Help me compare these 4 lovely serif faces

ath's picture

Hi everybody!

I'm a web designer learning to care more about type. I'm going to buy some serif fonts for use on websites. I've seen several by Dieter Hofrichter that seem to have an affordable price, a contemporary feel, good quality and will also look good in display sizes.

Given the list below, what you think the pros and cons of each might be compared to the others? Keep in mind that, although I'll be buying both a print and a webfont license, I'll mainly be using them for web sites. That includes body text at a 14-18px size.

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Sina Nova
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I've printed out the PDF samples and I keep staring at them but I just don't have enough expertise to properly compare them beyond obvious things like x-height.

Here is screenshot for those of you feeling too lazy to click around:

Nick Shinn's picture

I'll mainly be using them for web sites. That includes body text at a 14-18px size.

Then what use is showing an alphabet specimen at display size?

hrant's picture

Pretty old-fashioned stuff (except maybe Sina Nova).

Try this instead:
And it renders amazing onscreen.


PabloImpallari's picture

What you can do is to grab the free styles of each family offered at MyFonts, and drop them into the Web-font testing tool ( ) and see for yourself.

Cala, for example, will give you a 8 pixels x-height when set at 16px on the web.
It's not the ideal (a 9 pixels x-height will be better) but it's also not bad at all.
If you use it for web body text, set it at 17 or 18 pixels and it will look better.
They also work well for headlines.

They all seem to be very good and well made fonts.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

I like that one.

ath's picture

@ Mr. Shinn:
First of all, thank you for being so helpful. As usual.
Second, you have small sizes in the four PDFs I linked to. Usually PDF specimens have small sized text, you know. Clicking on a link isn't that hard. I added the screenshot as an extra courtesy. I thought maybe it would be helpful to see the letters more closely. I imagine a trained eye can tell a lot about a face from just seeing how the letters are constructed?
Third, if you go to myfonts you can look at them however you want. Myfonts usually saves in your browser whatever settings you last used in their font specimen tool so if you go there you can look at the font with your own preferred settings with no additional effort on your part.
Fourth, I am a novice. If you really want to respond to my question and are too lazy to click on anything at all to see the kind of specimen you want, then be kind enough to recommend the type of screenshot you would like to see and perhaps that way I can actually learn something from you. Is it long paragraph text? Are there any specific words you usually use in a sample to evaluate legibility?
Fifth, if I wanted to judge these faces solely on the base of legibility then I would have asked it that way. But I didn't, did I? My question was general from the start. It is in bold. The part about 14-18px is not. I'm curious about anything that pops into the mind of an experienced typographer when looking at these faces: personality (Does one strike you as more neutral? Does one look more antiquated?), flexibility (Does one strike you as more of a workhorse? Does one look like it would be easier to combine with other faces?), etc. So it is not all about legibility.
Sixth, of all the people in the forums you are certainly one of the least generous and constructive. You remind me of certain bad teachers I had at university. All that wasted knowledge. I am sorry I ever bought one of your fonts and I never will again.

ath's picture

@hrant: Thank you, I didn't know Ernestine. It looks a bit too extravagant for me though. Like the sample says: "fluffy". I'm just beginning to build my library so I'd rather start with some serifs that won't call so much attention to themselves. The chunkiness of Ernestine makes me think perhaps I should be considering slab-serifs more. Hoftype has one called Foro and Adelle has become pretty widely used on web sites. So has Museo but I've grown so tired if it. Do you think slab-serifs are better for screen use?

@pablo: Thanks for sharing your specimen tool. Just the other day I was wondering if there was anything like that. Seems quite helpful.

hrant's picture

Ernestine does have a somewhat strong character, but I still see it as a very functional typeface, especially at smaller sizes and onscreen. BTW, full disclosure: one reason I'm recommending Ernestine is that I had a hand in it. But Nina and I are certainly not the only ones who like it. :-)

Do you think slab-serifs are better for screen use?

Yes. Many people do.

BTW, you're reacting too strongly to Nick. I think he's usually helpful, especially lately. And I think his question is sound, and he might be terse because he's busy.


altsan's picture

May I just request, as both a developer and a reader, that you please endeavour to avoid the all-too-common mistake of specifying web text in absolute pixel sizes? A fixed pixel size is quite likely to be either unreadably tiny or unattractively huge (more likely the former) on anything other than the particular range of display formats which use a DPI value close to the designer's.

My laptop, for example, has a display resolution of 120 DPI, and I'm constantly plagued by tiny flyspeck text on websites. I can only imagine what users of these new 200-300-odd DPI screens have to deal with.

If you really must use a fixed size of text, IMO it's better to use points rather than pixels, because (at least in theory) that should be translated to display DPI. I wouldn't recommend even that, however: many browsers actually map point size to a fixed pixel size (which is utterly broken behaviour, but that doesn't stop them, alas); also not all computer screens have an accurate DPI configuration. (I've seen 15-inch notebooks with 1600x1200 pixel screens which generally come out to more than 130 DPI physically, but are often configured for only 96 or 120, so everything comes out smaller than natural.)

As a rule, I always use relative scaling for text when I'm designing web pages myself.

ath's picture

@altsan: Don't worry, I don't size text in absolute units. I just use px as a way of talking about sizes with other people. I use the rem method as described here:


ath's picture

@hrant: Thank you. I think Ernestine is very nice, to tell you the truth. I do think its character is too strong for what I need now, though. As for Mr. Shinn, I've seen too many comments like that coming from him in the forums. I'm reacting not just to his comment here but to all those other ones as well. You know, even before I knew his work I had already memorized his picture because of the way he spoke to people. If you have nothing to contribute, then don't say anything. Being busy is no excuse. Silence would take up less of his time than being a smart aleck would.

@ Mr. Shinn: I will apologize to you for one thing which is not fair on my part: "of all the people in the forums you are certainly one of the least generous and constructive". I don't read the forums nearly enough to know that. But I have seen several comments in which that was your attitude, including here.

Nick Shinn's picture

Pardon me for being so lazy Andres.
I didn’t read all your post, just the first paragraph about web type, then looked at the pictures and jumped to the conclusion that they were what you wanted an opinion on.
You said, “Help me compare these four lovely faces” and showed four images—so I would say my response in skipping the bulk of text is quite natural.

You’re asking people for their professional opinion, for free, so why not make it as easy as possible for them to help you? Why should I have to click on links and download PDFs? That’s too much like real work!

You seem to be familiar with my posts here, so you should know that I post a lot of images in threads, and like to see discussions visually illustrated within the context of a thread, so that there is a coherence to them, and people are not required to wander off into hyperlink space and get lost browsing. And I usually make a point of asking to see a typeface in context, rather than an alphabet showing.

Now you may think that the comments I’ve just made are not “generous” or “constructive”, but I think they are a reasonable critique of your post.

For comparison of types in alphabetic layout, it would be better to show them line by line, like the following, so that the viewer can appraise them without having to look back and forth great distances:

And rather than an alphabetic comparison, a word or two would give a better feel of the typeface.

(Thanks for your comment, Hrant.)

ath's picture

@ Mr. Shinn:

Please don't take this as if I'm yelling at you. OK?

Look, all I’m saying is if you are going to answer a question at least please:

a) don't be rude
b) read the post
c) try to help

No, I’m afraid in this context I think skipping the bulk of the text is not so natural. After all, it’s not a corporate website that you’re reading. If I go to the trouble of writing something it's because I really do think it's important for the question I am posing. If you don't want to read it, that’s absolutely fine. Simply don't answer. No one is forcing you. You are free to leave and spend your time on anything more worth your while.

Yes, I actually was trying to make it as easy as possible for others to help me. Perhaps what I did was not sufficient in your opinion but that doesn't warrant a rude answer on your part. Whatever I might do wrong, I do out of ignorance, not out of ill will. You could have written one line of text politely suggesting I change my approach. It would have been the same effort on your part. You see, some of us come here humbly hoping to gather a few tidbits of knowledge and I assure you we really are fully aware of our shortcomings. I want to be better and I want to learn more about your profession and I want to use typefaces properly. One would think people in your line of work would appreciate that. I don't expect to be treated with sarcasm just because I'm not an expert like you. Whether your comment was a reasonable critique or not, the sarcasm is completely out of place. How will your work ever be properly appreciated if you don’t nurture those who approach you?

The next time you see me post a question please consider this: I understand that your answer is free, but if it's rude and it's not helpful, I think I'll be able to live without it.

Now, to end this in a more positive way, I'd like to thank you for explaining the line-by-line comparison. From now on I promise I'll follow your suggestion in an effort to not waste your time or anyone else's.

Also, to take this a bit further, I'm wondering if it might be helpful to post some guidelines like this for newbies like me. They could be included in "PLEASE READ: Typophile Forum Posting Guidelines" or in a similar post. Perhaps there are a few recurring questions that could be answered more easily if such guidelines existed. Would it be a good idea to ask the community about this? Would it save you time?

ath's picture

@hrant: No need to answer this if it requires a long explanation, but what makes these faces seem old-fashioned to you? And, in your opinion what makes Sina Nova different from the others? I mean, I realize they are all pretty classical looking but when I put any of these next to Adobe Garamond I assure you they feel very different even to my untrained eyes. Are there any other alternatives you might recommend? What do you do when you want the that... uh... authority or formality but you don't want an antiquated tone?

hrant's picture

It's funny you mention Garamond. To me all those fonts are too reminiscent of that genre; the first two look like they were made at Adobe two decades ago; the second two look like they were made at indie foundries one decade ago. In fact to me even Sina Nova isn't very interesting. Now, if your site has that sort of conservative vibe, then that makes sense.


Nick Shinn's picture

Andres (please call me Nick), I don’t think my post was rude or sarcastic.
I was trying to help by being practical.
If a font has to work at 14-18 px, I don’t see what use looking at huge display type is, and that is why I asked the question that I did—brief and to the point.
Perhaps I should have qualified my response by saying “there can be far greater differences in pixel rendering than anything one may see in print or headlines on screen”.

As for guidelines for Typophile newbies—like design, just do it.
Don’t get upset, nobody really means you ill, it’s just a forum with a lot of different people (many not participating in their first language), so signals can easily become crossed.

dberlow's picture

My advice here is to choose the face that has the largest body and the widest set. So i'd line em up at the same size, and whoever is bigger and longer wins.

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