Hinting 'distressed' glyphs

Duncan MacLeod's picture

Hi folks.

Does anyone have any advice on hinting "distressed" glyphs? That is to say: the horizontal and vertical stems are inconsistent in width, and not necessarily horizontal or vertical.

I have seen advice that one should hardly ever apply hints to a script font because hints can decrease the quality of these fonts and make them look worse - would that also apply to one that is "distressed"?

Some inconsistency is actually desirable; I am trying to replicate the "slightly over-inked, decayed Caslon typeface on dampened paper" look common in revolutionary-era colonial America (mid- to late 1700's).

To hint, or not to hint- That is the question.

An example of the font in question follows, screen-captured from FontLab's metrics window. Below the posted image is a link to a higher resolution copy so you can get a closer look, if desired:

fonty.jpg224.83 KB
Thomas Phinney's picture

If one were to hand-hint it with TrueType outlines, you could make it work pretty well at small sizes, but it would be a crazy amount of work. With PostScript outlines... hmmm, not sure it's worth bothering with glyph-level hints, just setting global values and blue zones.



blank's picture

In addition to what Thomas said I don’t think designers concerned with rendering quality would use a distressed font at sizes where the hints matter.

jasonc's picture

As noted, manual TrueType hints could aid legibility at smaller sizes, but at those sizes, there aren't enough pixels to show the distress. So your font would look like a well hinted Garamond font at smaller sizes where the hints do the most work.

Please let me know if you have any questions about that.

Jason C

Duncan MacLeod's picture

Thanks, guys. I think I get it; at the smaller sizes where hinting would do the most good, the distress wouldn't be visible, so it sort of defeats the purpose of using a distressed font at a smaller size where the hinting is required.

That makes sense. I think I will skip the hinting unless testing shows it to be an absolute necessity. I find it doubtful anyone would want to use the font at sizes lower than, say, 16 pts anyway.

Most of the real-world samples I have seen from the era (newspapers, books, broadsides, &c.) showing distress of this sort have been set at about 16 or larger, anything smaller is usually much crisper (i.e. inked less), and therefore cleaner.


twardoch's picture

BTW, remember that in FontLab Studio, the default preferences for both PostScript-based and TrueType-based fonts are "Autohint unhinted glyphs", so even if you don't do any hinting, FontLab Studio will autohint them when generating the fonts. You may want to disable those options.

Also, I recommend having a look at my tutorial:


Duncan MacLeod's picture

>>"You may want to disable those options."

I had caught that already Adam, but thank you very much for pointing it out - had I not seen that, it would have confused me to no end.

Thanks for the link, as well. Great resource!

Best regards,

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