Question about Chinese and Korean typography

From time to time i had to design documents that are tri lingual, or bi-lingual.
its almost always, spanish, english and another language, the last two were Chinese and Korean...

Usually i receive documents in word, with the text in chinese, and usually i don't have problems opening it. The trouble comes when i import or copy it in Indesign, because most of the times the font used by word is not the same that indesign uses for the same language.

I understand that in the mac there are some system fonts that are there to be used in this cases. For example, for the chinese document I used the MS Mincho, and after looking carefully I understood that the other two fonts (MS PGothic and MS PMincho) are like te times and helvetica versions of this font.

in this last document, I couldn export it to a PDF to be printed, because it said that the font had copyright restrictions. It was a real problem because i had to convert to outlines almost 90 pages, and get me into trouble whenever i needed to make corrections (fortunately I kept the editable version of the document) and this meant time and money I spent making a PDF each time there were corrections.

• I want to know how this kind of fonts work, and what can I do if this chinese font (or any another) has copyright restrictions. Why did it had restrictions?

• How does the kerning and leading can affect the reading in chinese? are there any basic rules regarding writing with chinese in an occidental way?

Links, books, mails etc, is very appreciated.


Leonardo Vazquez

kentlew's picture

Leonardo — I believe the Apple system fonts have some restrictive embedding bits, which is why you have a problem embedding in a PDF. But there are some Adobe versions which are essentially the same and allow embedding.

I believe at least some of these basic Adobe Chinese fonts are included with various installations of Creative Suite software. You might look into these in the future.

See also this thread:

Leonardo Vazquez's picture

Thankyou Kent... i'll read the link. ;)


lunde's picture

You might find "CJKV Information Processing" Second Edition to be helpful, specifically Chapter 7, which covers typography.

Leonardo Vazquez's picture

Thanks Lunde!

Jongseong's picture

Korean should be relatively straightforward, as it is always set horizontally. Furthermore, 99% of text typefaces supporting Korean have fixed width for the hangul. Korean fonts often come in two flavours, fixed-width and proportional, where in the former even the non-hangul glyphs come in fixed widths (alphanumerics taking up half the width of a hangul syllable). Take care to use the proportional version.

In many older Korean fonts, even in the proportional version, the punctuation and the space character have fixed width, which results in bad spacing. A space exactly half the width of a hangul syllable is too big for Korean. In addition, the hangul syllables themselves set quite loosely because they retain the same width as in the fixed-width versions where each syllable has to be twice as wide as an alphanumeric.

In the early days of digital typesetting when Korean typesetters had to use such fonts, they would track the text tighter, condense the space character, and manually kern punctuation (Latin letters would often touch each other because of the global tight tracking). I'm not sure if those who don't read Korean can get a good enough sense of how much of these adjustments to make. The easiest solution would be to use the latest text font offerings from Korean foundries with better default spacing.

Leonardo Vazquez's picture

Johnseong, but tell me, do the spacing and leading criteria we use in occidental text formatting, can we use it in Korean too, this is, adjust tracking for a line to fit. Ive noticed that its monospaced.

In the other hand, the leading is there a standard (ex. body10, leading 12) does the leading affects the reading?

Is there hypenation in Korean?

Sorry so many questions :S

Thank you for your post


Jongseong's picture

The same spacing and leading principles apply in Korean, but it is considerably easier since Korean line breaks can come after any letter (each 'letter' represents a syllable). Since long words don't wreck havoc with the line spacing, this also means that hyphenation is not needed for Korean, it almost always makes sense to full-justify, and there are no rivers running through Korean text.

Check that the software you are using is breaking Korean text correctly. This is really important!

You can adjust tracking for a line to fit, but if you do, do it ever so slightly so that there is no noticeable difference between the tracking of different lines. The justification should be achieved mostly through varying the spaces anyway.

As for the global tracking, a good rule of thumb is to make it so that the central horizontal lines of 을을 almost or just barely touch. As for leading, what works for Latin text generally should work for Korean text. Korean fonts also contain Latin glyphs, so you can test with them.

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