Illustrator CS + "Small Caps

markatos's picture

Has anyone tested out the Small Caps feature in Illustrator CS to see if it is legit? Meaning, is it a typographic sin to use this? I'm doing something with Avenir right now, and my set does not have SC, so I can't compare it.

My intuition tells me this might not be the thing to do, but my eye is likeing it (after some tweaks).

What do you think?

markatos's picture

ok. I'm already finding things about this feature that are a bit wonky.

damn computers, can't let them do anything

Thomas Phinney's picture

The Small Caps feature in Illustrator CS works just like the one in InDesign: it will give you real designed small caps when you're using an OpenType font that has them, and otherwise will synthesize small caps from the caps, just like QuarkXPress, PageMaker or Word (except that the exact scaling percentages may differ slightly).



Nick Shinn's picture

>real designed small caps when you're using an OpenType font that has them, and otherwise will synthesize small caps from the caps,

A little too vague an answer, because of Adobe's redefinition (with OT) of a typeface family as a font.

The problem is, if you click on "small caps" in the first InD submenu, for an OpenType TYPEFACE (eg Caslon Pro) that has true small caps only for some fonts (aka "styles"), you will get either faux or real small caps, depending on the style. Clicking on "all small caps" in the OT (second level) submenu will produce different results.

If you use the first submenu, you have only your powers of discrimination to tell you whether you are getting vrai or faux. (Of course, you could compare the results with what you get from the second level submenu, but that seems to be something that the interface design should make redundant.)

Overall, the character interface in OT needs to be redesigned to better integrate OT fonts, and this is overdue.

Thomas Phinney's picture

> A little too vague an answer, because of Adobe's redefinition (with OT) of a typeface family as a font.

You should explain what you mean here. I *think* I know, but you could be more clear.

Note that Illustrator CS has a revised interface for OpenType. Have you looked at it? Can you be more specific in how you'd want it changed?

The point of "all small caps" is that it turns both caps and lowercase to small caps, whereas regular "small caps" just affects lowercase. However, it only works on OpenType fonts that have the correct forms. From my point of view, the implementation that would meet user expectations would be if "all small caps" made fake small caps when real ones weren't available, just like "small caps" does. Not my personal preference (I'd rather never get fake small caps), but it would be more consistent in the direction of giving users what they want.


dan's picture

Thomas thats why you need to steal the glyph pallet from InDesign and put it in both Illustrator and Photoshop. That way a user could see if there were true small caps or not.

refusenik's picture


Actually, Illustrator CS has the very same glyph pallette as InDesign CS does. You can find it under Window > Type > Glyphs. Tip: Assign a handy keyboard shortcut to it, I use ctrl+alt+g.

Photoshop, however, does not have it, which is indeed a shame.

What bugs me is that all 3 apps in the suite have slightly different UIs at varying stages of maturity. InDesign has by far the best, with the brilliant and beautiful sideways tabs for pallettes. PS is next, but could be a lot better, if it were "InDesigned". Illustrator's UI needs a serious kick up the backside, if you ask me. I'm really hoping that the UI of InDesign CS will be the new standard Adobe UI.

Nick Shinn's picture

>Adobe's redefinition (with OT) of a typeface family as a font

Sorry, my mistake (I must have been thinking of installing OT fonts in OS9). Having separate name fields, in InDesign, for the typeface family name and the font/style, rather than one long name for each font, is actually a better arrangement. And having alternate characters as part of the same font, rather than in a separate font, is a much better arrangement.

>CS has a revised interface for OpenType

I can't spot the difference.

>Can you be more specific in how you'd want it changed?

1. There should not be separate submenus for Options and OpenType. At the moment, "OpenType" has the same status as "Strikethrough". It''s time to daylight OT!

2. The options presently on the character submenus should be on the main character palette, permanently visible. Two reasons for this: firstly, as a typographer, one uses them far more frequently than some of the other palettes that warrant a permanent space (eg gradient). Secondly, the "drag to and release" mode of the pop-up submenus is wrong for OT controls, which should really be a list of "on/off" radio buttons.

3. There should be some menu indication that a style is faux. An asterix, Italicization, color/tint, whatever -- many kinds of typographic signifiers would do the trick.

4. How about a "No faux styles" preference (preferrably as default) so that only "true" options for a typeface show on the menu. This would work with a single options menu that included OpenType features.

5. You say that fake small caps is giving users what they want, but why then are there no "italic", "bold", and "outline" buttons in InD? (and props for that!).

6. "All small caps" is an unecessary and confusing option. Let users type out all LC if they want it. You might just as well have "all lower case" as an option.

Thomas Phinney's picture

OpenType font handling in OS 9 wasn't particularly different than OS X, but no matter.

(1-3) Illustrator CS has an entire OpenType palette, and is essentially one generation ahead of InDesign CS in OpenType UI. So what I was suggesting was that you should look at the Illustrator CS UI and comment on that, rather than the InDesign UI.
If you don't have a copy of Illustrator CS, you can also refer to the OpenType User Guide, which shows the Illustrator UI. It can be found at

(4) I really like your suggestion about "no faux styles." Of course since at the moment we only faux small caps, it would really be a "no faux small caps" option. But a lot of apps could use this!

5) As for fake small caps, I think that the mainstream of graphic design has accepted that fake bold and italic are not okay, but most are not so enlightened about fake small caps and would be ticked off if we took the option away. (We do get a few complaints about bold and italic, but not a lot.)

6) "All small caps" in unnecessary in an environment where the printed output is all that matters, and you don't mind taking extra steps to get there (taking capital letters, turning them into lowercase, then turning those into small caps).
However, being able to format caps and mixed case as all small caps allows fewer steps, and more importantly allows for the original text stream to be preserved, whether it's being exported to HTML or copied and pasted from a PDF to some other doc.

Now I'd better get back to some work.... :-)



robsayshowdy's picture

Thomas, I just wanted to say, that as visible in other threads, your candor is much appreciated. I really like to hear what's on the minds of some of the people who make these tools. Especially in the case of the OT palette. When I updated to CS I was wondering about the difference between Illustrator and Indesign (not so much PS). I actually liked Illustrator's better, except it was missing some of the ease that the ID options had. I just wish ID had a palette like Illustrator.

Thanks again.

EDIT: Sorry, to clarify, I think ID allows me to do more, but makes it harder on me because it doesn't have a separate palette when it should. (sorry for the confusion)

Thomas Phinney's picture

Well, the OT palette is still a work in progress, I think. But it's a major step forward, at least.

I had originally lobbied to have an extension to the character palette, which could be toggled on and off (show options kind of thing). But the OT palette as we got it in Illustrator CS is pretty close to what I had in mind.

Maybe I've been here too long.... These days I'm working with the fourth UI designer to be handling type UI. But on the plus side, I think she's the most enthusiastic one so far, and the most interested in, and dedicated to, solving the problems.

The biggest UI problem we face is that most folks seem to want to segregate the OpenType stuff from things that apply to all font types. They are concerned that otherwise people will get confused when certain UI toggles have no effect on most of their fonts.

This is an understandable approach, but it has some complications. What to do about features that apply to *both* OpenType fonts and other fonts? InDesign has separate locations for the two different kinds of features, right? But then what happens with a feature like ligatures? InDesign does auto ligatures for both OpenType fonts and (in a limited way) with other formats. But Illustrator only does auto ligatures for OpenType. Does this mean that if/when InDesign gets an OT palette, that the ligatures feature should stay on the menu instead? Or that if a feature like "all small caps" starts effecting non OpenType fonts, it should migrate in the UI?

That's just one example of the kinds of headaches we face in implementing this stuff. Next time, I'll tell you about supporting arbitrary features....


jfp's picture

Whatever Adobe do in term of interface, the most important thing is to kept consistency for all their applications for supported OT features and how user can access them.

Actually the three major graphic appl. got three different way of.

(but yes, in CS versions, its getting improved).

Syndicate content Syndicate content