DejaVu Serif, small-caps

Pierre-Luc Auclair's picture

I started working on the small-caps of the serif a few days ago after work.

That's the first time I've been working on making small-caps and I need your experienced advices and eyes.

Today I added the Æ ligature, but the original one for the capitals (the gray one) seemed just odd so I redrew it, that too needs your eyes.

There's the SVG (Inkscape format) for review:

And an image preview:

Pieter van Rosmalen's picture

Hello Pierre-Luc,

The ‘lowercase’ small-caps glyphs are too heavy and too small. They have to be larger than the x-height of the lowercase characters because otherwise they look smaller.


Pierre-Luc Auclair's picture

Just about how high should they be? Just enough that they seem as high as the lowercase?

Is there some book I can get my hand on to read more on typeface drawings and their different features?

Pierre-Luc Auclair's picture

Here's an update.

I made the letters a bit higher and lighter. If I compare the old glyphs and the new ones I find them much heavier, not sure the balance is quite right yet but I'm satisfied for today. I need some time away from it to see it with fresh eyes and find the bad stuff.

There’s the SVG (Inkscape format) for review:

And an image preview:

Pierre-Luc Auclair's picture

Here's an update.

Changed a lot of stuff that I can't actually all remind.

Of what is obvious:

  • added many glyphs to the small-caps set,
  • added a first attempt to old-style numerals,
  • added a "Th" ligature.

Also in the less obvious (but you probably notice it anyway):

  • tweaked the letters heights on the rounded small-caps letters that seemed to be too low or floating in the air,
  • tweaked some shapes so they fit better with the overall color of the typeface.

I really wish you would help me, all you experienced type designers. You might not give a damn, but I do.

There’s the SVG (Inkscape format) for review:

And an image preview:

Number3Pencils's picture

My Inkscape can't open the SVG file. What we need is some context, which we can't get very well from just an alphabet (the PNG file). Can you post a sample text in PDF? The first thing I came across to make PDF files was PDF995, and it's worked for me. I'd say it's far and away the best format for posting samples here.

raph's picture

Looks like it's coming along nicely. I would say that it could be a little lighter still, especially letters with diagonal dark strokes like AMNVWXY.

The E has a couple of problems. Crossbar is too low, and middle serif is too big and bold, I think. Similar problems for F and H. U seems to have a bulgy weight at 7:00. OSF's 5 seems to have too wide a bottom.

I'm not sure if I have a good general reference for making small caps, but Nick Shinn's Richler sample is one good example from a highly technically competent designer.

Pierre-Luc Auclair's picture

My Inkscape can’t open the SVG file. What we need is some context, which we can’t get very well from just an alphabet (the PNG file). Can you post a sample text in PDF? I’d say it’s far and away the best format for posting samples here.

Are you using the current 0.44 version of Inkscape with the DejaVu Serif installed? I'm sorry for having only provided a SVG, so here's the PDF:

I wish I could provide a sample yet, but I haven't imported the glyphs into the font yet, but will do so soon (I don't have the FontForge source file yet).


Thanks a lot for your comments, very appreciated. It's my first time working on something like that and I don't really know what to look for when working, but I'm getting the hand slowly. :)

sgh's picture

Should the lowercase 4 have a foot serif? Many lowercase 4's do not. Since the crossbar is resting on the baseline, the foot serif is not needed for the stroke to prop itself up.

Pierre-Luc Auclair's picture

sgh, that's a good idea. In this version I got rid of it, and I think it reads better too.

In this version I tweaked almost all the characters of the small-caps. I also redrew the OSD 1 because it was way too similar to the, and the caps 1 too, which annoyed me. I couldn't find this kind of line anythere else in the font, and I think this one fits better with the overall "theme".

Here's the new PDF. Again, sorry for only having an alphabet to show.

Number3Pencils's picture

[W]ith the DejaVu Serif installed?

How do I do that? I must have missed something along the way.

[dumb stuff I wrote removed]


Pierre-Luc Auclair's picture


How do I do that? I must have missed something along the way.

DejaVu is one of the few Open Source fonts available right now. I'm extending its features with a few things, but the capitals and the lowercase are not my work. DejaVu is a fork of Vera, a font Bitstream released for free to the Gnome Desktop community. The font is available here:

I agree with what you say, I'd change more than that personally, but I'm not the only one in this; I'll propose some changes later but right now my focus is making small-caps and old-style figures fit with the rest of the font.

Number3Pencils's picture

Oh, I get it now! Wow, then I suppose ignore everything I said. I didn't know what was going on at all. I thought this was all new stuff. I thought it looked a little like Vera...but I've never really looked very closely at Vera, and it never occurred to me to look and see how similar they might be, since I thought this was all new. I now retire and leave any criticism up to people who are competent enough to figure out what's going on without it being explained to them. Don't I feel the fool...

Pierre-Luc Auclair's picture

Release 011!

I finally started porting the glyphs to the font.

Here's the file:

Unfortunately no preview file yet.

From the Readme:
First release as a font file. First revision of the left and right bearings (on all characters).

- Old-style figures
- The complete Basic Latin letterset -- except @, %, $
- From the Latin-1 supplement:
-- all variants of "A"
-- "AE" ligature
-- Ccedilla
-- Eth
-- Oslash
-- Thorn
- From Latin Extended-A: "OE" ligature.
- Modified Basic "o" width and bearings.

To Do:
- Drawings for a few characters to complete coverage of Basic Latin, Latin-1 Supplement and Latin Extended-A:
-- Eng
-- Cent old-style
-- Percent
-- At @
-- Dollar old-style
-- Dollar small (same as Dollar old-style?)
- Composition of basic letters with accents to complete coverage of Basic Latin, Latin-1 Supplement and Latin Extended-A.

Pierre-Luc Auclair's picture

Release 012

New release with complete coverage of Basic and Latin-1 (except for currency glyphs and @, %). Extended-A is well underway but I haven't integrated them in this release. I also updated some OSF figures.

Please! Test and post your comments! I really need it. :)

Trond Aslak's picture

Very nice :-)
The "a" was maybe a bit wide i the front. And the "st" to thick at the top.

Pierre-Luc Auclair's picture

Here's an update on the old-style figures, I've done all weights.


And a SVG:

Crits and comments always welcome. The spacing is not that of the font, it's just my drawings put side by side.

Pierre-Luc Auclair's picture

Forgot to say: I'm also thinking of including a small-caps lining figure set too, but I'm still undecided.

cerulean's picture

If it's not too late for this, I would suggest a compromise on your capital Æ. In the gray version, the crossbars are a bit too far apart, but in the new one, they are rather too close together.

Pierre-Luc Auclair's picture

cerulean: Far from too late, actually it might just stay the same as it does from in the original, I'll have do try a few other variants.

Decided to go for the small lining figures too, here's a first draft:


and SVG:

I think there's still some tweaking on the proportions for the lining small figures but the basic drawing probably won't change. Still have the bold version to do. So far pretty satisfied. :)

Pierre-Luc Auclair's picture

Here's an update, I've added the bold small-caps height figures to this drawing.

Opinions are, as always, very much welcomed.

Edit: as I post this I see a few things.

Well first of all, the oblique is just that, an oblique, and it shows on a few places that I'll need to fix.

The small-caps height figures' 5 and 6's arms don't seem to extend enough.

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