Modifying fonts

I would like to know if I can modify a font and use it in commercial products. I would be the only person using the modified font and it would never be sold as font. For example, I would add a box around a letter and use it in a printable. I would either print it out and sell or have a digital file that someone would buy and print out. I have been opening in inkscape and adding a box for each individual letter and then trying to line everything up. Extremely time consuming.
Everything I am seeing on modifying is geared toward redistributing the font software. Maybe i have missed it, but I haven’t found anything about modifying and using it yourself for personal or commercial projects . Not distributing the actual font software, just what is made with modified font.

First of all, thank you for your desire to comply with the wishes of authors of fonts released under the OFL.

The short answer is yes, please go ahead and do so.

The longer answer: deriving any kind of graphic or shape (bitmaps or vectors) from the outlines of an OFL-ed font is permitted as it is considered normal usage of the font. This also includes the production of commercial works that you intend to sell. Some EULAs in the type industry specifically segment and restrict the use of fonts in logos, online content, in print or in 3D forms, and want users to pay for separate permissions for these, but this is not the case for any fonts released under the OFL. If you simply use a font under OFL to create artwork that you distribute and/or sell (either as objects or as files) then you are not “modifying the font” you are just using the font as intended by their authors. In the example you use with making modifications to existing shapes in Inkscape, you would use system-installed fonts in Inkscape via the font menu, make modifications to various vectors or framing or whatever then export the final shapes to a .pdf .png .eps or .svg. This is not resulting in a new modified font but this is artwork made with the font.

It is only when you redistribute, bundle or modify the font itself (and not just the output of a program that has used the font) that other conditions of the license have to be respected (like renaming and selling only as part of a bundle). But for the usage you have described, please just go ahead. BTW, you are not required to mention that you have used that particular open font for that particular product but usually authors appreciate a small mention or a link in a colophon or similar. In any case making local modifications that you keep private and do not redistribute is not forbidden in the licensing agreement.

If you confirm that by “printables” you do not mean a bundle of different source files delivered together for further editing later on, where files are easily extractable and one of them is a modified font then it’s fine.

I hope this is clearer. Let us know if you have more questions.
If you have not already done so, I would recommend you read through the accompanying FAQ:

Best wishes for your commercial artwork projects.

Thank you so much for getting back to me. First, I’m sorry if you have actually answered my questions and I’m just not getting it. I know absolutely nothing about fonts. Also computers and I in general just don’t get along. Why I design things on the computer baffles me, but in the end my projects turn out great. Anyway, my font knowledge is basically pressing the “a” and an “a” appears on my screen. I don’t know anything about how it was made or how it got there. And I have a 2yo, 4yo and husband who have an issue with something every 3 minutes and I keep having to re-read the same stuff over and over again…my brain hurts.
I’m not sure I explained it quite right though. I wouldn’t be using inkscape for the boxing of the letter, that’s what I do now. I have a file that includes all of the separate letters and I put a box around each one. It’s terribly time consuming though because I have to grab all of the letters I need from that file, duplicate some if needed and lay them out. Then line them up and get the spacing consistent. I am wondering if I can take a font, put it in a font program and add a box to each individual letter. So when I type an “a” the box would automatically be there around the “a”. But again I would be the only one using it for designing printables, which right now can only be printed out by the person purchasing it.
That brings up another question though. I’ve been told I can embed fonts in an editable pdf, but does that include modified fonts? For example, I design a weekly meal planner with days of the week and other stuff, someone purchases it and they download the file. They can then can fill out the editable places with the meals for each day with that embedded font and print it out.
Another question, and I think part of it is answered. Can I take a font, modified or not, use inkskape to make them svg cut files then use my cutting machine to cut out the letters and sell those cut out letters? They would either be a word where all of the letters are connected or single letters to form words or the entire alphabet having several of the most used letters so people could make their own words
Thanks again!

It sounds like automating design at the level of the font editor rather than at the level of the vector editor is going to be a lot more work… I expect you are still going through a vector graphics package stage anyway, so you will have more flexibility there.

Making local modifications of the font as part of the work on a design project - like in your proposed scenario - is allowed. Only if you redistribute that modified font will you have to rename it to something other than the Reserved Font Name(s). And you can only sell it as part of a bundle with other software.

Embedding a font into a document is something the OFL explicitly allows (also clarifying that the license inheritance does not apply to the document itself). We make a distinction: embedding is shipping certain parts of the font inside a document where it’s not possible to get the whole original font back whereas modifying a font is creating a derivative font that other software can use and that is independent of a particular document. So, in your meal planner example, yes, you can embed your chosen font under OFL and redistribute/sell that document. You own the rights to the document you made using the font and you attach to it the license you want. Easier that way.

Making and selling physical objects created from outlines coming from a font under OFL, in your example, machine-cut letters made from svg exports, is also allowed (it’s mentionned in the first question and answer of our FAQ).