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Taking Type to the Next Level with Alternate Characters

Are you sick of your type looking plain and boring? Many OpenType fonts have alternate characters built into them that can transform your type into a beautiful piece of art. By using these alternate characters you can add things like flourishes and flair to your type with ease. Some type faces have alternate characters that can help out with legibility at smaller sizes. Even some handwritten fonts have alternate characters to change the style of a characters to make it seem more handwritten. In this article we will take a deep dive into using alternate characters.

How do you tell what fonts have alternates? Well most likely the fonts you are downloading from free font sites like DAFont.com will not have alternates. You have to pay money for a good font, where the designer of the font put in extra characters into the font family. At the end of this article, I have listed some of the most amazing fonts that have alternates.

Types of Alternates

Ligatures – This is where two or more characters are linked together. If you look at the example below the T and H characters are linked together. The font used in this example is Aphrodite Slim Pro.

Logotypes – This is where a word is stylized as a logo to be included in your type. You will usually find these in the Show Entire Glyphs and not as an alternate.

Biform characters – These alternate characters can make capital letters have a lowercase look or lowercase letters with capital letter look while keeping the same size and weight. The font used in this example is Press Gothic Pro.

Swash characters – This is where a certain letter can have a fancy look to them. You will see swash characters in lot’s of calligraphic fonts. They are very useful at the beggining and end of a word. The font used in this example is Burgues Script.

How To Access Alternates

To gain a better understanding of how you can benefit from using alternate characters, we should first look at how you can access them. Both Adobe Illustrator and InDesign have a great way to access these alternate characters. Unfortunately, Adobe Photoshop does not have a way to access them via a Glyphs panel. In this tutorial we are going to use Illustrator.

Step 1

The font I am going to be using is Aphrodite Slim Pro. It is an amazing handmade font full of alternate and ligature forms designed by Sabrina Lopez and Maximiliano Sproviero. You have to purchase it, but it is well worth your money. You can buy it from myfonts.com here. Make sure you buy the Pro version as it includes all the different alternate characters.

Step 2

Using the Type Tool, type out Media on one layer and change the font to Aphrodite Slim Pro. I set the font size to 72 pt.

Step 3

Using the Type Tool create another type layer and type in Militia. Place it where you feel fit.

Step 4

Open up the Glyphs panel by going to Window > Type > Glyphs

This Glyphs panel gives you the ability to see all of the characters as well as the alternate characters for any given font. This panel is the heart to this tutorial. It opens by default showing all the characters available for the font.

Step 5

It is great to see all the different characters available to us, but the real power of the Glyphs panel is being able to show the Alternates for a selected character.

With the Type Tool, select the first "e" in Media. In the drop down box for Show change it to Alternates for Current Selection. This will show all the alternates for the letter e. Find one you like by clicking on each of the different thumbnails.

Step 6

Continue going through and selecting different characters and seeing which ones look the best. Don’t over do it though!

Step 7

You may have noticed while selecting some of the characters that there are ornaments included with the type. I created two new type layers and found two ornaments that fit in perfectly with the type. The letters I used were X and Y. Using the selection tool I put them up against the other letters.


While Photoshop does not have a Glyphs panel, you can create your typography inside of Illustrator and copy and paste it into Photoshop to manipulate.

Great Fonts With Alternates

Aphrodite Slim Pro
This font as seen in the tutorial above has more than 1000 glyphs. It a beautiful calligraphy based font.

Ministry Script
Ministry Script was designed to be “A time capsule that marks both the American ad art of the 1920s, and the current new-millennium acrobatics of digital type.
Over 1000 characters

Affair is an extraordinary new calligraphic typeface by Alejandro Paul with a party full of swash characters, ligatures, and ornaments.

Mussica is a crisp font created by Corradine Fonts. It feature a few extra glyphs for your characters that add a wow effect.

Blanchard is a revival and elaborate extension of Muriel, a 1950 metal face made by Blanchard Trochut for the Fonderie Typographique Française, that was published simultaneously by the Spanish Gans foundry under the name Juventud. Blanchard is a script that embodies the post-war narrow decorative aesthetic that would become the instantly recognizable feature of that era’s design.

Metroscript is a handwritten script with styles from the 1920s and the 1950s. With a huge vintage sports theme, it has many ligatures, swashes, alternates, foreign accented characters and tails—all of which connect seamlessly.

Liza Pro, Underware’s latest creation, is a live-script typeface. Thanks to its extremely intelligent OpenType architecture, she approaches human hand lettering as close as technically possible. Liza Pro deeply analyzes the text. Out of a stock of 4000 hand crafted characters, Liza creates the most optimal combination. All of this works automatically. All you need to do is typing your lettres d’amour, and Liza makes the text always look different.

Nelly Script Flourish
Nelly Script Flourish is the jewelry to a beautifully appointed lady, the icing to the wedding cake, the VaVoom! Nelly Script Flourish comes complete with a large variety of alternate upper and lowercase forms in OpenType format.

Mon Amour Script Pro
Mainly for invitations; Mon Amour Script Pro, is an Open-Type font, which will delight you. It has the alternate, swash and ligature functions.

Quijote Sauvage Pro
Quijote Sauvage Pro is a very expressive calligraphic font. It includes all the ligatures, alternates and swashes..

Buffet Script
Buffet Script is based on fantastic calligraphy by Alf Becker, arguably the greatest American sign lettering artist of all time

Paradise Script
Paradise is a script font thought to be used in a wide range of pieces of design. From packaging to invitations, Paradise really looks elegant and sometimes playful at the same time. The possibilities of alternates, ligatures and combinations of them are huge. Calligraphy lovers know that words sometimes start or end with extra flourishes: This is the reason of Paradise Starters and Paradise Finishers, which will always give a sensual touch to the written word.

PF Champion Script Pro
PF Champion Script Pro is the most advanced and powerful script ever made. Four sets of alternate swashed capitals as well as a plethora of ornaments and frames (117) was included.

About the author


My name is Jeya and I am one of the founders of Media Militia. I enjoy writing new content and designing something fresh! I currently live in beautiful Reno, Nevada. If you have any ideas or comments, please send me an email at contact@mediamilitia.com.


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