List of fonts with optical scaling?

AlanR's picture

Does anyone know of a list, ideally reasonably comprehensive and up to date, of fonts which incorporate optical scaling? For present purposes I'd define this as fonts with three or more variants for different ranges of point size. (There must be quite a lot more with just two variants, most often text and display versions.)

I was asked this question by a colleague the other day, and on the spot could only respond with those I happened to know of already (the Adobe opticals as an obvious starting point, plus some others such as Cycles, Freight and Requiem). But all attempts to build up a more systematic list haven't so far been a great success. MyFonts turns out to have an "optical sizes" tag, which currently returns 51 hits (but with a bit of duplication, so the real number is less than 50). However (a) there are plenty of foundries MyFonts doesn't handle - they do not sell Requiem, for instance - and (b) the tagging clearly isn't perfect: thus although Cycles is in the MyFonts database, it appears not to have the "optical sizes" tag and is not retrieved by the foregoing search! So a better strategy is needed to come up with anything at all representative.

Is a list of optically scaled fonts a possible topic for a Typowiki page? There is an existing one on the principle of optical scaling, but it is very short on specifics.


hrant's picture

Yes, this would be useful.


William Berkson's picture

The problem you face is that there are a lot of big families now, particularly of sans, which have many weights and widths, and these are no doubt intended for different sizes, but it is really left to the designer to adapt to the situation.

Jens Kutilek's picture

OK, from the top of my head:

Adobe Garamond, Arno, Chaparral, Garamond Premier, Minion, Warnock from Adobe.

Clifford from FontFont.

Computer Modern and its variants by Donald E. Knuth (the TeX font).

hrant's picture

Sure there are gray areas, but there's a big difference
between providing different weights/widths versus
making optical sizes that try to appear like the same
typeface at different sizes. One dead giveaway is a large
variance in the x-height.

BTW, then there are "grades"...


Nick Shinn's picture

I have several typefaces at MyFonts that are tagged "optical sizes", however I don't recall that as my tag, and most of them only have two optical sizes, "normal" and Display/Headline. (Scotch Modern and Walburn, and later this year Fontesque, have three.)

As William notes, Hairline and Ultra Thin sans fonts are to all intents and purposes display sizes, although the original principle of optical scaling (Hrant's "...appear like the same typeface at different sizes...") doesn't really apply.

It's difficult to keep track of any category if you don't mentally "tag" it immediately you see a new face, as there is now such a large number of typefaces being released every month.
How many?

Pomeranz's picture

Arno Pro [Caption, Small Text, Regular, Subhead, Display]

Bodoni, ITC [6 pt, 12 pt, 72 pt]

Brisio Pro [Caption, Small Text, Regular, Subhead, Display]

Caslon, King’s [Display, Text]

Chaparral Pro [Caption, Small Text, Regular, Subhead, Display]

Clifford [6 pt, 9 pt, 18 pt]

Cronos Pro [Caption, Small Text, Regular, Subhead, Display]

Eldorado [Micro, Text, Display]

Farnham [Display, Text]

Freight [Micro, Text, Display]

Garamond Premier Pro [Caption, Small Text, Regular, Subhead, Display]

Jenson Pro [Caption, Small Text, Regular, Subhead, Display]

Kepler [Caption, Small Text, Regular, Subhead, Display]

Miller [Display, Text]

Minon Pro [Caption, Small Text, Regular, Subhead, Display]

Quadraat [Serif, Serif Display & Sans, Sans Headliner]

Reminga [Normal, Titling]

Sanvito Pro [Caption, Small Text, Regular, Subhead, Display]

Sirenne, MVB [6 pt, Text, 18 pt, 72 pt]

Utopia Std [Caption, Small Text, Regular, Subhead, Display]

Warnock Pro [Caption, Small Text, Regular, Subhead, Display]

Michael Hernan's picture



Founders Caslon



from Scale and spirit by Paul Shaw. eye 71, vol18, Spring 2009. pp62-69

DTY's picture

Beorcana Pro (Micro, unspecified, Display)

Michael Hernan's picture

Cool, I'm have recently decided to suffix my fonts as Micro, Text and Display (rather than Footnote or Caption unless that is what they are actually for).

hrant's picture

So we're making the list. Cool.



SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Mathew Carter’s Vincent [Reverse?, Text, Mid, and Banner]

ditto for Mr. Carter’s Fenway [Text, Mid, and Banner]

Rialto (which I have no clue if it still exists) [Rialto Titling, Rialto, Rialto Piccolo, Rialto Bold]

Sindre's picture

Mário Feliciano's Eudald. (Headline, News and Micro, the latter not listed on the website. There's also a Eudald Fine, intended for poster work, but that's based on another of Pradell's models.)

By the way, Farnham, as mentioned above, is disqualified. The "display" version is identical to the text cut, except for some decoration, and shorter ascenders and descenders. There's no difference at all in stem widths, serif thickness, overall widths or x-height.

kentlew's picture

Are we accepting the OP’s original definition of *three* or more different cuts or not?

Christopher Adams's picture

Hermann Zapf's AMS Euler [in six optical sizes, from 5 to 10 points].

hrant's picture

To me two cuts is enough to qualify.


Nick Shinn's picture

Lucas de Groot's Taz has hairline weights that are scaled to produce the same thickness of line at relative sizes that are easy to work with.
IIRC, the stem weights are integral stroke-widths, measured in points, at "rounded-off" typeface-point sizes.

I used a similar principle in the lightest weights of Bodoni Egyptian, but of course Luc pushed the idea to the limit!

Jens Kutilek's picture

... in that case (2 cuts) some more from FontFont:

FF Acanthus & FF Acanthus Text
FF Celeste & FF Celeste Small Text
FF Cellini & FF Cellini Titling
FF Holmen & FF Holmen Headline
FF Info (Text & Display)

Michael_Rowley's picture

I am surprised that no one has mentioned Sumner Stone's fonts: apart from those available from, I assume that he was largely responsible for Adobe's many fonts available to suit various sizes. Stone's typefaces include the very attractive Cycle, which is available in 5 sizes.

Nick Shinn's picture

Read the OP.

hrant's picture

Missing MyFonts tags shouldn't stunt the list.
BTW, Cycles has not five but seven optical sizes!


kentlew's picture

If 2 cuts is sufficient, then I’ll go ahead and add:

Whitman & Whitman Display
(There’s actually also a Titling for even larger, but not available in retail.)

FB Garamond — Text & Display

FB Californian — Text, [Undesignated], and Display (three cuts there, actually)

Escrow — Text & Display

Village — regular & Titling

Michael_Rowley's picture

'Cycles has not five but seven optical sizes'

Five sizes was wrong: I counted three text sizes and three display sizes, but the specimen sheet I've got is dated 2004, and didn't include open-type fonts, but there was an ornament font too. I assume that the number of fonts needed is much fewer in OTF format.

quadibloc's picture

I knew I had come across a typeface which, instead of using multiple masters, came in separate versions designed for use at different sizes, thus giving more control to the user: but I couldn't remember the name. It was, of course, Cycles. I see they also now have a face called Tuff which seems to be an alternative to Papyrus...

Nick Sherman's picture

I was probably the one responsible for tagging most of the fonts on MyFonts with optical sizes (it was one of my ongoing "tagging campaigns"), but I'm sure there were some I missed.

As tagging is a public (but monitored) function on MyFonts, anyone with an account is free to tag relevant fonts – or vote against irrelevant tags – as they see them. So, at least for the fonts represented on MyFonts, you don't have to mentally tag them… you can actually tag them.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

Would you care to tag my Tang-family?

Florian Hardwig's picture

Would you care to read Nick’s comment? ;-)

You can actually tag them (yourself).

Tim Ahrens's picture

These are the digital typefaces I am showing in my book on optical sizes (in addition to, and incomparison with a selection of metal fonts):

Bodoni (ITC)
Eldorado (Font Bureau)
Fleischmann (DTL)
Garamond Premier
Guardian Egyptian
Juliana (Font Bureau)

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

B&P Type Foundry

Romain Text and Headline

I suppose you could say SangBleu Serif is a banner version relative of La Police and SangBleu Sans is even a more delicate of Romain

Nick Shinn's picture

To be of more practical use, a list should state which optical sizes a face has.

A two-size system is Display and Text.
A three-size system could be named Display, Text, and Micro.
But after that what? Display (2), for instance? That would seem to indicate that there is a font for really big sizes.


Shinntype faces with optical variants:

Bodoni Egyptian (Display, Text)
Brown Gothic (Display, Text)
Fontesque (Display, Text)
Nicholas/Goodchild (Display,Text)
Pratt (Display, Text)
Scotch Modern (Display, Text, Micro)
Walburn (Display (2), Text)
Worldwide (Display, Text)

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Nick> Banner or Poster?

Nick Shinn's picture

Mike, it may be best to look at the work of foundries which produce a lot of variants for large size, and see how they already describe multiple display cuts.
e.g. Lucas Fonts, Font Bureau, H&FJ.

Jongseong's picture

Allow me to point out that though offerings with multiple optical variants tend to focus on the display end, there may be some demand for serving the smaller sizes. Johannes Küster says in his ATypI 2004 presentation "Fonts for mathematics" (PDF) that "math would need two sizes below Regular" in order to accommodate multiple levels of superscripting and subscripting one requires in mathematics.

kentlew's picture

Nick — FB has used “Banner”. However, not consistently, unfortunately.

Fenway Banner is intended for larger than Display. Zócalo Banner, more for in between Text and Display.

Can’t think of any “Poster” off the top of my head.

“Titling” is sometimes used for larger-than-Display. Often implies all-caps, but not exclusively.

“Deck” is used a lot for in-between cuts. H&FJ uses that also, as do others geared toward publications.

I've seen FB use “Slug” and “Agate” (in addition to Micro) for small text sizes, though not in the Retail library.

Florian Hardwig's picture

List of fonts with Optical Sizes on FontShop.

Tim Ahrens's picture

> List of fonts with Optical Sizes on FontShop.

Note that Lapture (with optical sizes) is also available from FontShop now:

Stephen Coles's picture

Yes, I'm sorry I can't keep that list up to date anymore.

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