Screen rendering: the flipside

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Take a look at the following screenshots:

Top to bottom:
Greyscale (FF, Win Vista)
Cleartype (FF, Win Vista)
Quartz (FF, Mac)

We’ve had a LOT of threads on Windows font rendering, and I agree: it can be horrible at times. Ok, but now: How can we counteract that insane blur on the Mac?

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Another example: This is Fedra Serif Screen rendered on a Mac.

dberlow's picture


Theunis de Jong's picture

Frode, your top sample ("Greyscale (FF, Win Vista)") doesn't seem to contain any gray at all.

It's funny to see that, despite the overall "color" is different, Cleartype and Quartz totally agree on sub-pixel colors. An extreme closeup shows virtually the same sub-pixel alignment, it's just the intensity that's different.

Isn't there a configuration panel for Cleartype? What sort of influence does that have, other than "On/Off"?

hrant's picture

What about making a light font that renders passably on Quartz and then hint it to render dark enough on Windows?

BTW, to get your first line to a-a you'll need to tweak the GASP table (but then you might get severe drop-outs, although not if it's a monoline sans/slab).


hrant's picture


One ppem smaller.


Frode Bo Helland's picture

Theunis: It’s because I’ve deliberatly set the GASP table to use binary rendering. I’ve never seen good greyscale renderings at small sizes.

twardoch's picture


did you check and uncheck the settings "Use LCD font smoothing when available" in Mac OS X / System Preferences / Appearance?

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Hi Adam. No. I haven’t touched any of those. In any case, a screen font should work well regardless of the OS settings.

dberlow's picture

Don't you mean "a web font"?

Frode Bo Helland's picture

David: By demi = try a lighter weight ≈ ? Most likely a web font, yes.

dberlow's picture

It sure looks Demi all by itself out there.

Web fonts for text, viewed for discussion at a single size, even with a billion different renderings, is like judging a long life by a single day.

However, if the question of sanity in rendering is raised, let me say this— If one plucks a series of sizes of a type like you show and employ them at 9, 16, 30, and 57 px, i.e. as it might be employed, but putting these selected waterfalls of sizes together in comparison, everything you try except quartz is going to look ugly, do hear me? U g leee. Antialised, CT GDI, ugleee and CT DW, the best for last, will look pale and wan. Changing from one render style to another, except to change from one small size to all larger sizes aliased, is also ugly. Different fonts rendering differently at the same size is also ugly. Having Greyscale hinted in x y and d the impossible to turn on in Windows looks like the print, and quartz looks like bad print.

And I'm saying to look at a range of sizes because this example is so narrow and 1/2 tight it can't be just for text. But if it is, then the aliased and CT versions should include the little serif terminals of c, e, s, and a, who are just starting to poke their little info giving heads out in the quartz rendering. If you are representing the face with it's smallest important essense intact, I'd try to follow Hrant on this.

If not, if you're into the less is more of all CT as the basis for web typography, then you, and the gang just have less stylistic choice of what will work as a web font on Windows, and more font development work after the outline design, on fonts that will work small to large on Windows. Perhaps in the land of the insane, the less insane should read the tea leaves?

Greg H's white paper on MS CT of Oct.08, linked to from around here somewhere, explains that one cannot hint for CT to achieve parametric scaling. Only alignment preservation is really possible on the client side of a Windows machine with CT on.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

I always need a double take on your comments, db. I guess we all do. I’m on the neverending road of hintless outlines, and I think — as a general concept — I’m starting to figure out which direction to take. My compromises are far from most other web font compromises, for one I firmly believe one outline does not fit them all. I’m looking at a range of sizes and a range of rendering methods and it’s all ugly for sure. As for the weight: Is that all I have to play with on the Mac? Heavier equals blurrier?

Frank ADEBIAYE's picture

Someday, perhaps, one good wizard will take this amazing stuff :
into account...

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