Greek and Cyrillic support

Igor Freiberger's picture

I'm planning to add Greek and Cyrillic support to the font I'm developing. My question is: which glyphs must I add? Unicode tables have archaic letters and additional signs I suppose are not necessary (at least, not all of them).

What I think to add:



This is enough? Am I missing something?

Besides this, I'd like to know about serif fonts with good design for Greek and Ciryllic alphabets. I believe Minion is one of these, but it would be great to have others to analyse and research their typographical solutions for non-Latin glyphs.

Igor Freiberger's picture

Greek planned support:

(+ Greek additional, 1F00– 1FFF)

Cyrillic planned support:

jasonc's picture

why not use the Greek and Cyrillic characters that are part of the WGL4 (Windows Glyph List) set:

Jason C

Igor Freiberger's picture

why not use the Greek and Cyrillic characters that are part of the WGL4?

Thanks for the suggestion, Jason.

But this list just shows a partial sequence of Greek and Cyrillic characters included in Unicode. I want to know about these additional characters –like U+0384 or U+049A– in order to decide if they must be included in the font.

For example: WGL4 does not includes any glyph from 1F00 to 1FFF range. I'd like to understand if and why and when these chracters are need in Greek so I can do a correct choice.

Thomas Phinney's picture

For Cyrillic, I did a bunch o' research on the different languages needing different characters, for Adobe. Results are posted here:

See also my and Miguel's work on extended Latin character sets:

For Greek, the #1 decision you need to make is whether to support polytonic Greek or only monotonic. Polytonic is used for classical Greek, but was also used for Greek in general prior to 1982. I gather reproducing or reprinting work from 1982 or earlier can require it.



DTY's picture

In regard to Greek, for basic minimal support of monotonic Greek you need all the characters highlighted except 037A through 037D and 03CF. However, in addition to these you may also need 03DB, 03DF, and 03E1, which are used for old-fashioned numbering (much like Roman numerals in Latin script). And, if you have OT code for case-switching, you will need the uppercase equivalents of those also.

Igor Freiberger's picture

Thomas and David, thank you very much! Your information is really welcome.

For a font with many Latin extended characters, small caps, petite caps, swashes, figurine variants and alternates, I think that support for polytonic Greek is the only logical choice – although this means a lot of additional work.

What about small caps and petite caps for Greek and Cyrillic? Is there any documentation or example to research? Must I use the same criteria applied to Latin?

DTY's picture

For overall style of Greek, to go with a contemporary serif design like your Latin, you might look at Minion and Constantia as helpful examples of good design for the basic characters, but you should also look at Parachute's fonts for what contemporary Greek designers are doing. By contrast, Garamond Premier has a very nice design, but it's very traditional - like Garamond in general - so not as suited to your Latin. The most important choice is what balance you make between respecting the distinctive qualities of Greek script versus harmonizing the style with your Latin.

Small caps (and thus also petite caps) in Greek work the same way as in Latin, except that you have to do more complex OpenType coding to get the diacritics to behave correctly, especially in polytonic Greek. In particular, diacritics are mostly not used on text set in all caps or all small caps, but they are used on uppercase letters in mixed upper/lowercase setting. Also, watch out for the difference between iota subscript (ypogegrammeni) and iota adscript (prosgegrammeni).

Igor Freiberger's picture

Another great and helpful information. Thanks, David.
It seems a midpoint between Minion and Centro Serif is my target.

twardoch's picture

Vladimir Yefimov's PT Octava and his Cyrillic for ITC Charter are really good, and a bit in your direction.

Igor Freiberger's picture

Thanks, Adam. I was not aware there is a Cyrillic version of Charter. And Octava is more near to my approach than Centro. Both are very good suggestions.

I'm still in doubt if my font is worth so much effort to add all these language support. My first idea was just to create a font for personal use –and I'm still unsure if a commercial release would interest other people. But when I begun to design one of these "strange" non-Latin glyphs I cannot stop. It's a challenge to make it coherent to the remaining design.

And some Greek and Cyrillic characthers are really beautiful. Actually, I want to design Omegas, Phis, Des, Zhes and so on. :-)

twardoch's picture


there are at least three Cyrillic extensions of Charter:
* the official ITC Charter Cyrillic, published by ParaType, designed by Vladimir Yefimov
* Charis SIL, designed and published by SIL International, based on an opensource version of Bitstream Charter
* Khartiya, designed by Andrey Panov, based on the same opensource version of Charter BT

I strongly prefer Vladimir Yefimov's version. Charis SIL is quite poor, Panov's version is adequate but not as good as Yefimov's, which is just great. I believe Yefimov's Charter Cyrillic is one of the best Cyrillic text faces available. In fact, the Russian edition of Bringhurst's "The Elements of Typographic Style" is set in it, while the original version is set in Minion. Matthew Carter also once told me that he is quite fond of Yefimov's Cyrillic for Charter.

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