Font Hinting and Smoothing

Discussions about the development of TrueType and OpenType fonts.
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Bhikkhu Pesala
Top Typographer
Top Typographer
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Joined: Tue Oct 29, 2002 5:28 am
Location: Seven Kings, London UK

Font Hinting and Smoothing

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala »

Notes on Font Hinting

From Typographer Ulrich Steil

Ulrich Steil's Website

Referring to the various "hinting emails" I have received from you, I should like to make the following remarks:

a) Printers
Printers with a resolution of 600 dpi and more and professional raster image processors (RIPs) for making printing plates (RIPs have a resolution of up to 2540 dots per inch) discard all hints, as they are not needed for high-resolution output devices. In this case, e.g. for PDF files designed for print-out only (not designed for viewing), fonts without hints are even more appropriate.

b) Screen
Screen viewing requires hinting, as the screen resolution usually is approx. 70 dots per inch, depending of graphics card and monitor. Furthermore one must differentiate between the various versions of Windows. On my Windows 1998, unhinted fonts are a mess, because font smoothing does not work properly on Windows 1995/1998, nor on Windows 3.1. On Windows 2000, ME, NT5 and XP, the situation as regards font smoothing seems to be much better, but it cannot compensate professional hinting.

c) Hinting of composites
Composites such as "a macron", which lend their partial glyphs from other glyphs, in this case from the glyphs "a" and "macron" are never hinted (the receive the hints from the partial glyphs). If Pesala's font editor keeps the original hints of the base glyphs (a, b, c...) and of the accents (macron, dotaccent ...), he must not worry about the hinting of the composites he adds.

d) Manual hinting of TrueType fonts
Phil is wrong in assuming that the commercial TrueType fonts are provided with MANUAL TT hints (= TT instructions, as they are called). Nobody does this, as this is much to time-consuming. The usual way is to create manual PostScript hints, which are thereafter AUTOMATICALLY converted to instructions for TT fonts. There exists one TrueType font, which has been manually hinted. This is the font Georgia. It is the exception to the rule.

e) Size of file of Pesala's hinted TT fonts
As most characters of Pesala's fonts are composites for Pali and for European diacritics, the file size does not shrink tremendously by removing the hints from the few base glyphs. Remember: Composites are unhinted. Only base glyphs are hinted.
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