optimizing font for small size on a mac?

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jon cho's picture
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Joined: 8 Apr 2006 - 7:19pm
optimizing font for small size on a mac?
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I'm trying to optimize my font for small, set sizes on-screen (9pt, 11pt, 13pt) specifically for osx. i don't know very much about font-exporting and the rasterization process, but i'm told that i font-hinting doesn't work on osx because quartz doesn't listen to the hints. is there any other method of optimizing fonts for small sizes on macs? the only other solution i can think of is to make separate font files for each size… and that just seems downright sloppy.

sorry this is a bit of a novice question, but my usual solution of scouring the internet for an answer hasn't been pointing me in any helpful directions.

thanks in advance!

David Berlow's picture
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Joined: 19 Jul 2004 - 6:31pm
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> the only other solution i can think of is to make separate font files for each size… and that just seems downright sloppy.

There is some discussion of this here. I'm not sure I would generally characterize the idea as "sloppy", unless you consider appearance last and number of font files first. ;)

David Berlow's picture
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Joined: 19 Jul 2004 - 6:31pm
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And if you are looking for a model non-sloppy solution without hints or multiple files, the Reading Edge series, denoted here by fonts with "RE" in the font name, represent our effort toward solving the problem at hand today.

Frode Bo Helland's picture
Joined: 26 Feb 2007 - 1:03pm
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David, when are you going to explain how you do this?

Reynir Heiðberg Stefánsson's picture
Joined: 19 Nov 2010 - 11:15am
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Assuming it is not a trade secret...

David Berlow's picture
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Joined: 19 Jul 2004 - 6:31pm
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How to do what exactly?

Frode Bo Helland's picture
Joined: 26 Feb 2007 - 1:03pm
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Fonts that really work, even with Windows Standard rendering*, without hints and multiple files.

* Btw, I noticed they appear rather blurry and greyed out with Standard rendering. Do they have font smoothing applied all the way down to the smallest sizes?

Blank's picture
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Joined: 25 Sep 2006 - 2:15pm
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David’s been beating that drum for years. Am I the only person who ever read his posts about Verdana and Georgia?

David Berlow's picture
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Joined: 19 Jul 2004 - 6:31pm
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@FF, the RE fonts have hints for CT rendering. If a browser independent method can be developed for detecting standard rendering, then all fonts can be made less blurry in that windows mode. But MS says this is "not possible" for IE.

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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IMO, fonts look fine for the Mac if the stem widths are consistent, and if glyph shapes (especially vertical extrema on curves) are consistent with regards to the alignment zones. Then, auto-hint in FontLab.

I also suggest that you experiment with the Blue Scale value (Type 1 hinting: global hinting parameters): I usually set it to 8 pts.

David Berlow's picture
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Joined: 19 Jul 2004 - 6:31pm
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Nick, none of the hinting effects Mac rendering as you know, and the stem widths are only consistent if you add up the colors used to represnt each stem, which most people do, it seems. Vertical alignment and precise stem weight from a single outline font are out of the designers or type engineer's scope of influence on the Mac, except in the choices made in the design of the single outline's contours themselves. No tricks, no hints. As for the dotting of the i and crossing of the t, these things are trade secrets, ;)

Frode Bo Helland's picture
Joined: 26 Feb 2007 - 1:03pm
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Oh, I’m reading David’s post alright. I respect the trade secrecy though, just immensely curious about the whole thing. You won’t happen to have any spots available for internships some time soon over there, would you David?

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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David, I've found that the method I mentioned *does* make a difference to Mac rendering.
I always test in InDesign.

Karsten Luecke's picture
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Joined: 6 Aug 2005 - 8:41am
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(This is Adobe rendering, not Mac rendering.)

David Berlow's picture
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Joined: 19 Jul 2004 - 6:31pm
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Frank that's a nice thing to say, but I think the only internship anyone needs is right in front of them on their computer screen. :)

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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Well anyway, I optimize for InDesign on the Mac, and it looks pretty good in Safari and TextEdit.

Frode Bo Helland's picture
Joined: 26 Feb 2007 - 1:03pm
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That's the only one I've had:) Wouldn't mind being a fly on the wall around some of you guys though.

Ryan Fruest's picture
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Joined: 14 Dec 2010 - 11:37pm
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Read "Learn Fontlab Fast". There's some petty solid info about doing this in there. You should also really study truetype hinting in the fontlab manual. You're gonna have to work very hard on that. Only truetype hinting will make the font look good at small sizes.

David Berlow's picture
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Joined: 19 Jul 2004 - 6:31pm
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fd2> Only truetype hinting will make the font look good at small sizes.

This is true, but don't forget that only a little bit of TT hints are interpreted by most anti-aliasing windows machines and no mac anti-aliasing machines.

So, only truetype hinting can make some of the font look good at small sizes, and the rest of making a font look good is left up to Microsoft and Apple at the rasterizing end.

Frode Bo Helland's picture
Joined: 26 Feb 2007 - 1:03pm
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With optical (pixel) sizes you can reclaim a fair bit of that cake, but you already know that David.

Ryan Fruest's picture
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Joined: 14 Dec 2010 - 11:37pm
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dberlow> So how do you optimize your font to look it's best on the Microsoft and Apple rasterizing end?

David Berlow's picture
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Joined: 19 Jul 2004 - 6:31pm
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A short description of this is that the font's parameters to be fed to a rasterizer without hints are simplified in their diversity, and optical sizing is used to exaggerate the important features. That helps both Mac and Win, then the Win version needs hints to assure hairline appearance and alignment. There is a discussion of this here, in the context of Beat Stamm's expanded 1997 paper on hinting.