Here's a quick tutorial on how to use reLix, my lightguide display layer font from my Analog Digits packs! I'm using Affinity Publisher, but these steps should be mostly do-able in other layout apps and word processors.

Note: about rescaling graphics

If your app lets you set properties to “scale with object”, then do so!

In the Affinity Suite, you can set strokes to scale with the objects they're on in the stroke menu, and you can set effects to scale with the layers they're applied to in the bottom of the effects pop-up.

Doing this will save some headaches if you ever want to rescale your graphics, but keep the same look.

Step 0: The inspiration

There's quite a few photos of lightguides (and the modern Lixie display) online, but it took a little time to find all the numerals. Here's a photo showing some of them lit up in well-lit conditions (source) and a screenshot of a bomb timer from the Bond film Goldfinger, showing how they can look under darker conditions (the older tech used to shoot that film vs get the auction photos in the first pic might also have something to do with how different they look). There's also a handy video that shows a lightguide changing between different numerals.

Step 1: Set up the layers

Make a text-art layer, set the font to reLix, type in your text, and duplicate the layer three times. Open the Typography pop-up (Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + T). Delete the text in the top and bottom layers and replace it with an equal number of lowercase “o”s (top layer) or uppercase “O”s (bottom layer). Finally, select the bottom-middle layer and apply stylistic set 2 (ss02/“unlit stack”). Your text should now look like this:

Most word processors and layout apps will have some way to access these font features like stylistic sets (if the font has them). You can find more info in your app's documentation or in the user guide for reLix!

Step 2: Flat colours

Give each layer a fitting colour. I've gone with a medium-light grey for the unit outline, pale yellow for the lit layer, medium-dark grey stroke and no fill for the unlit stack, and black for the unit background (those are the layers top to bottom).

Technically the unit outline isn't super-important because you could just get rid of it and add a stroke outline to the unit background. However, that'd put it behind the lit layer and mean the light could spill onto the outline, which is in front of the lit layer in reality. Just to be on the safe side, I'm using the separate outline here.

Step 3: Glow.

Add a yellow inner and outer glow to the lit layer.

Final step: Fade

Add a little blur to the unlit stack to fade them out a bit into the background:

Extra options

If you want it to look more like the first example above, where the numbers are made out of dots that don't blend together into lines, then:

  1. Apply stylistic set 4 (ss04/“unlit spots”) to both the lit and unlit layers.

  2. Duplicate the unlit layer 9 times, so there's 1 lit layer and 10 unlit layers, all showing the same numbers.

  3. Replace every digit in the first unlit layer with “1”.

  4. Replace every digit on the second unlit layer with “2”.

  5. Do the same thing for each unlit layer until you reach the tenth/final unlit layer, where you replace every digit with “0”. Now every unit should have the lit text and an unlit version of every numeral.

You have to do it this way because there's no “unlit dotted stack” layer like the regular “unlit stack” layer (it'd be annoyingly complicated to make that layer). Here's how this looks in Affinity Designer, with the text written in each layer listed on the left (from top to bottom):

Note: This'll also include unlit versions of the lit characters, because it includes unlit versions of every character. That shouldn't matter much because the unlit layers are behind the lit ones, but you could always replace those characters with spaces.

Hope this helps! If this tutorial caught your eye, you can find reLix in my Analog Digits font packs, along with other fonts for retro electronic displays.

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