Does anybody have experience with asian type?


I'm working on a set of packagings in different languages and I'd need to know what difficulties I could find in terms of type, composition, if it's written from left to right or top to bottom. If there's a wiki or a site where I can read information about it please let me know. Here's the list of the languages and what I know so far:

- greek: left to right, no problems with Myriad

- indonesian: from left to right, can work it out as english, no problem

- corean: top to bottom, no problems in terms of type but wondering how to work the text direction

- hindu: not sure if it's left to right, problems with type

- thai: not sure if it's left to right, problems with type

- chinese: from top to bottom and columns from left to right, I've tried with different types and I still keep getting the empty squares of missing character. If I move the text from horizontal to vertical in illustrator will it have the proper order?

- malasian: left to right, no problems

- arabic: from right to left, I have the world ready illustrator template and I can work it out with myriad

- japanese: top to bottom, no problems with this type:Adobe 명조 Std M but wondering how to work the text direction

- turkish: left to right, no problems with myriad

- tagalo: left to right, no problems

Thanks a lot!

ahyangyi's picture

Modern Chinese use the same direction as the western text. (i.e. rows running from left to right) Old-style Chinese writes in columns from top to bottom, and the columns are arranged from right to left.

Note that here "Modern" and "Old-style" do not correspond to the division between "Simplified" and "Traditional". Nowadays most of the chinese text, regardless of simplified or traditional, are set in the modern direction.

ahyangyi's picture

I somehow wonder what chinese characters are you missing. Could you show me some?

By the way, the "japanese" font you mentioned seems to have a korean name. A Japanese font isn't any font which contains a full set of hiragana and katakana, it needs to contain a large set of Chinese Characters (Kanji) in the proper Japanese style. I'm not familiar with japanese typography, however.

alexandracama's picture

I'm here attaching a piece of the chinese, corean and japanese document and a screenshot of how they look in illustrator. It's the first time I work with this languages and I'm totally lost! Thanks a lot!!

1. 冷冻火腿披萨
配料: 馅料 (65%) [番茄酱 23% (番茄、橄榄油、盐、罗勒、牛至、酸化剂(柠檬酸))、意大利奶酪23%、水煮火腿 16% (火腿 (83%)、水、盐、葡萄糖、保湿剂 (山梨糖醇)、芳香(大豆)、稳定剂 (角叉胶、E-450、
E-451)、抗氧化剂 (E-316)、防腐剂 (E-250))、淀粉]; 包含麸质、乳制品和大豆。

1. 딥 프로즌 햄 피자
성분: 토핑(65%) [토마토 소스 23%(토마토, 올리브유, 소금, 향신료, 오레가노, 산미료(구연산)), 모짜렐라 치즈 23%, 삶은 햄 16% (햄(83%), 물, 소금, 포도당, 습윤제(소르비톨), 아로마(콩), 안정제(카라기닌, E-450, E-451), 항산화제(E-316), 방부제(E-250)), 전분], 글루텐, 낙농제품 및 콩 함유.

1. 冷凍ハムピザ
原材料名:トッピング (65%) [トマトソース 23% (トマト、オリーブ油、食塩、メボウキ、オレガノ、酸味材 (クエン酸))、 モッツァレラ・チーズ 23%、ボイルドハム 16% (ハム (83%)、水、食塩、ブドウ糖、湿潤剤 (ソルビトール)、香料 (大豆)、安定剤 (カラギーナン、E-450、E-451)、酸化防止剤 (E-316)、防腐剤 (E-250))、スターチ]。 グルテン、乳製品、大豆を含みます。

They work in here but not in illustrator...

alexandracama's picture

Illustrator screenshot.

DTY's picture

What font are you using for the Chinese text? It is apparently missing some characters that you need. Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese use different fonts, so you need to choose the correct font for the writing system.

Regarding some of your other questions, although vertical writing is traditional for Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, horizontal left-to-right writing is now normal in Simplified Chinese and Korean, and in a context like international packaging, horizontal left-to-right writing is entirely acceptable in Japanese and Traditional Chinese also. You do not need to set any of them vertically.

The Hindi language is written in Devanagari script, which is left-to-right but has complex shaping behavior. The Thai script is also written from left to right and has complex shaping behavior. The World Ready template may help with both, but they will need to be checked carefully.

alexandracama's picture

I've solve the chinese problem with Hiragino sans and thai seems to be working properly with Tahoma. Hindu looks ok with mangal. Gosh, as if it wasn't hard to work with a language that you don't speak you add the difficulty of the characters you've never learnt how to read. The checking of these packs after I've created them is going to be a nightmare...

Thank you thank you both so much!!

ahyangyi's picture

Again, I have to warn you that Hiragino sans might not give the correct shape of the characters. Try to find fonts with names containing "Hei" for sans and "Song"/"Ming" for serif.

I just find something that might help you:

alexandracama's picture

Heiti SC seems to be working properly. I'll take a very careful look at the characters so they match the ones they've given me in the translation word.

Again, thank you very much for your selfless help!

Jongseong's picture

I would recommend using a sans serif typeface for Korean here. What fonts do you have?

alexandracama's picture

This one seems to be working ok: 헤드라인A 일반체

Jongseong's picture

I'm afraid that's an inappropriate choice here. 헤드라인A is a display typeface. It's name literally is the English word 'Headline' rendered in Korean.

See if any of your Korean fonts have 고딕(Gothic) in their names. They're more likely to be neutral sans faces appropriate for text use.

DTY's picture

Based on the reference to Hiragino Sans, which is a Simplified Chinese font first released with Snow Leopard, I'd guess she is running Adobe CS 4 or 5 on OS X 10.6. I don't think OS X comes with a hangul gothic - just Apple Myungjo and a few display faces. Adobe includes Adobe Gothic in CS 5, but I think they've only bundled the bold weight for some reason - I don't have it yet, so I don't know how heavy it is.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Also, I just wanted to note:

arabic: from right to left, I have the world ready illustrator template and I can work it out with myriad

Urm, AFAIK there's no shipping version of Myriad that supports Arabic. You could use Adobe Arabic if you have that, however.


ahyangyi's picture

Sorry for my previous post as I realized that I heard Hiragino Sans contains different shapes for SC, TC and Japanese.

From some wiki page, it seems that you can use AppleGothic (애플고딕). Despite its common name, it's actually a font specialized for Korean.

Jongseong's picture

Yes, OS X comes with Apple Gothic, and it is actually the default font for the Korean user interface. This typeface gets a lot of flak from the Korean Apple users, being a rather dated design and paling in comparison to similar typefaces available for Windows users, but for small print in packaging it will probably be adequate.

However, I encourage you to try the excellent Nanum Gothic, available at for free under the Open Font Licence.

jcrippen's picture

Are you really sure you want to mix a Latin font with the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean text? If you use the full-width Latin characters in the East Asian fonts the text will automatically “justify” itself since the full-width Latin glyphs have the same width as the other characters. The box size of a character, called the “Q”, is the same as other characters for full-width Latin and punctuation in East Asian fonts. It looks very weird to me to have characters not lined up in a perfect grid.

The annoying thing is of course that the Latin glyphs in most East Asian fonts are fairly lousy, although the Adobe offerings and the Hiragino family have good Latin designs.

ahyangyi's picture

Instead, the full-width latin characters inside running chinese text look really ugly.

Some fonts (for example, the free WenQuanYi ZhengHei Mono, or SimSun that comes with Windows), do provide monospaced Latin text at the width of a half grid. I personally see no good in gridding latin text, and would rather just use proportional Latin text, though. (but again, I'm just a Chinese guy who does not learn a lot about typography.)

By the way, does Hiragino Sans contain features about character width? I heard that Hiragino Mincho Pro supports latin character width to be "full", "proportional" and "half", while supporting more options for numbers.

Finally, would you consider using full-width brackets?

Latin version: ()[]{}
Full-width version: ()[]{}

I'm not sure whether using them is good, but they are worth a try...

Jongseong's picture

Are you really sure you want to mix a Latin font with the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean text? ... It looks very weird to me to have characters not lined up in a perfect grid.

I have to strongly disagree here, at least for Korean. You don't want the letters to line up in a perfect grid unless you are intentionally going for the typewriter/fixed-width look. Korean uses spaces between words that are typically less than half the width of the hangul letters, so even a Korean text containing no numerals or Latin text will never line up in a grid in good typographic practice. The full-width and half-width forms are never used in horizontally-set Korean typography. In fact, hangul letters have uniform width in most available fonts only because of technical limitations. Some newer text faces for Korean have different widths for different hangul letters.

And for what it's worth, for the few products I have at home using Chinese-only packaging, I don't see a perfect grid either. It may be different for Chinese novels and the like where Latin letters and numerals are rare.

For this project, it's best to use the same Latin font for all the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean text, as Alexandra is already doing, while of course taking care to harmonize the weights and adjusting the vertical alignment if needed.

alexandracama's picture

Thank you all very much for all the detailed information.

Right now I'm taking it one step at a time and trying to see if the text in the packs I'm working on matches the translation texts I've been given. These designs are only for printing mock-ups to be shown to potential clients but either way, if you make the effort to design something in a totally different language at least it should look right.

Adobe arabic is working really well for arab and Apple gothic for korean. Or at least it seems to me!

In terms of gridding, I'd rather not try to mess around with characters I've never worked with before because I'm sure I won't be able to make them look ok. In the other hand, I expect the client to give me specific indications of composition and grammar.

The big issue here is I don't know how to read the texts. I recently worked with polish, rumanian and other eastern languages and although I don't know the exact words I'm able to adjust the type because it looks almost as the characters of the languages I speak. Has any of you faced something like this before? Have you ended up contacting designers from other countries?

Jongseong's picture

I still think Nanum Gothic would be a better choice for the Korean portion considering the Latin glyphs you are using here. Apple Gothic belongs with a grotesque, while Nanum Gothic or Malgun Gothic harmonize better with humanist sans Latins.

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