Suggestions for a combination of fonts to be used in a math thesis

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Stefanos Aivazidis's picture
Joined: 22 Mar 2015 - 11:09pm
Suggestions for a combination of fonts to be used in a math thesis
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Greeting font anthusiasts,

I have recently finished typing up my Ph.D. thesis in math and I am looking to improve its overall appearance. Let me say right off the bat that the standard font that tex uses, i.e. Knuth's computer modern, is not bad; I'd simply like to explore some further options. I am using the KOMA script latex package which sets chapter and section headings in sans of whatever font family is used for the main text. While this can be changed, i.e. need not be sans of anything, I think I'd like to keep this feature and thus use a serif typeface for the main body and a sans typeface for section and chapter headings.

I have been perusing typography books to get an idea of the field and I have to say that I am hooked and will probably keep on reading about typography after I am done with the final submission of my thesis. For now, however, I would appreciate your suggestions for nice serif-sans combos. The word "nice" is in the eye of the beholder of course, so what I am really asking is for your favourite or list of favourites combos. The main issue is the serif font that I will be using for the main body, so feel free to suggest only serif fonts that you like.

I understand that good typography is purpose-driven, that is, choices of typefaces should further the goal of the text and a math thesis (well, any thesis) should be about the content itself, hence the text should read effortlessly. That doesn't mean it should be set in CM though, right? It does mean, however, that I probably shouldn't set it in Adobe Jenson, even though I like it very much. Minion (combined with Myriad) looks nice, but in the words of Coles, Minion is "too vanilla". Garamond Premier looks really really nice and so does MVB Verdigris.

Your suggestions for either a combo serif+sans or simply a "humanist serif" would be much appreciated!

Stephan Kurz's picture
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Joined: 22 Jul 2005 - 2:19pm
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Common font choices for (La)TeX documents w/ math see e.g. http://www.tug.org/mactex/fonts/LaTeX_Preamble-Font_Choices.html. If you don't want to go through the process of preparing fonts for use with (La)TeX yourself (or perhaps having to change your workflow to some newer TeX derivate that accepts system fonts), see http://www.tug.dk/FontCatalogue/ for a quite a few examples. For my PhD thesis (not in math, but anyway) I used a combination of Gill Sans and MT Joanna, using fontinst and a few other things to prepare the fonts for pdfLaTeX, but this was a conscious choice related to the subject - although noone got the joke in the end…

Stefanos Aivazidis's picture
Joined: 22 Mar 2015 - 11:09pm
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I've seen the font catalogue, wasn't impressed with anything there. By the way, I feel that the euler math typeface is really really ugly! I don't understand why so many people seem to like it. Anyway, my current favourite for serif is MVB Verdigris. What might be a good sans to match it? And will it work well with any existing math fonts?

Btw, thanks for the first link.

Yan Zhou's picture
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Joined: 8 Jun 2011 - 8:16pm
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Euler was a design by Zapf and when paired with Palatino is actually quite pleasant. It resembles a mathematicians' hand writing to some degree. However I would not consider it for any publication except for self-amusement.

There are a few faces combinations I use for type setting math papers. Some of them are old type one fonts, others are available as both type one to work with all major TeX engines, or opentype math font to work with LuaTeX and XeTeX using Unicode-math. For text font I always prefer fontspec + opentype.

For math fonts, the most important aspect is it's spacing, optical sizing, and accent placement, and weights etc. A symbol that looks out of place because of pure kerning or an accent looks misplaced, or a bold symbols looks imposing rather than merely important is catastrophic no matter how pleasing the design is.

1) Minion Pro + Minion Math (PS, OT). Yes, too many people use Minion to the point that it feels boring. However, this is the only serious high quality humanist math font out there. The rest of the list are either technically inferior (like those old PS fonts) or unpleasant design-wise (like those paired with times (new) roman). It lacks calligraphy capitals and blackletters. I usually take the ones from Neo Euler (OT math version of Euler) for these.
2) Palatino + PA math (PS). There are numerous math fonts that claims compatibility with the venerable Palatino. But PA math from micro-press is the only one I would consider to be even close to harmony when paired with Palatino. Unfortunately there's no face out there pair with Aldus very well, which I prefer a lot to Palatino for text.
3) Times new roman + MathTime Pro II (PS). Again, numerous math fonts claim to be times-compatible. MTPro two has the best spacing/optical sizing so far. More recent additions are STIX and its derivative XITS. Both are OT. Version two of STIX has opentype math support, but there are some wired accent placing issues when used with LuaTeX. Probably an engine bug that's going to be fixed in the next release later this year. Times is the kind of face that has no personality at all. You can't get too wrong with it when setting a math document, neither can you go very far.
4) Cambria Math (OT) + whatever Text face that matches its weight and width. It has by far the most complete set of symbols. 7000+ glyphs vs. 2000-4000 in most OT math fonts. It's spacing and optical sizing are decent. Unfortunately, it's ugly, especially when printed. However, when paring with a slightly darker face than Minion, or one that's more sturdy, I usually resort to Cambria if there's not too much math in it,

Theunis de Jong's picture
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Joined: 22 Apr 2008 - 5:06pm
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There are a couple of oddities in Cambria Math, but it indeed has the largest set of math symbols I know. I use it paired with Minion, but only for those symbols.

Yan, Cambria Math's OpenType math extensions only work inside Microsoft Word. Are there appropriate LaTeX bindings for it as well, or do you have to use it as any 'regular' font (albeit with an extensive character set)?

Yan Zhou's picture
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Joined: 8 Jun 2011 - 8:16pm
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John,

LuaTeX and XeTeX have had OpenType math support for a long time. Check out http://ctan.org/pkg/unicode-math, by the same author of fontspec.

I mainly use LuaTeX. At the moment there's some small spacing issues with LuaTeX with some OpenType math fonts, but fixed in 1.0 release, which will be included in TeXLive 2017 later this year.