Mike Hebrew Font Family

Michael Cunliffe Thompson's picture

(To admin, third attempt to post)

This font grew out of my calligraphy starting with the italic. The regular was created to achieve sharper screen displays.

William Berkson's picture

My Hebrew isn't very good, so take this with a grain of salt. To me, the style can work, but it is too irregular in current execution. For example, the chet is much wider than the hey. The chaf looks wider than both, etc.

Another thing is that the 'baseline' is very irregular. I know that the top is more important for alignment in Hebrew, but still you have an awful lot of variation. Also I see on your web site the sample with nikud, and they fit poorly. I don't see how this style can work with nikud, if you have the varied baseline.

John Hudson's picture

Mike, can you post a PDF? This will make it easier to assess the design.

Michael Cunliffe Thompson's picture

I don't have any software for creating PDF format however I will try later to attach a MS Word file with embedded fonts which I hope will fulfill the purpose.


Michael Cunliffe Thompson's picture

Here is a MS Word document containing a samples of my fonts. The file has embedded fonts. Please let me know if this works for you. (Unfortunately I don't have software that can generate PDF)

sample_with_embedded_fonts.doc (1119.2 k)

William Berkson's picture

Mike, your latest post does work in getting through the fonts. Here the two-level 'baseline' does look more regular, but still I think there is a problem with widths, spacing and nikud. On the widths you need some feedback from those who regularly read Hebrew. It does have merit, and is worth perfecting, I think.

Michael Cunliffe Thompson's picture

Thank you for your comments. I'll be dealing with the widths and the baseline for the next release.

Positioning of niqud and cantillation marks is not a part of my font, it is done by the wordprocessor in this case Word 2002. With Word, the worst examples of the placement of nikud are with the letter caf-sofit where the long descender is on top of the pronunciation marks qamats and the sheva. MicroSoft must have seen this problem because they added composite characters with correct placement. However these are not a part of Unicode, you access them as special characters. I will change my samples to use these characters.

Religeous texts with nikud and cantillation may be a poor application of my fonts design as "square" fonts are the most legible. I will be putting an effort into the aesthetic detail of the design for display in large font sizes.


William Berkson's picture

I have been using Hadasa MFO for the Hebrew quotations in my new guide to Pirkei Avot. MasterFonts claims that this font and a select number of their other open type fonts place nikud perfectly. From what I can see, they are right. (I don't think Word will use the open type features; InDesign ME does.) So this kind of thing can be done in open type. Also John Hudson's SBL Hebrew (free download) also I believe places the nikud and also cantillation marks very well.

I don't think your design with the two-level base line will permit good placement of nikud, but this may not be a problem for you, if you intend it for Israeli use.

hrant's picture

Mike, that Word doc doesn't work for me (I get something that looks a lot like a Hebrew Courier), so I figure I'll wait... If you can't make a PDF* then maybe a much larger GIF (but preferably housed on your own site, not this thread)?

* Note that some illustration programs do that - you don't necessarily need Acrobat-Full or InDesign.


Michael Cunliffe Thompson's picture

Here we are. I created an jpg image of two pangrams. (They use every letter of the Hebrew AlephBet, I believe, although I haven't checked.) I created them as vector text using Paint Shop Pro. How THAT relates to True Type I really don't know.


When doing calligraphy, I am always copying from a trial layout, so I see the shape of each word before writing it. I imagine how to make the word fit together. A key element is the long lower bar (maybe a kind of swash) of letters such as bet, caf, peh etc. Such a swash can pass under the bottom of the following letter (on its right).
If this font is set or written tightly, many letters would overlap but not touch. The top left of some letters can fit above the top right of the following letter. Also the bottom left of some letters can fit under the bottom right of the following letter.

Certainly this needs tidying up. I need to change many letters slightly. Where should I start? Which are the most offensive letters?


Michael Cunliffe Thompson's picture

Here is a rough revision. Previously the strokes at the bottom of letters such as bet, caf, pe etc were treated as calligraphic extravegences and allowed to go below the baseline. I have now confined them to withinh the bounds of the "e-height". What do you think?
Rough revision of base line

adavidow's picture

I see what other folks mean when they talk about the difficulty of good nikud placement with such a wandering baseline. Indeed, it will be hard to make this style work with poetic or biblical hebrew (where nikud matter). On the other hand, I would argue that this is a wonderful informal idea, and, with the possible exception of special composites for the Yiddish composites, nikud might not be so important.

Mike, if you work in OpenType, you should be able to set up the vowels (nikud), and then to set up the composite characters so that the overall feel could be quite good. I don't believe that there is a useful way to handle nikud within the confinces of operating system and font prior to OpenType.

There is obviously still a lot of work to be done starting with the baseline and sidebearings, but this is a neat start.

Sorry to have taken so long to get over from the Hebrew type blog (www.ivritype.com/hebrew/ ) to take a look.

William Berkson's picture

Mike, I think your face lost some of its charm in evening up the baseline. I think the problem you are wrestling with is the problem of changing calligraphy or lettering into type. With lettering, the idea is that you can change strokes to suit the neighboring letters, whereas in type you can't.

So in type you can either figure out how to regularize the letters so they work with all the others, or you can go wild with the Open Type stuff. House Industries has done both with lettering, and you might take a look a them to see various ways they have dealt with the problem for latin letters.

John Hudson's picture

Hello, Mike. Sorry I have not had much opportunity to contribute to this discussion. It looks much tidier with the baseline regularised, but also a bit less dynamic, as William notes.

With regard to nikud, here is an idea for you: keep the forms of bet, kaf, etc. that went below the baseline, but also include the shorter versions. Then you can set up an OpenType contextual alternates feature to subsitute the shorter forms whenever they are followed by a combining nikud (and, obviously, use the short forms in combined letter+nikud presentation form characters).

I did something like this for the ayin in my SBL Hebrew typeface: the default form descends below the baseline, but there is also a short version that is automatically substituted when the letter is followed by a mark below:
SBL Hebrew ayin substitution
Of course, the other challenge for you will be designing nikud that fit the style of the type. For a typeface like this, you should not use the generic circular dots and sticks: try to put some of the character of the letters into the nikud. Also, and this will be tricky to get right, try rotating you nikud just slightly anti-clockwise, so they do not look alienated from the angled base of most of the letters.

Michael Cunliffe Thompson's picture

Your SBL font is extremely legible with huge nikud. The example of the ayin with and without nikud is intriguing. Thanks for telling me about it.

Currently my nikud are much smaller so that it is easier to place them under a sloping baseline. In fact, the 'irregular baseline' is not a problem because the top of the nikud is below the lowest part of the baseline. I have dealt with the irregular baseline simply by moving all the nikud down out of the way.

I have found that making my font more square greatly improves readiblity on the screen at small sizes. Wow, there are so many difficult trade offs! The next version may take a while...


raphaelfreeman's picture

Masterfont's fonts do not currently place nikud perfectly. They are working on it and will have perfect positioning (like Fontbit's) in the next few months.

Regarding cantillation marks, Zvika is very interested in solving this problem and to this end will most likely be purchasing my technology for correct placement of trop. The problem is basically the collision of multiple letters. Around 12,000 search and replaces are needed just for Shmot (the 2nd book of the bible) in order to correctly place the cantillation marks in Fontbit's HadassaNew.

William Berkson's picture

Raphael, where do Masterfont's fonts place nikud incorrectly? My understanding was that they did do it correctly for a core group of fonts that might be used with nikud, but not with the rest.

I didn't know about Fontbit. I like the different weights of Hadasa New that are available--they might help me out on my project. But their 'shopping cart' is not working. Are the fonts generally available? Have you been involved in their production?

david h's picture


1. You don't need nikud. However, if you want to use your design as... text typeface — you have a huge problem and can't use nikud.

2. You can use this design as.....maybe display; one line or two.

3. In any case — you need to work on the proportions.

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