#plotdevice Page 1 of 2 (18 posts) — ArchiveFeed

After a break of several months, I’m getting back to working on Press. Status is pretty much the same as last time I posted about it. (It’s actually even a little more behind than that, since I had HarfBuzz Python bindings working then, but now — after upgrading to macOS Sierra — I’m running into issues with PyGObject’s introspection module. I may end up having to write my own HarfBuzz bindings with CFFI. We’ll see.)

The high-level roadmap right now: get font embedding to work correctly, add support for embedding images (which should be fairly easy, I think), integrate ICU for language analysis and HarfBuzz for shaping, and add color space support.

As of now, I plan to use Press for making language charts (which I’ve been using PlotDevice for) and picture books. Once it’s to the point where I can do that, then I’ll start on Ink (low-level typesetting engine, intended for typesetting books, and higher-level rule-based engine for making it easier to work with).


As mentioned on Twitter, I’ve decided to write my own typesetting engine, called Ink. Apparently I’m crazy.

The details are still very much in the air, but here are some quick notes:

  • Written in Rust (for speed)
  • Programmatic (sort of like TeX)
  • Scripting language for extensibility (JavaScript or Lua or Python)
  • Intended for use in typesetting book interiors, covers, and charts
  • Possibly some kind of template/data division
  • Full OpenType feature support (shaping via HarfBuzz)
  • Custom PDF generation library (inkpdf)

Reasons for doing this insane thing:

  • PlotDevice only runs on OS X and I want the source of my language charts to be usable on other platforms.
  • I’d like to open source the books I typeset, so InDesign isn’t a great solution.
  • TeX is powerful and well-seasoned and all, but it’s not exactly pleasant or easy to work with, especially for the kind of stuff I do.
  • I’ll learn a lot and have fun while I’m at it.

The initial roadmap, not necessarily in order:

  • Write inkpdf in Python (which I think will be a better fit for the charts anyway)
  • Get familiar with HarfBuzz
  • Learn Rust
  • Port inkpdf to Rust
  • Plan out the Ink language (I’ve started on this and it’s looking promising)
  • Figure out how scripting is going to work and embed the interpreter

I’ll document the process on this blog, of course. First steps: reading the PDF spec and figuring out how to make PDFs by hand.

(For those who’ve been reading for a while, Ink was also the name of my static blog engine. That’s now ink-static, and at some point I’ll either retire it completely or change the name to something unrelated.)


Yesterday’s generative art piece, called “Circlecells” (these names are amazing, I know):




The code is on GitHub. I also posted a few process pics to Twitter yesterday. There are also three other accompanying pieces in the set generated with different seeds: 02, 03, 04.


  • There’s a 20×20 grid which gets populated with an initial seed population of living/dead cells. (I get a random value between 0 and 5; if it’s 0 or 1, the cell is alive.)
  • The lines are drawn from any living cells to any immediately neighboring living cells.
  • The size of each circle is dependent on how many living neighbors the cell has.
  • The initial round is drawn in light tan, then the grid is run through a modified Conway’s Game of Life (any cells with 2, 3, or 5 living neighbors are alive in the next round).
  • Two more iterated rounds are drawn, one in a slightly darker tan and the last in dark red. (Drawing is done with the multiply blending mode.)
  • I textured the piece in Photoshop afterwards, using some Kyle T. Webster brushes — add canvas, add noise, encaustic grit, a couple others that I can’t remember.