or that produce sounds that resemble those of a chicken, or when you intend to play a musical instrument in public, or for other related purposes, unless you carry a Vagabond Certificate issued by the High Office of Beer, Groceries and Migration.

FontLab VI 6.1.4: Open and export .glyphs files and other highlights

FontLab VI 6.1.4: new high‐precision segment editing, Font window cell icons for composites and auto layers, smoother kerning workflow, italic linked metrics, snapping Knife — plus smarter glyph deletion, better OTF hinting export, and all‐new .glyphs format support! See the full release notes for details!

Open and export .glyphs files and other highlights from FontLab VI 6.1.4

FontLab VI 6.1.3

FontLab VI 6.1.3 is faster and more streamlined: arrow‐key Tunni lines editing; precise non‐node segment editing; easier free transformations; better anchor decomposition; improved classes and features editing; easier font export customization; better UFO3 handling; single‐stroke fonts; improved Sketchboard text frames.

Use Sketchboard Text frames in FontLab VI 6.1.3
Use Sketchboard Text frames in FontLab VI 6.1.3

FontLab VI 6.1.2

FontLab 6.1.2 is released!

With FontLab VI 6.1.2, you can now print, synchronize text across multiple windows with Echo Text, override and add custom OpenType tables using the new Tables panel, quickly add and edit classes in the improved Classes panel, create OpenType Symbol-encoded fonts, restore your panels when you open a VFC/VFJ, and much more! See the release notes for details about 6.1.2.

FontLab VI: 12 releases in 12 months!

FontLab VI: 12 releases in 12 months!

We’ve just published FontLab VI 6.1.2, the 12th release since the initial version of our ultra bold font editor 12 months ago. We’d like to thank you all, type designers and font developers, students and pros, for the fantastic feedback we have received this year. FontLab VI is evolving thanks to you, and we have many great things to come in 2019!

FontLab VI Cyber Monday Sale 2018!

FontLab VI Cyber Monday sale

Celebrate the upcoming first birthday of FontLab VIthrough Cyber Monday (November 26th), buy FontLab VI for $299 $459, upgrade from FontLab Studio 5 for $169 $199, and if you’re a student or teacher, get your license for just $195 $229!

Since FontLab VI premiered last year in December 2017, we’ve released ten new versions of our ultra bold font editor, each adding great new functionality and fixing bugs. Almost a month ago, we released version 6.1, and restarted the free 30‐day trial period. So if your trial expired in the past, download FontLab VI now, try it, and remember: our Thanksgiving birthday sale ends Monday night!

Buy now or learn more about FontLab VI.

FontLab VI version 6.1 available

Nonspacing components in FontLab VI 6.1 let you exclude diacritical marks from metrics linking.

FontLab VI version 6.1.0 is now available as a free update to FontLab VI. This major update includes numerous new features, many tiny enhancements to make things work more intuitively, as well as countless bug fixes. This article covers major highlights, and gives brief explanations for some of them. We have another blog post that gives a detailed description of the font filters, components and metrics improvements, and our release notes describe all other improvements and bug fixes.


  • Design: Components, improved Metrics expressions, Nonspacing components, Measurements panel, X‐Ray view, display lengths and angles while drawing
  • Font Window: Sidebar, Filters, better character placeholders
  • Variations: Matchmaker enhancements, better kerning coordination across masters, Smart rounding, custom Family names for individual instances
  • Technology: Source panel, VFJ format improvements, customizable location of your user data, layer merging, improvements in TrueType Hinting and OpenType feature editing

The 30‐day trial restarted: Don’t have FontLab VI yet and your previous 30‐day trial run expired? We have restarted the trial period for the 6.1 update, so you can download FontLab VI and enjoy it again for a month! Buy or try it at https://​fontlab​.com/VI

Font filters, components and glyph metrics in FontLab VI 6.1

The enhanced Sidebar now gives you many powerful ways of viewing, sorting and working with the glyphs in your font.

FontLab VI 6.1 is a major free update to FontLab VI that brings a large number of improvements. This article gives a detailed description of the improvements in these areas:

Additional reading: 

  • For a general overview of the FontLab VI 6.1 improvements, see the FontLab VI 6.1 blog post.
  • For a complete description of the improvements and bug fixes in FontLab VI 6.1, see the Release Notes.

New FontLab VI price: $459!

New Price graphicFive weeks ago, we made many new users happy when we put FontLab VI on sale. The sale was about to end, but we have some great news: we’ve decided to make FontLab VI accessible to more people — permanently!

Effective immediately, what was the sale price is staying: you can buy FontLab VI at $459 instead of $689 today, tomorrow, and next month, too! FontLab Studio 5 users can upgrade at $199, Fontographer users at $229.

So if you didn’t get the chance to take advantage of our summer sale, visit our store to license FontLab VI!

Free FontLab VI workshops at ATypI Antwerp (Sep 11, 2018)

If you’re in Antwerp on Tuesday, September 11, 2018 — join us at our free FontLab VI workshops that we host as part of the ATypI Antwerp conference! The workshops are free but you need to register.

In the morning, take either an intro to FontLab VI for FontLab Studio 5 users, or the FontLab VI class for everyone, then join us in the advanced workshop in the afternoon! Please bring your own Mac or Windows laptop. If you don’t already have a FontLab VI license, please download the 30‐day trial from http://​fontlab​.com/vi before the workshop.

If you’re participating in the main ATypI Antwerp conference, Thomas, Yuri and Adam will be there as well, so come talk to us if you have any questions about FontLab VI!

FontLab VI for FontLab Studio 5 users

Are you a FontLab Studio 5 user who is ready to try FontLab VI? Learn what is new in FontLab VI, what is different, how your workflow can speed up with the new tools, and avoid that “who moved my cheese?” feeling with this half‐day workshop presented by FontLab’s Thomas Phinney and Yuri Yarmola.

Besides showing specific things you ask for, we will cover:

  • How Elements are better Components
  • Rapid tool vs Pen tool: why and when to use Rapid?
  • Metrics and Kerning workflows
  • How to use Power Nudge, Power Guides, Smart Corners, Tunni Lines, and other new editing tools
  • OpenType Variations support and workflow (replacing Multiple Master features)
  • Working with flexible Layers instead of just Mask and bitmap layers

Type drawing basics with FontLab VI

If you’re just starting your adventure with type design, you need an idea, an eye, a tool and the skill and knowledge to use that tool. In this FontLab VI workshop, Adam Twardoch will help you acquire the latter aspects. Together, we will take an existing mini‐font that has just a few glyphs, and we will extend it while exploring the rich set of drawing, spacing and kerning tools offered by FontLab VI. Adam will answer questions and help you along the way, so when you get your own idea, you’ll be well‐equipped to efficiently turn it into a font.

Advanced type design and font creation with FontLab VI

In this workshop aimed at experienced type designers, Adam Twardoch and Yuri Yarmola will discuss the more advanced concepts of FontLab VI that can help you streamline your type design and font production process: drawing using guides, grids, smart nodes and open contours; creating font families through layers, masters and variation; spacing with expressions, kerning with classes; extending glyph sets with elements and anchors; and technological aspects like OpenType features, hinting, exporting final fonts and interchange with other font creation apps.