optimizing font for small size on a mac?

nahdan's picture

I'm trying to optimize my font for small, set sizes on-screen (9pt, 11pt, 13pt) specifically for osx. i don't know very much about font-exporting and the rasterization process, but i'm told that i font-hinting doesn't work on osx because quartz doesn't listen to the hints. is there any other method of optimizing fonts for small sizes on macs? the only other solution i can think of is to make separate font files for each size… and that just seems downright sloppy.

sorry this is a bit of a novice question, but my usual solution of scouring the internet for an answer hasn't been pointing me in any helpful directions.

thanks in advance!

dberlow's picture

> the only other solution i can think of is to make separate font files for each size… and that just seems downright sloppy.

There is some discussion of this here. I'm not sure I would generally characterize the idea as "sloppy", unless you consider appearance last and number of font files first. ;)

dberlow's picture

And if you are looking for a model non-sloppy solution without hints or multiple files, the Reading Edge series, denoted here by fonts with "RE" in the font name, represent our effort toward solving the problem at hand today.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

David, when are you going to explain how you do this?

Té Rowan's picture

Assuming it is not a trade secret...

dberlow's picture

How to do what exactly?

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Fonts that really work, even with Windows Standard rendering*, without hints and multiple files.

* Btw, I noticed they appear rather blurry and greyed out with Standard rendering. Do they have font smoothing applied all the way down to the smallest sizes?

blank's picture

David’s been beating that drum for years. Am I the only person who ever read his posts about Verdana and Georgia?

dberlow's picture

@FF, the RE fonts have hints for CT rendering. If a browser independent method can be developed for detecting standard rendering, then all fonts can be made less blurry in that windows mode. But MS says this is "not possible" for IE.

Nick Shinn's picture

IMO, fonts look fine for the Mac if the stem widths are consistent, and if glyph shapes (especially vertical extrema on curves) are consistent with regards to the alignment zones. Then, auto-hint in FontLab.

I also suggest that you experiment with the Blue Scale value (Type 1 hinting: global hinting parameters): I usually set it to 8 pts.

dberlow's picture

Nick, none of the hinting effects Mac rendering as you know, and the stem widths are only consistent if you add up the colors used to represnt each stem, which most people do, it seems. Vertical alignment and precise stem weight from a single outline font are out of the designers or type engineer's scope of influence on the Mac, except in the choices made in the design of the single outline's contours themselves. No tricks, no hints. As for the dotting of the i and crossing of the t, these things are trade secrets, ;)

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Oh, I’m reading David’s post alright. I respect the trade secrecy though, just immensely curious about the whole thing. You won’t happen to have any spots available for internships some time soon over there, would you David?

Nick Shinn's picture

David, I've found that the method I mentioned *does* make a difference to Mac rendering.
I always test in InDesign.

k.l.'s picture

(This is Adobe rendering, not Mac rendering.)

dberlow's picture

Frank that's a nice thing to say, but I think the only internship anyone needs is right in front of them on their computer screen. :)

Nick Shinn's picture

Well anyway, I optimize for InDesign on the Mac, and it looks pretty good in Safari and TextEdit.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

That's the only one I've had:) Wouldn't mind being a fly on the wall around some of you guys though.

fontdesigner2's picture

Read "Learn Fontlab Fast". There's some petty solid info about doing this in there. You should also really study truetype hinting in the fontlab manual. You're gonna have to work very hard on that. Only truetype hinting will make the font look good at small sizes.

dberlow's picture

fd2> Only truetype hinting will make the font look good at small sizes.

This is true, but don't forget that only a little bit of TT hints are interpreted by most anti-aliasing windows machines and no mac anti-aliasing machines.

So, only truetype hinting can make some of the font look good at small sizes, and the rest of making a font look good is left up to Microsoft and Apple at the rasterizing end.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

With optical (pixel) sizes you can reclaim a fair bit of that cake, but you already know that David.

fontdesigner2's picture

dberlow> So how do you optimize your font to look it's best on the Microsoft and Apple rasterizing end?

dberlow's picture

A short description of this is that the font's parameters to be fed to a rasterizer without hints are simplified in their diversity, and optical sizing is used to exaggerate the important features. That helps both Mac and Win, then the Win version needs hints to assure hairline appearance and alignment. There is a discussion of this here, in the context of Beat Stamm's expanded 1997 paper on hinting.

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