anti-aliasing in Illustrator

Lukasz's picture

I tried searching for this, but had no luck, so sorry if it's been covered.

I noticed in illustrator there are some weird anti-aliasing issues. I don't seem to get this in raster programs like Photoshop, the font look a lot better. They seem to look thinner than they really are, especially when you are zoomed out, but only in illustrator. are there any suggestions or tips you have for designing with fonts in illustrator? I've been told I should use InDesign, but it doesn't have all the design tools I want/need.

Theunis de Jong's picture

Anti-aliasing is per definition a screen-only issue.

In other words, nothing to worry about. You are preparing something for print, right?

Lukasz's picture

correct. But it makes it hard to design though because the fonts will look and balance completely differently and it ends up changing the way I design.

jonathanhughes's picture

What kind of "weird anti-aliasing issues" are you having? Illustrator and InDesign both antialias type (and as far as I can tell, they appear to do it the same way), and anti-aliasing becomes less of an issue the more you zoom in (since it's only affecting the edges of the letters).

Can you post screen shots of what you're talking about?

JamesM's picture

> They seem to look thinner than they really are,
> especially when you are zoomed out

The image on your monitor is only a simulation of how it will look when printed. You need to print the page(s) using a good-quality printer to see more exactly how the fonts actually look when printed.

> I've been told I should use InDesign, but it doesn't
> have all the design tools I want/need.

I don't know what you're designing, but normally you'd use InDesign to lay out the pages, and if you needed to create vector artwork you'd make it using Illustrator and then import that graphic into your InDesign layout.

oldnick's picture

This is not an anti-aliasing issue; it has to do with the way most programs render type vs. the way they render vector graphics. Generally, you can "soft-proof" the finished look of your type by converting it to outlines temporarily

Theunis de Jong's picture

Nick, if you're correct it still is an anti-aliasing issue. I'm fully prepared to believe that high-speed text rendering is done with another drawing engine different from the "main" drawing program -- but they both ought to be antialiased.

See Acrobat for a case in point; the type and 'lines' drawing engines yield very different results for a small font when rendered as text or as outlines.

Even with different rendering engines, I stand by my point any screen rendering issue is primarily a screen rendering issue.

Lukasz's picture

old nick, is there any other way to do this? would be nice to seen the font right away for quick changes.

here is a screen shot of the exact same file, in two programs:
http://hellowoo.com/uploads/anti-alias.jpg

top is illustrator bottom is photoshop. photoshop has the anti-aliasing options for fonts, is there something similar in illustrator? photoshop seems to have a lot softer look to fonts.

oldnick's picture

old nick, is there any other way to do this? would be nice to seen the font right away for quick changes.

In my experience, no, there isn't another way to do this; however, thanks to CMD/CTRL+Z, the outlining can be easily undone, so changes aren't a problem. And, yes, Photoshop has different anti-alias settings because Photoshop rasterizes the type--the functional equivalent of converting the font to outlines in Illustrator, but with a great degree of user control over the finished output.

JamesM's picture

> thanks to CMD/CTRL+Z, the outlining can be easily undone

Another method, if you don't want to undo immediately, is to outline the type on a duplicate layer.

Thomas Phinney's picture

“ Photoshop has different anti-alias settings because Photoshop rasterizes the type--the functional equivalent of converting the font to outlines in Illustrator”

My understanding of this is a bit different than yours, I think.

Photoshop has different (more) anti-alias settings because it chooses to do so. The underlying text rendering is the same between Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign: all three apps use Adobe’s CoolType font engine. The other apps have the exact same anti-aliasing options available to them, and could expose them to end users if they wished.

CoolType rasterizes the type in order to display it on screen. The type must be rasterized because the screen uses pixels, not vectors; ALL type you see on a computer screen must first be rasterized. To the best of my knowledge, Photoshop does not do anything that is the equivalent to converting the font to outlines in Illustrator, and in any case, that would yield different (and arguably worse) results, because of the loss of hinting information prior to rasterization. This is exactly why it is often a bad idea to convert text to outlines prior to making a PDF.

The difference in rendering of text converted to outlines results from two effects:

1) Hinting information is lost. This results in more irregular and arguably simply worse rendering.

2) A completely different set of code is used for rasterization, as the outlines are rendered as graphics rather than text. At small to medium sizes this results in bolder text. It can also result in some unfortunate side effects as for example in PDF Acrobat tries to beef up thin straight lines, which can affect letters such as el and eye in sans serif typefaces, making them heavier than the letters around them....

Cheers,

T

oldnick's picture

Thomas,

Thanks for the background information; however, the original post raised the concern that, in Illustrator, fonts "seem to look thinner than they really are, especially when you are zoomed out," which I suspect is due to smooth anti-aliasing being the default setting. The "fix" I proposed was simply for soft proofing: in my experience, converting the type to outlines momentarily gives them an appearance more in line with how they will appear in the final, printed piece (note the reference to UNDO).

Also, once Photoshop rasterizes type, I suspect that an engine different from Cool Type renders the image, eliminating the latter's softening/thinning effect.

Thomas Phinney's picture

“fonts "seem to look thinner than they really are, especially when you are zoomed out," which I suspect is due to smooth anti-aliasing being the default setting.”

At small to medium sizes, switching rendering from font-based to graphics results in the text getting significantly heavier. The main reason is that font-based rendering only turns on a pixel if the center of the pixel is within the outline, while graphics rendering turns on the pixel if any part of it is touched by the outline.

“Also, once Photoshop rasterizes type, I suspect that an engine different from Cool Type renders the image”

Of course, if the text has been permanently converted to pixels, then it later becomes a graphics engine displaying it... but the pattern of pixels is still one that was laid down by CoolType.

Cheers,

T

Thomas Phinney's picture

Further to my earlier comments, I had some email with the lead engineer responsible for the actual font rasterizer part of CoolType. We'll call him Dave, mostly because that's his name. (There used to be two such engineers, but the other insanely senior guy, Terry, got laid off a couple of years ago and now works for Google.)

I asked: “Is there one of the four anti-aliasing settings in Photoshop that will get text rendering that is the same as what InDesign and Illustrator users see? If so, which one?”

Dave's reply below, with some comments interspersed from me....

[Edited on Apr 8 based on further research/discussion.]

There’s not a simple answer. Each of our applications have historically done its own thing regarding anti-aliasing. (This is gradually improving.)

I don't have InDesign installed to check, but I think I remember that it uses the same modes as Acrobat, including both Gray and Color DDR with linear blending.

DDR is short for “device-dependent rendering,” and Color DDR is LCD-enhanced sub-pixel rendering, roughly equivalent to ClearType. You only see this last in two places: Acrobat, and InDesign’s story editor. Both have Color DDR by default, but can turn it off. A pity it doesn’t see broader use, because it is really quite fabulous IMO.

When first introduced in Acrobat this Color DDR was called “CoolType” (misleading as heck, given that was the name of the entire library that did all forms of text rendering going back many years earlier), but now it is just labeled as the option to “smooth text” “for laptop/LCD screens” in Acrobat prefs, or “LCD optimized” anti-aliasing in InDesign story editor prefs.

At one point Illustrator was doing their own downsampling, but now it looks like they're using gray DDR with some kind of linear blending gamma (I don't know what value).

Photoshop "Sharp" mode is using Gray DDR. By default, there is no linear blending. But if you're willing to set a blending gamma for the entire document (not just the text layers), you can do so in the "Color Settings" dialog. Blend using a gamma of 1.22 should match Acrobat [in Gray DDR mode only, not Acrobat’s default text rendering].

All this just goes to show how complicated all this is; the applications have a lot more virtual “knobs” to twiddle compare to what is exposed to end users, and choices like the blending gamma affect what the user gets. Even though the same underlying text rendering engine is used across Adobe apps, with default settings you pretty much never get identical text rendering in normal use, because they have not coordinated their approaches.

Cheers,

T

Thomas Phinney's picture

I went back and edited my last post above to clarify a couple of things, and fix one point based on further discussion offline. I think it is fairly complete now.

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