ZX-Origins - free 8-bit fonts for games

I started designing fonts around 1987 on an 8-bit Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Many years later, my involvement in the Spectrum emulation scene led aul Dunn to ask me if I could provide fonts for his excellent BASIN Sinclair BASIC for Windows. My interest in 8x8 fonts was suitably rekindled, and I ended up delivering about 60 - some even extracted from my original +3 disk images.

I wanted to get these fonts online earlier! Raw 7698-byte files, however, are only of use to BASIN users or those suitably familiar with the convoluted process and tools to get them into a Spectrum or emulator. Even trying to use them on Windows was a pain given that TrueType only cares about scalable fonts (SBIT embedded bitmaps are rare these days).

Fellow typographer and Spectrum fan Paul van der Laan gave me some tips for pixel-perfect TrueType fonts at specific multiples (8px on Windows). Armed with this knowledge, I put together an automated pipeline using a modified version of John Elliot's psftools which converts the original ZX font to PSF and then to BDF. Converting to TrueType TTF involved FontLab 5 Studio and some Python scripting while other conversions required some off-the-shelf tools and a bunch of custom ones all tied together with bash scripts.

It's impossible to get a real feel for a font from a simple run of letters. To alleviate this, I created code that re-renders hand-picked game screenshots to show them in real-world scenarios. If your browser supports HTML5 canvas, you'll see these. You can also drag any raw 768-byte Spectrum font file such as those created by BASIN to any of my ZX-Origins pages to see your font rendered with these samples.

The uploads are now mostly complete - there are 78 typefaces and well over 120 actual fonts once you include the variations, styles, and weights that some typefaces have. This number may increase from time to time if, and when, I finish off fonts in my _incomplete folder, resurrect some abandoned ones (sorry Unwanted Attention), or get inspired for something entirely new.

So without further ado, head over to ZX Origins and grab a font or two for your latest 8-bit retro game!

2 responses

  1. Avatar for Lee Bee

    Thanks so much for sharing this amazing collection of fonts with the world, Damien!

    Lee Bee July 30, 2020
  2. Avatar for Rafał Michalski

    Wow, your collection is awesome!

    Rafał Michalski January 18, 2021