Gentium looks bad in Word but nice on paper

Jurriaan's picture

Hi All,

This is my debut post on typophile, and I'd like to post a question about Gentium, the free font I suppose most of you know about.

Trying out this font, I thought it looked strikingly crappy in Word, compared to when you print it (the same page from Word). This difference may be common, but it seems greater for Gentium. I think it's beautiful on paper, but it's just horrible and not very legible in Word.

So I wonder, how come? What is it about Gentium that causes this?

The difference I'm talking about is for example smaller for Verdana or Calibri, typefaces designed to be legible on screen as well as on paper.

Jurriaan

daniele capo's picture

Can be a problem of hinting?

mike_duggan's picture

Jurriaan, can you post a screenshot?

Jurriaan's picture

Here's a screenshot, Gentium Book Basic, 11 pt.

I was thinking maybe it's just how Word generates type on screen (any typeface).

A note to Italian speakers: the text was babelfish-generated.

Here's another example at 12 pt, comparing with Times New Roman (2nd paragraph):

On my screen in Word it looks worse by the way (without Cleartype, which I don't like).

The problem is probably less bad when using a screen with a higher resolution than 72 ppi, like some mac screens have.

Jurriaan

Jurriaan's picture

OK, maybe it's just the typeface.
My point is just that I like it a lot on paper, but on screen I don't think it's easy to read, and it looks like a different typeface altogether. A crappy one.

Jurriaan

Goran Soderstrom's picture

Everything looks bad in Word ;-)

(Sorry couldnt help myself...)

mike_duggan's picture

What you are seeing is the font displayed in bilevel rendering or black and white pixels. The font is hinted, but not well, the hinting on the italics are worse it seems, so proportions and spacing are bad. Making a font look like the print version using black and white pixels is never going to work, no matter if it is in Word or not. ClearType certainly does make the font look closer to the printed version.

Uli's picture

Experimenti causa, I rehinted the italic.

After rehinting it now looks like this:

http://www.sanskritweb.net/temporary/gentium.gif

http://www.sanskritweb.net/temporary/gentium.pdf

Sloping of f and l etc. are not consistent,
so several letters of Italic Gentium dance.

Si_Daniels's picture

If you don't like ClearType - try setting Windows to regular antialiasing and hack the fonts "gasp" table to smooth at all sizes.

mike_duggan's picture

that is an idea, not sure what the end user agreement allows. Also if you want to do that, also removing hinting from the font for that case will result in a closer approximation in 'look' to the printed output.

Si_Daniels's picture

It's distributed under the Open Font License - you may need to rename it if you make a mod - so read the license.

bobbybobo's picture

Hi Jurriaan

For as far as I know, some fonts aren't meant to be used on screens. They are just not suited for the job. No matter what you do.
This might be one of those fonts.

Ray

Jurriaan's picture

Isn't it true that the data (e.g. the outlines) used to render type (print or on screen) is always the same?
If this is the case, then what makes screen type difficult to read? I think the answer is dot pitch. I think if in the future we have screens with smaller dot pitches of over 300 dpi, screen type will get more legible (the contrast for example is already good enough I think). I think the greater the dpi, the smaller the visible difference between anti-aliased and non-anti-aliased, right?
And then type would look good on screen, even in Word! :)

Jurriaan

Rob O. Font's picture

"What you are seeing is the font displayed in bilevel rendering or black and white pixels."

The examples on this thread are all anti-aliased type.

"If you don’t like ClearType - try setting Windows to regular antialiasing and hack the fonts “gasp” table to smooth at all sizes."

Got that, silly user? Wake up each morning, decide whether you want to read on the screen OR get a good preview for print, and then hack your fonts accordingly, or select OS preferences according to the device you want them to look best on, and then go hack.

" - you may need to rename it if you make a mod - ".
"... removing hinting from the font for that case will result in a closer approximation..."
We are Finally Getting an Authentic ClearType Specification. :)

Cheers!

mike_duggan's picture

the images are of black and white text, they are just scaled which makes them look blurry.

the advice on the modifications was for Greyscale text rendering, to make the font onscreen 'look' closer to Gentium in print
cheers

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

If your on the mac Gentium looks great.

Si_Daniels's picture

>If your on the mac Gentium looks great.

He doesn't like ClearType (or clones thereof) :-)

jasonc's picture

The problem, as was suggested earlier, is from hinting.
Verdana TNR and Calibri were all manually hinted, meaning a person applied all the truetype instructions, assessed the results, and adjusted as necessary, for every letter in the font, especially at screen display sizes.

Gentium looks passable in the Roman, but displays more problems in the italics. The fonts were probably autohinted. An autohinter can be tuned to give decent results in more predictable situations, like most traditional upright designs, but when the same algorithms are applied to the italic designs, they often make incorrect decisions, and the results look worse than unhinted at display sizes. The issue is that the autohinter is applying hints in either the horizontal or vertical direction within the character, so it doesn't know what to do when it finds an oblique stem. In the lower case "a",. it obviously made a very poor "choice"
Human hinters can apply diagonal hint instructions to alleviate those problems, but obviously this is a time consuming process.

fguimaraes's picture

On a completely unrelated note, that's an incredibly beautiful song :)

Rob O. Font's picture

"...the images are of black and white text, they are just scaled which makes them look blurry."

Look AGAIN! :)))))))))

mike_duggan's picture

Look AGAIN! :)))))))))

I did already, your turn to look again :)

The images do have grey in them, but its not rendered by the system, it is an artifact of the image being scaled after the screenshot.

Jurriaan's picture

"On a completely unrelated note, that’s an incredibly beautiful song :)"

Yes, it's unbelievable, like so many of their songs.

Thanks for the comments!

Rob O. Font's picture

"...it is an artifact of the image being scaled after the screenshot..."
Oh Mike, that's so funny. You're just pretending to have taken your turn.

Take a black & white image of this type, scale it and show me how to turn what were black pixels into grey pixels as seen here. Go ahead, make my grey.

Simon — "He doesn’t like ClearType (or clones thereof) :-)"
LOL, I give up, what's a clone of ClearType?

Cheers!

mike_duggan's picture

David — Oh Mike, that’s so funny. You’re just pretending to have taken your turn.

Who’s on first? :)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPrm6luPmME

here is a zoomin of the original image posted by Jurriaan.

so how to take a white backround and turn it into one with pastel colored pixels, thats the trick... I guess we will have to ask Jurriaan how he made the images.

Rob O. Font's picture

"...thats the trick... "
In deed.

I did the same blowup and got nowhere near until I moved to 'standard' rendering

Cheers!

mike_duggan's picture

back to I suppose, asking Jurriaan, how he made the original images. (if he is still reading or still cares)From his Flickr page, it looks like he knows a thing or two about images

the GASP settings in Gentium allow for Grey above 16ppem + greater, but this is 11point which is 15ppem, and 12 point which is 16ppem, so even if he set the system to standard smoothing, the result would be black and white. Certainly TimesNewRoman displays in Black and White when the system is set to standard smoothing, (I should know a thing or two about this :-) and in the image above TNR has grey pixels.

anyway enough for the week.

cheers

Jurriaan's picture

I made the images during working hours. I tell you this secret because it explains why I use Powerpoint to edit the image.

Well, here's the simple recipe (using Windows, Office):

Viewing the Word document, press [Print Screen]
Open Powerpoint, Paste image.
Crop the image in Powerpoint and save as png.

That's it. I have no clue where the colors come from!

I tried to reproduce mike's picture, and I got this:

Now I wonder what I get when I try the same on my PC at home, which runs on openSUSE. Stay tuned :)

Jurriaan

Uli's picture

I should mention that my screenshot of the rehinted version of Gentium was a true black-and-white monochrome picture got by hitting on the PrintScreen key, copying it into Microsoft Photo Editor and by saving it to disk after converting it to 1-bit-monochrome:

non-enlarged:
http://www.sanskritweb.net/temporary/gentium.gif
(or http://www.sanskritweb.net/temporary/gentium.tif)

enlarged:
http://www.sanskritweb.net/temporary/gentium2.gif
(or http://www.sanskritweb.net/temporary/gentium2.tif)

If you don't see monochrome, your picture viewer is faulty.

mike_duggan's picture

I can confirm that using the unusual method ;-) of saving the picture,

>>Viewing the Word document, press [Print Screen], Open Powerpoint, Paste image. Crop the image in Powerpoint and save as png.

This method will result in the image being scaled by Powerpoint, which does indeed introduce GreyPixels into the image. A print screen, pasted into Paint for example then saved as .png, will give correct results, which is Gentium displayed in Black and White, when the system is set to standard smoothing.

Rob O. Font's picture

If you are looking at enlargements of screen types, you must be sure to enlarge by powers of 2. 100%, 200%. 400% or 800% are all the 'accurate' enlargements there are.

Jurriaan's image, and account of its creation, reminds me that others say their screen font developments are in the interest of presenting the closest image to the printed page, which they claim as an achieved goal. But, when one views a photo of a printed page on the screen, it always looks much better than the wysiwyg version...

Try it, you'll see.

Cheers!

Jurriaan's picture

"This method will result in the image being scaled by Powerpoint"

I didn't order Powerpoint to do so.. But then again, that doesn't mean a thing for Microsoft programmes, does it? :)

k.l.'s picture

But, when one views a photo of a printed page on the screen, it always looks much better than the wysiwyg version

And all this without a trace of hinting.

Isn't this what Apple's rasterizer does, more or less?

mike_duggan's picture

>>I didn’t order Powerpoint to do so.. But then again, that doesn’t mean a thing for Microsoft programmes, does it? :)

Hi Jurriaan, thanks for posting the additional info on how you made the images. All I was saying in my previous post was that Powepoint is not normally used as to save images, and it is obviously not designed well for that purpose.

thanks again, as least we solved the 'mystery of the grey pixels'

rocky's picture

I imagine it is promiscuous to translate, and it expects same a dissimilar font completely.
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