I'm facing the following problem:

I would like to compare different fonts in a presentation by arranging single letters such as 'a' next to each other. Imagine a slide with, say, a Helvetica 'a' on the left and a Georgia 'a' on the right.

The reason why these have to be images is because I would like to use Keynotes's/PowerPoint's "Gallery" feature that lets me switch between those images.

However, typing a big letter in TextEdit or a similar program, then taking a screenshot of that area is a little bit cumbersome, and given the fact that most letters have a different width, it's not very precise. It would be nice to have an app that would put a letter in the center of a say 300x300, transparent square and then save it as a PNG.

Using a program like Acorn (the only image manipulation program that I have at the moment) is difficult too, because I would always have to re-center the text field, depending on the width of the letter.

I hope this makes clear why I am in the need of a helpful program.


You can use Automator.

Open Automator. Choose Application from the templates.

Add a Ask for Text action. Tick 'Require an Answer' Add a Create Banner Image from Text action.

Tick 'Use text input as image filename'.

Open the actions options options.

Tick 'Show this action when workflow runs'

Add a Lopp Action.

Control + click on the Loop Actions Title bar and select 'ignore input'

From the Loop Actions's drop down menus, select 'Ask to Continue' and Use the 'current results as input'

Save and run.

You will then be prompted to enter your text. Then after you ok that you will be prompted to Choose you font. Use the font size to determine the image size.

example 64 in Helvetica Bold gives me about 46x77 The same font but at size 300 gives me 177x360.

In each case I am only using 1 character.

enter image description here

If you want to do it from 'Selection'

Open Automator. Choose Services from the templates.

Set the 'Sevices Receives input' to :rich text * and in* any application

Add a Create Banner Image from Text action.

Tick 'Use text input as image filename'.

Set the Text Style drop down menu to : 'Use Style of Rich Text input'.

Optionally you can add a 'Reveal in Finder' Action

The Size is set by what ever the original fonts are.

enter image description here

To use the Service. You can select some text, and control click to get a contextual menu. Listed is the services sub menu. Under this you should find your new service that will run on the selected text.

  • Just updated my answer with a a selected text option – markhunte Jan 25 '12 at 18:26
  • Thank you for your reply, this was really helpful and I'm glad that it can be done with nothing else than Automator. However, every time I create the image, a little whitespace is added to the bottom (probably because of paragraph style/line spacing). Is there a way to get rid of that, and making the image a perfect square? – Ann Jan 27 '12 at 12:03
  • You could add a 'Pad Image' action between the banner action and the Reveal action. set the size to 300x300 and tick the'Scale before Padding'. I will have a look at stripping line endings... – markhunte Jan 27 '12 at 18:07
  • I've just tried your method again in another program--TextEdit--and thankfully, a whitespace at the bottom isn't added! Unlike Keynote or Pages, TextEdit seems to ignores paragraph styles or whatever causes that behavior. I'll stick to your method then, it's really simple and fast! – Ann Jan 27 '12 at 19:31
  • Thats great, glad it help. – markhunte Jan 27 '12 at 21:03

Not perfect, but...

Use Font Book (free with Mac OS X). Select Preview > Custom. In the display pane, choose the font size you want, type a couple of spaces and the letter you want to display. Select each font you want, you do a "screenshot" of the Font Book window (Command + Shift + 4, hit space over the Font Book window, and left-click the mouse.

Go through all the fonts you want. You'll end up with a bunch of images on your desktop. Drag them all onto the Acorn icon. They'll all open.

Create in Acorn a new image the size you want. For each screenshot image, copy the content and paste it onto the new image. Move it about till you just have the letter in the center with white all around. Save.


The program Opacity does exactly what you ask.

It can programmatically output files based on recipes, exact sizing, alpha transparency, and also supports variables so you could conceivably automate cycling through letters. You'd probably have to define the font manually, but it covers all the other requirements you ask.

I would check out Skitch as well - it makes snapping exact pixel sizes fairly painless and gives good control over output options. I don't think it can get you the transparency though so you'll need a second step for that.

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