Petite Caps, anyone?

Igor FreibergerIgor Freiberger Posts: 239
edited February 2016 in Technique and Theory
When I discovered there is something like Petite Caps within OT features, I thought it would be widely adopted. Petite Caps may be very useful to handle accronyms and camel words, besides adding another option to build hierarchies in complex documents. But it seems almost no one found the feature so promissing. Except for Mota Italic and me, I do not know any other foundry or designer to be using Petite Caps.

Do you know about other fonts with Petite Caps? Anyone does consider adopting this feature in the future? Finally, the lack of fonts using it may cause the feature to be removed from a future revsion of OT specification?


  • kupferskupfers Posts: 259
    Type Mafia, too. 
  • Tiffany WardleTiffany Wardle Posts: 244
    edited February 2016
    Mrs. Eaves has Petite Caps. I'm not sure if they are available through OT however.

    Edit: I can confirm that Mrs. Eaves OT does have petite caps within Regular (other weights), but they also supply a separate font file for those applications which cannot access the feature.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,815
    Finally, the lack of fonts using it may cause the feature to be removed from a future revsion of OT specification?

    No. The only features that get deprecated from the specification are ones that have some fundamental problem, e.g. they introduce confusability between encoded characters. Most of those were removed a long time ago, although I recently submitted a proposal to deprecate the <hngl> feature.

    What is true is that the small number of fonts using this feature is unlikely to inspire software makers to include user interface options for petite caps, but that is less of an issue, of course, with web typography.

    I originally registered the petite caps features at the request of Emigre, who had included these in some of their Type 1 fonts and wanted to make sure that they could be carried over into OpenType.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,455
    Nick Shinn has some petite caps is some of his fonts.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,058
    I don’t think so! I was never sure whether they were supposed to be bigger or smaller than small caps.
  • Smaller.
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 905
    In addition to lack of overall UI support, there is an additional complication if one wants users to have the ability to easily implement any of the possible combinations — U&sc, U&pc, Sc&pc, all-sc, or all-pc — all of which I think could be completely reasonable in certain circumstances.

    The only way I can think of to accomplish that with a combination of only {smcp}, {pcap}, and {c2sc} is if one adopts the Adobe approach of having duplicates like and, then having {pcap} target -> A.pc. Which makes for a lot of redundancy in the glyph repertoire.

    It also leads to the somewhat counterintuitive requirement to activate All Small Caps and Petite Caps simultaneously to achieve a Sc&pc setting. (Or apply {c2sc} & {pcap} directly if one is coding for web.)
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 905
    No, wait. That still doesn’t work. The above description yields all-pc (which is just as easily achievable without the duplicate glyphs). Sc&pc is only achievable by sacrificing either U&pc or all-pc.

    Something has to give. I don’t think you can support all possible combinations; something has to be left to selective, manual formatting.
  • Larger
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,815
    edited February 2016
    If you've ever been shopping for women's clothing, you would know that petite is smaller than small.


    Kent. Note that there are separate <c2pc> and <pcap> features, so in a CSS environment at least you could combine <c2sc> with <pcap> to get smallcap uppercase with petite cap lowercase.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,455
    Petite caps are indeed smaller than caps but make no sense to be smaller than smallcaps. How could that size be of any use?
  • I was taught that Small Caps are larger than x-height and Petite Caps are x-height.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,815
    edited February 2016
    Chris, as George says. Zuzana made petite caps for typefaces like Mrs Eaves that have small x-height relative to cap height. She wanted a form of smaller caps that harmonised well with the lowercase, while still having regular smallcaps that were a bit taller.

    See the illustration in the registered feature description:
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,455
    edited February 2016
    Thanks, John. I now understand but still have a tough time finding value in such a small increment of height change.  I will let those who choose to design and or use this variation have that option without complaint but doubt if I will ever draw them, myself ;-)
  • As a long-time typesetter, I never liked having to use small caps in a text block because I felt they were a distraction due to the size increase; they break up the reading flow for me. Mixed in with heads or subheads, they're fine.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,815
    Chris, I'm unlikely to design them myself, but it is helpful to consider the ways in which Mrs Eaves was used. There was a period in which it was extremely popular with museums and art galleries, often used in a fairly large size informational text on walls or panels. In that situation, the petite caps helped maintain a nice even texture that suited the use.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,455
    George, Thanks for your insight. Perhaps it is just me but I find that if smallcaps are the exact size of lc xheight, they visually look too small to me. For me, upsizing smcp to something that visually is in harmony with both caps and lowercase feels right.  Perhaps my smcp may feel small to you, I don't know.  I have always believed in the eyes as the final arbiter but perhaps my vision needs further correction ;-)
  • If/When I use P-caps I don't use S-caps. It is a style thing for me.
  • Seems kind of strange to have a special tag for petite caps. Might just as well implement them with a stylistic set that affects small caps, for instance, since I'm guessing one wouldn't normally use small caps and petite caps together.
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 905
    John — Doh! How did I miss the {c2pc}? I guess I was thinking about the same essential challenge when implementing with a single sset, which is currently the more practical approach (as advocated by many here), and conflated the two issues, forgetting to check for a registered {c2pc}.
  • Bhikkhu PesalaBhikkhu Pesala Posts: 210
    edited February 2017
    Most of my free fonts include both Small Capitals and Petite Capitals, as well as c2pc and c2sc features. I design Petite Capitals on the x-height, and Small Caps as 70-80% of the Caps Height. You could mix Caps to Small Caps (c2sc), with Petite Caps (pcap). 

    Glyph coverage includes Latin-1 Supplement, Latin Extended-A, and some of Latin Extended Additional. Fonts with Greek glyphs also include Small/Petite Capitals for Basic Greek. 

    My Petite Capitals have a squarer aspect ratio than Small Capitals. The general principle being that apply Petite Capitals to lowercase should not change line length too much. Small Capitals are similar proportions to Capitals. 
  • I always thought petite caps were intended to be mixed with lowercase to allow for unicase settings, e.g. for logos and display.
  • There's a separate tag that can be used for Unicase (unic).

    I think that users can use features however they wish. The font designer's job is just to decide on how to design the glyphs (with some particular use in mind perhaps), but not to prescribe how they should be used.
  • I always thought petite caps were intended to be mixed with lowercase to allow for unicase settings, e.g. for logos and display.
    Here are a couple of examples of how Petite Capitals and Small Capitals might be used.

    1. A large Drop Capital with one or more words in Petite Capitals at the start of a paragraph
    2. A few words in Petite Capitals in a Glossary or Bibliography
    3. The same with Small Capitals

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