Problem with how glyph displays

OneFineDay's picture

I'm new to font design and have made a dingbats font with just a few characters for use in both the print and ebook versions of a book I'm preparing to publish. I have one particularly complex glyph that prints beautifully and displays perfectly in InDesign CS3, but looks terrible in MS Word (2004 for Mac), and kind of muddy in a high-quality PDF produced through InDesign.

Since the glyph prints fine, I'm not worried about it for the print book, but I am concerned about how it will display in ebooks on various platforms. (I can't change the design of the glyph, since it relates to something in the story.)

I've autohinted the font the glyph is in using an older version of FontForge [from 2009, since I couldn't figure out how to install it without the help of a (now dated) package].

I don't know enough about font design to hint the glyph manually -- and I'm not sure if that would help, since the glyph displays perfectly in InDesign. The other glyphs in the font seem adequate to me in all contexts -- but they are much simpler in design.

I'd welcome any suggestions as to how I can make sure this glyph preforms properly in ebooks!

Here's a link to an image that will make it clear what I'm talking about:

Thanks for any help you can offer!

Frode Bo Helland's picture

No amount of hinting is going to help that. Why is this not represented by an image?

Theunis de Jong's picture

1. InDesign probably uses its own auto-hinting mechanism -- it comes with an "Adobe Cooltype" DLL.

2. You can only use your custom font in epub viewers that support font embedding.

3. Those devices that do support font embedding and custom fonts may use different hinting mechanisms, ranging from 'none at all' (if they mainly rely on their own built-in fonts being optimized for their own screen) to, uh, well probably nothing as advanced as the Adobe Cooltype you see in InDesign. In other words, YMMV.

That said, I would say you are correct in your estimation it's just the on-screen hinting that muddles the glyphs. Can you see the quality varying if you zoom in and out in a PDF?

(After looking at your sample image:)

Ouch. Frode may be right as well.

Nick Shinn's picture

The glyph needs to be redesigned to be less complex.

hrant's picture

{To Follow}

OneFineDay's picture

frode frank, the answer to your question, "Why is this not represented by an image?" may be -- Because I'm new to this? The image is used repeatedly as a small, decorative element, and I thought it might be simpler to include it within a font and embed it, rather than deal with different picture-formating requirements in different ebook formats. Since I was making a dingbats font, anyway, I decided to include it. I had no idea that the complexity of the image would be a problem.

Theunis de Jong, the information that you gave is helpful and interesting. And, yes, the image does clear up beautifully if I zoom in on it in a PDF.

Nick Shinn -- thanks, also, for your input.

I gather from what you've all said that this image is just too complex to display well on screen as a glyph in most situations. It sounds like the best choice is to go back to presenting it as a raster image.

I've also made a handwriting font for one of the characters (for presenting a few brief passages that are supposed to be written by hand). If I could figure out how to install the latest version of FontForge, would the autohinting in it be enough better than it was in the 2009 version to be worth the trouble? Or would there be no more than a small improvement, anyway?

Thank you again for all the help!

Theunis de Jong's picture

If these passages are meant to exactly represent existing handwriting, I would not try any font tricks with that either. If you do it all depends on the user's reading hardware and software what he/she will see. Play it safe, and embed these passages as images as well.

OneFineDay's picture

That sounds like sound advice. However, the handwriting font is meant to be suggestive of the character's handwriting, but more legible than handwriting is likely to be. I think it is working well as a font, as far as that goes, and would allow for fluid resizing of text by the reader of an ebook. I realize that some older ebook reading devices will display their default font in place of the handwriting font—and for that reason, I have defined the handwriting font as an italic, as I presume that in those cases the default font will then display its italic style, which will then still be distinct from the surrounding text. I can live with that in exchange for the benefits of fluid resizing and a smaller file size overall.

Regardless, your point is well taken, and I do appreciate your advice. I certainly think it would be the thing to do if the handwriting were meant to be an exact representation.

Thank you for your help!

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Hinting makes sense when there is a(n optical) system, like for example in the Latin alphabet where similar widths are supposed to look uniform and similar heights are supposed to align.

Handwriting fonts can definitely benefit from hinting, but only in some situations. Sometimes drawing within the constraints makes more sense. Feel free to PM me if you need any help with your project!

OneFineDay's picture

Thank you, frode frank, that's all interesting and helpful to know. I appreciate, too, your offer of further help -- that is most kind of you! I will keep it in mind as I go forward.

Thomas Phinney's picture

The image file is no longer posted, so I can't comment on the OP's question directly. But Theunis wrote:

> 1. InDesign probably uses its own auto-hinting mechanism -- it comes with an "Adobe Cooltype" DLL.

No, unless something has changed recently, InDesign does NOT use an auto-hinting mechanism. It uses the hints built into the font. However, CoolType is InDesign's own font rendering engine (among other things).

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