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This article is about the traditional meaning of "font". Font_sentence_0

For the electronic data file, see Computer font. Font_sentence_1

For other uses, see Font (disambiguation). Font_sentence_2

In metal typesetting, a font was a particular size, weight and style of a typeface. Font_sentence_3

Each font was a matched set of type, one piece (called a "sort") for each glyph, and a typeface consisting of a range of fonts that shared an overall design. Font_sentence_4

In modern usage, with the advent of digital typography, "font" is frequently synonymous with "typeface". Font_sentence_5

Each style is in a separate "font file"—for instance, the typeface "Bulmer" may include the fonts "Bulmer roman", "Bulmer", "Bulmer bold" and "Bulmer extended"—but the term "font" might be applied either to one of these alone or to the whole typeface. Font_sentence_6

In both traditional typesetting and modern usage, the word "font" refers to the delivery mechanism of the typeface design. Font_sentence_7

In traditional typesetting, the font would be made from metal or wood. Font_sentence_8

Today, the font is a digital file. Font_sentence_9

Etymology Font_section_0

The word font (traditionally spelled fount in British English, but in any case pronounced /ˈfɒnt/) derives from Middle French fonte "[something that has been] melted; a casting". Font_sentence_10

The term refers to the process of casting metal type at a type foundry. Font_sentence_11

Metal type Font_section_1

In a manual printing (letterpress) house the word "font" would refer to a complete set of metal type that would be used to typeset an entire page. Font_sentence_12

Upper- and lowercase letters get their names because of which case the metal type was located in for manual typesetting: the more distant upper case or the closer lower case. Font_sentence_13

The same distinction is also referred to with the terms majuscule and minuscule. Font_sentence_14

Unlike a digital typeface, a metal font would not include a single definition of each character, but commonly used characters (such as vowels and periods) would have more physical type-pieces included. Font_sentence_15

A font when bought new would often be sold as (for example in a Roman alphabet) 12pt 14A 34a, meaning that it would be a size 12-point font containing 14 uppercase "A"s, and 34 lowercase "A"s. Font_sentence_16

The rest of the characters would be provided in quantities appropriate for the distribution of letters in that language. Font_sentence_17

Some metal type characters required in typesetting, such as dashes, spaces and line-height spacers, were not part of a specific font, but were generic pieces which could be used with any font. Font_sentence_18

Line spacing is still often called "leading", because the strips used for line spacing were made of lead (rather than the harder alloy used for other pieces). Font_sentence_19

The reason for this spacing strip being made from "lead" was because lead was a softer metal than the traditional forged metal type pieces (which was part lead, antimony and tin) and would compress more easily when "locked-up" in the printing "chase" (i.e. a carrier for holding all the type together). Font_sentence_20

In the 1880s–1890s, "hot lead" typesetting was invented, in which type was cast as it was set, either piece by piece (as in the Monotype technology) or in entire lines of type at one time (as in the Linotype technology). Font_sentence_21

Characteristics Font_section_2

In addition to the character height, when using the mechanical sense of the term, there are several characteristics which may distinguish fonts, though they would also depend on the script(s) that the typeface supports. Font_sentence_22

In European alphabetic scripts, i.e. Latin, Cyrillic and Greek, the main such properties are the stroke width, called weight, the style or angle and the character width. Font_sentence_23

The regular or standard font is sometimes labeled roman, both to distinguish it from bold or thin and from italic or oblique. Font_sentence_24

The keyword for the default, regular case is often omitted for variants and never repeated, otherwise it would be Bulmer regular italic, Bulmer bold regular and even Bulmer regular regular. Font_sentence_25

Roman can also refer to the language coverage of a font, acting as a shorthand for "Western European". Font_sentence_26

Different fonts of the same typeface may be used in the same work for various degrees of readability and emphasis, or in a specific design to make it be of more visual interest. Font_sentence_27

Weight Font_section_3

The weight of a particular font is the thickness of the character outlines relative to their height. Font_sentence_28

A typeface may come in fonts of many weights, from ultra-light to extra-bold or black; four to six weights are not unusual, and a few typefaces have as many as a dozen. Font_sentence_29

Many typefaces for office, web and non-professional use come with a normal and a bold weight which are linked together. Font_sentence_30

If no bold weight is provided, many renderers (browsers, word processors, graphic and DTP programs) support a bolder font by rendering the outline a second time at an offset, or smearing it slightly at a diagonal angle. Font_sentence_31

The base weight differs among typefaces; that means one font may appear bolder than another font. Font_sentence_32

For example, fonts intended to be used in posters are often bold by default while fonts for long runs of text are rather light. Font_sentence_33

Weight designations in font names may differ in regard to the actual absolute stroke weight or density of glyphs in the font. Font_sentence_34

Attempts to systematize a range of weights led to a numerical classification first used by Adrian Frutiger with the Univers typeface: 35 Extra Light, 45 Light, 55 Medium or Regular, 65 Bold, 75 Extra Bold, 85 Extra Bold, 95 Ultra Bold or Black. Font_sentence_35

Deviants of these were the "6 series" (italics), e.g. 46 Light Italics etc., the "7 series" (condensed versions), e.g. 57 Medium Condensed etc., and the "8 series" (condensed italics), e.g. 68 Bold Condensed Italics. Font_sentence_36

From this brief numerical system it is easier to determine exactly what a font's characteristics are, for instance "Helvetica 67" (HE67) translates to "Helvetica Bold Condensed". Font_sentence_37

The first algorithmic description of fonts was made by Donald Knuth in his Metafont description language and interpreter. Font_sentence_38

The TrueType font format introduced a scale from 100 through 900, which is also used in CSS and OpenType, where 400 is regular (roman or plain). Font_sentence_39

The Mozilla Developer Network provides the following rough mapping to typical font weight names: Font_sentence_40


NamesFont_header_cell_0_0_0 Numerical valuesFont_header_cell_0_0_1
Thin / HairlineFont_cell_0_1_0 100Font_cell_0_1_1
Ultra-light / Extra-lightFont_cell_0_2_0 200Font_cell_0_2_1
LightFont_cell_0_3_0 300Font_cell_0_3_1
Normal / regularFont_cell_0_4_0 400Font_cell_0_4_1
MediumFont_cell_0_5_0 500Font_cell_0_5_1
Semi-bold / Demi-boldFont_cell_0_6_0 600Font_cell_0_6_1
BoldFont_cell_0_7_0 700Font_cell_0_7_1
Extra-bold / Ultra-boldFont_cell_0_8_0 800Font_cell_0_8_1
Heavy / BlackFont_cell_0_9_0 900Font_cell_0_9_1
Extra-black / Ultra-blackFont_cell_0_10_0 950Font_cell_0_10_1

Font mapping varies by font designer. Font_sentence_41

A good example is Bigelow & Holmes's Go font family. Font_sentence_42

In this family, '[the] fonts have CSS numerical weights of 400, 500, and 600. Font_sentence_43

Although CSS specifies "Bold" as a 700 weight and 600 as Semibold or Demibold, the Go numerical weights match the actual progression of the ratios of stem thicknesses: Normal:Medium = 400:500; Normal:Bold = 400:600.' Font_sentence_44

The terms normal, regular and plain (sometimes book), are used for the standard weight font of a typeface. Font_sentence_45

Where both appear and differ, book is often lighter than regular, but in some typefaces it is bolder. Font_sentence_46

Before the arrival of computers, each weight had to be drawn manually. Font_sentence_47

As a result, many older multi-weight families such as Gill Sans and Monotype Grotesque have considerable differences in styles from light to extra-bold. Font_sentence_48

Since the 1980s, it has become common to use automation to construct a range of weights as points along a trend, multiple master or other parameterized font design. Font_sentence_49

This means that many modern digital fonts such as Myriad and TheSans are offered in a large range of weights which offer a smooth and continuous transition from one weight to the next, although some digital fonts are created with extensive manual corrections. Font_sentence_50

As digital font design allows more variants to be created faster, a common development in professional font design is the use of "grades": slightly different weights intended for different types of paper and ink, or printing in a different region with different ambient temperature and humidity. Font_sentence_51

For example, a thin design printed on book paper and a thicker design printed on high-gloss magazine paper may come out looking identical, since in the former case the ink will soak and spread out more. Font_sentence_52

Grades are offered with characters having the same width on all grades, so that a change of printing materials does not affect copy-fit. Font_sentence_53

Grades are common on serif fonts with their finer details. Font_sentence_54

Fonts in which the bold and non-bold letters have the same width are “duplexed”. Font_sentence_55

Slope Font_section_4

In European typefaces, especially Roman ones, a slope or slanted style is used to emphasize important words. Font_sentence_56

This is called italic type or oblique type. Font_sentence_57

These designs normally slant to the right in left-to-right scripts. Font_sentence_58

Oblique styles are often called italic, but differ from 'true italic' styles. Font_sentence_59

Italic styles are more flowing than the normal typeface, approaching a more handwritten, cursive style, possibly using ligatures more commonly or gaining swashes. Font_sentence_60

Although rarely encountered, a typographic face may be accompanied by a matching calligraphic face (cursive, script), giving an exaggeratedly italic style. Font_sentence_61

In many sans-serif and some serif typefaces, especially in those with strokes of even thickness the characters of the italic fonts are only slanted, which is often done algorithmically, without otherwise changing their appearance. Font_sentence_62

Such oblique fonts are not true italics, because lower-case letter-shapes do not change, but are often marketed as such. Font_sentence_63

Fonts normally do not include both oblique and italic styles: the designer chooses to supply one or the other. Font_sentence_64

Since italic styles clearly look different to regular (roman) styles, it is possible to have "upright italic" designs that take a more cursive form but remain upright; Computer Modern is an example of a font that offers this style. Font_sentence_65

In Latin-script countries, upright italics are rare but are sometimes used in mathematics or in complex documents where a section of text already in italics needs a "double italic" style to add emphasis to it. Font_sentence_66

For example, the Cyrillic minuscule "т" may look like a smaller form of its majuscule "Т" or more like a roman small "m" as in its standard italic appearance; in this case the distinction between styles is also a matter of local preference. Font_sentence_67

In Frutiger's nomenclature the second digit for upright fonts is a 5, for italic fonts a 6 and for condensed italic fonts an 8. Font_sentence_68

The two Japanese syllabaries, katakana and hiragana, are sometimes seen as two styles or typographic variants of each other, but usually are considered separate character sets as a few of the characters have separate kanji origins and the scripts are used for different purposes. Font_sentence_69

The gothic style of the roman script with broken letter forms, on the other hand, is usually considered a mere typographic variant. Font_sentence_70

Cursive-only scripts such as Arabic also have different styles, in this case for example Naskh and Kufic, although these often depend on application, area or era. Font_sentence_71

There are other aspects that can differ among font styles, but more often these are considered immanent features of the typeface. Font_sentence_72

These include the look of digits (text figures) and the minuscules, which may be smaller versions of the capital letters (small caps) although the script has developed characteristic shapes for them. Font_sentence_73

Some typefaces do not include separate glyphs for the cases at all, thereby abolishing the bicamerality. Font_sentence_74

While most of these use uppercase characters only, some labeled unicase exist which choose either the majuscule or the minuscule glyph at a common height for both characters. Font_sentence_75

Width Font_section_5

Some typefaces include fonts that vary the width of the characters (stretch), although this feature is usually rarer than weight or slope. Font_sentence_76

Narrower fonts are usually labeled compressed, condensed or narrow. Font_sentence_77

In Frutiger's system, the second digit of condensed fonts is a 7. Font_sentence_78

Wider fonts may be called wide, extended or expanded. Font_sentence_79

Both can be further classified by prepending extra, ultra or the like. Font_sentence_80

Compressing a font design to a condensed weight is a complex task, requiring the strokes to be slimmed down proportionally and often making the capitals straight-sided. Font_sentence_81

It is particularly common to see condensed fonts for sans-serif and slab-serif families, since it is relatively practical to modify their structure to a condensed weight. Font_sentence_82

Serif text faces are often only issued in the regular width. Font_sentence_83

These separate fonts have to be distinguished from techniques that alter the letter-spacing to achieve narrower or smaller words, especially for justified text alignment. Font_sentence_84

Most typefaces either have proportional or monospaced (i.e. typewriter-style) letter widths, if the script provides the possibility. Font_sentence_85

There are, however, superfamilies covering both styles. Font_sentence_86

Some fonts also provide both proportional and fixed-width (tabular) digits, where the former usually coincide with lowercase text figures and the latter with uppercase lining figures. Font_sentence_87

The width of a font will depend on its intended use. Font_sentence_88

Times New Roman was designed with the goal of having small width, to fit more text into a newspaper. Font_sentence_89

On the other hand, Palatino has large width to increase readability. Font_sentence_90

The "billing block" on a movie poster often uses extremely condensed type in order to meet union requirements on the people who must be credited and the font height relative to the rest of the poster. Font_sentence_91

Optical size Font_section_6

Some professional digital typefaces include fonts that are optimised for certain sizes, for instance by using a thinner stroke weight if they are intended for large-size display use, or by using ink traps if they are to be printed at small size on poor-quality paper. Font_sentence_92

This was a natural feature in the metal type period for most typefaces, since each size would be cut separately and made to its own slightly different design. Font_sentence_93

As an example of this, experienced Linotype designer Chauncey H. Griffith commented in 1947 that for a type he was working on intended for newspaper use, the 6 point size was not 50% as wide as the 12 point size, but about 71%. Font_sentence_94

However, it declined in use as pantograph engraving, and especially phototypesetting and digital fonts made printing the same font at any size simpler. Font_sentence_95

A mild revival has taken place in recent years. Font_sentence_96

Optical sizes are more common for serif fonts, since their typically finer detail and higher contrast benefits more from being bulked up for smaller sizes and made less overpowering at larger ones. Font_sentence_97

There are several naming schemes for such variant designs. Font_sentence_98

One such scheme, invented and popularized by Adobe Systems, refers to the variant fonts by the applications they are typically used for, with the exact point sizes intended varying slightly by typeface: Font_sentence_99


  • Poster: Extremely large sizes, usually larger than 72 pointFont_item_0_0
  • Display: Large sizes, typically 19–72 pointFont_item_0_1
  • Subhead: Large text, typically about 14–18 pointFont_item_0_2
  • (Regular): Usually left unnamed, typically about 10–13 pointFont_item_0_3
  • Small Text (SmText): Typically about 8–10 pointFont_item_0_4
  • Caption: Very small, typically about 4–8 pointFont_item_0_5

Metrics Font_section_7

Font metrics refers to metadata consisting of numeric values relating to size and space in the font overall, or in its individual glyphs. Font_sentence_100

Font-wide metrics include cap height (the height of the capitals), x-height (the height of the lower-case letters) and ascender height, descender depth, and the font bounding box. Font_sentence_101

Glyph-level metrics include the glyph bounding box, the advance width (the proper distance between the glyph's initial pen position and the next glyph's initial pen position), and sidebearings (space that pads the glyph outline on either side). Font_sentence_102

Many digital (and some metal type) fonts are able to be kerned so that characters can be fitted more closely; the pair 'Wa' is a common example of this. Font_sentence_103

Some fonts, especially those intended for professional use, are duplexed: made with multiple weights having the same character width so that (for example) changing from regular to bold or italic does not affect word wrap. Font_sentence_104

Sabon as originally designed was a notable example of this. Font_sentence_105

(This was a standard feature of the Linotype hot metal typesetting system with regular and italic being duplexed, requiring awkward design choices as italics normally are narrower than the roman.) Font_sentence_106

A particularly important basic set of fonts that became an early standard in digital printing was the Core Font Set included in the PostScript printing system developed by Apple and Adobe. Font_sentence_107

To avoid paying licensing fees for this set, many computer companies commissioned "metrically-compatible" knock-off fonts with the same spacing, which could be used to display the same document without it seeming clearly different. Font_sentence_108

Arial and Century Gothic are notable examples of this, being functional equivalents to the PostScript standard fonts Helvetica and ITC Avant Garde respectively. Font_sentence_109

Some of these sets were created in order to be freely redistributable, for example Red Hat's Liberation fonts and Google's Croscore fonts, which duplicate the PostScript set and other common fonts used in Microsoft software such as Calibri. Font_sentence_110

It is not a requirement that a metrically compatible design be identical to its origin in appearance apart from width. Font_sentence_111

Serifs Font_section_8

Although most typefaces are characterised by their use of serifs, there are superfamilies that incorporate serif (antiqua) and sans-serif (grotesque) or even intermediate slab serif (Egyptian) or semi-serif fonts with the same base outlines. Font_sentence_112

A more common font variant, especially of serif typefaces, is that of alternate capitals. Font_sentence_113

They can have swashes to go with italic minuscules or they can be of a flourish design for use as initials (drop caps). Font_sentence_114

Character variants Font_section_9

Typefaces may be made in variants for different uses. Font_sentence_115

These may be issued as separate font files, or the different characters may be included in the same font file if the font is a modern format such as OpenType and the application used can support this. Font_sentence_116

Alternative characters are often called stylistic alternates. Font_sentence_117

These may be switched on to allow users more flexibility to customise the font to suit their needs. Font_sentence_118

The practice is not new: in the 1930s, Gill Sans, a British design, was sold abroad with alternative characters to make it resemble fonts such as Futura popular in other countries, while Bembo from the same period has two styles of 'R': one with a stretched-out leg, matching its fifteenth-century model, and one less-common shorter version. Font_sentence_119

With modern digital fonts, it is possible to group related alternative characters into stylistic sets, which may be turned on and off together. Font_sentence_120

For example, in Williams Caslon Text, a revival of the 18th century font Caslon, the default italic forms have many swashes matching the original design. Font_sentence_121

For a more spare appearance, these can all be turned off at once by engaging stylistic set 4. Font_sentence_122

Junicode, intended for academic publishing, uses ss15 to enable a variant form of 'e' used in medieval Latin. Font_sentence_123

A corporation commissioning a modified version of a commercial font for their own use, meanwhile, might request that their preferred alternates be set to default. Font_sentence_124

It is common for fonts intended for use in books for young children to use simplified, single-storey forms of the lowercase letters a and g (sometimes also y and l); these may be called infant or schoolbook alternates. Font_sentence_125

They are traditionally believed to be easier for children to read and less confusing as they resemble the forms used in handwriting. Font_sentence_126

Often schoolbook characters are released as a supplement to popular families such as Akzidenz-Grotesk, Gill Sans and Bembo; a well-known font intended specifically for school use is Sassoon Sans. Font_sentence_127

Besides alternate characters, in the metal type era The New York Times commissioned custom condensed single sorts for common long names that might often appear in news headings, such as "Eisenhower", "Chamberlain" or "Rockefeller". Font_sentence_128

Digits Font_section_10

Fonts can have multiple kinds of digits, including, as described above, proportional (variable width) and tabular (fixed width) as well as lining (upper-case height) and text (lower-case height) figures. Font_sentence_129

They may also include separate styles for superscript and subscript digits. Font_sentence_130

Professional fonts may include even more complex settings for typesetting digits, such as digits intended to match the height of small caps. Font_sentence_131

In addition, some fonts such as Adobe’s Acumin and Christian Schwartz’s Neue Haas Grotesk digitisation offer two heights of lining (upper-case height) figures: one slightly lower than cap height, intended to blend better into continuous text, and one at exactly the cap height to look better in combination with capitals for uses such as UK postcodes. Font_sentence_132

With the OpenType format, it is possible to bundle all these into a single digital font file, but earlier font releases may have only one type per file. Font_sentence_133

Subsetting Font_section_11

A typical font may contain hundreds or even thousands of glyphs, often representing characters from many different languages. Font_sentence_134

Oftentimes, users may only need a small subset of the glyphs that are available to them. Font_sentence_135

Subsetting is the process of removing unnecessary glyphs from a font file, usually with the goal of reducing file size. Font_sentence_136

This is particularly important for web fonts, since reducing file size often means reducing page load time and server load. Font_sentence_137

Alternatively, fonts may be issued in different files for different regions of the world, though with the spread of the OpenType format this is now increasingly uncommon. Font_sentence_138

See also Font_section_12


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