Generating font weights in fontlab, Italic v Oblique

Appreciate if someone knows how to calculate different weights of typeface in fontlab. I do not get em size. Suppose I made a regular font (400 weight). To make a thin 100 font out of regular font, what will be the negative em value? 400/100=4. So 100/4=25%. So change by em units will be -75 in fontlab. Is it done that way? Don't know why it seems, generating new weight of font is not only done by software. Maybe manual works needed also. If someone makes a italic font style by slant tool in fontlab, will it really produce pure italic or just slanted version? Are they same?


  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,970
    Go into the grid view and assign your masters to positions equal to a common stem width. Then you can use stem width to generate instances. 
  • ...will it really produce pure italic...

    No. Just slanted type, and it will require adjustments.

  • Alex MichaelAlex Michael Posts: 23
    edited June 2016
    There's a big difference between "oblique", which is the purely slanted text you're talking about, and true "italic", in which many of the letterforms are also redesigned to appear more flowing and cursive. Italics generally replace the Roman two-storey /a with a single-storey variant, for instance, and the italic counter on letters like /b will connect directly to the base of the stem, removing the small tail usually seen in its Roman counterpart.

    Many sans-serifs come with obliques misnamed as italics, like Helvetica and Univers, while Gill Sans and Frutiger Next are examples of traditional sans that feature some amount of true italic characteristics.

    Even obliques require more than just hitting a "skew" button and typing in 5-10 degrees, however. Curves need to be adjusted, if not redrawn, to correct for distortions produced by an automated effect. It's a subtle refinement, and I've seen it entirely missing from some surprisingly "professional" fonts I've examined myself, but it means that even for simple Obliques there's no silver bullet of automation (yet).

  • Note that there is also an Eldorado between a pure oblique and a pure italic. Luckily we're starting to see more exploration of that goldmine here and there.
  • Glad to see the technical details between italics and oblique. Even more glad to know human eyes still better than software in some cases. So ethics part will be if designers don't have time or feel the need to make italics, naming typeface style accordingly is true professionalism. Only few ignorant like me can easily add italic to font name while it is not even slant. What a blessing! 
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,654
    I've taken to calling them "Italic" even when it might be technically more correct to use "Oblique" mainly because of UI issues. "Oblique" is such a rarely used designation anymore that I think some users would be confused by it. Also, no "O" button in Word. And, as Hrant points out, there isn't a clear line between them anyway.
  • Oh that's a point. Users of typefaces are heavy in numbers. Even when I am typing this comment there is only "I " format button. From commercial perspective using "Obligue" may affect business goals, now as it seems to me reading your text. Still, designer can leave a note where features are stated within package. 
  • I agree with Mark about calling them italic even though technically they are oblique. In my years as a commercial typesetter, very few faces were called oblique. Italic became a pretty generic term for oblique or slanted over the years.
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,654
    Remember Korinna Kursiv? As a type geek, I love the idea of such unusual or non-standard style designations, but simple and obvious is better.
  • Alex MichaelAlex Michael Posts: 23
    edited June 2016
    I respectfully disagree for a few reasons:

    1) I never miss an opportunity to be pedantic, and posturing—nay, preening—smugly over "oblique" vs. "italic" is one of life's true pleasures.

    (Kidding, of course... or am I?)

    2) I appreciate true italics so much—especially in the case of modern sans, neo grotesks, etc.—that I just can't bear to dilute their designation. Obliques have their place, and I wouldn't want to live in a world without them, but at the same time they always strike me as a very slight cop-out or missed opportunity.

    3) I think enforcing the terminology actually supports the fascinating middle-ground emerging between the two. The rare but lovely "upright italic" is one of my favorite semi-recent* innovations in type design, and it's really only because the term "italic" refers to more than a mere skew angle that it can be paired with "upright" in a meaningful way.

    Anyway, this is all just my own perspective. I think the other points of view in this thread are equally valid.

    * I fully expect someone to immediately demonstrate the existence of upright italics 300 years before Gutenberg. I eagerly await enlightenment!
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,144
    I never liked the “true” italics that were designed for Frutiger Next—and apparently neither did Adrian Frutiger, because subsequently Neue Frutiger reverted to the original oblique form.

    Optima Nova Italic gets my thumbs down too.
  • Simon CozensSimon Cozens Posts: 724
    Toshi Omagari wrote a helpful blog post on correcting obliques:
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,654
    One of the best how-to's I've found on making italics is the one at . Unfortunately, the site is built with frames making it difficult to link to the pertinent pages. So, from the home page, click on Notes on Type Design, then Italic. The Curves section is particularly useful. Lot's of useful stuff there on other type design topics as well.
  • Alex, I dig your desire to keep terminology useful via divergence.

    However when it comes to upright-italics, italics is exactly what they're not. Because they typically fail at doing what the typesetter wants to do by choosing Italic: quite often the differentiation is not obvious enough. The school of thought that concocted the upright-italic (I mean as an italic) did so motivated by an obsession with over-valuing cursiveness.

    Functionally, an italic is first and foremost slanted. Even the lowly pure-oblique is a better italic than an upright-italic (which in fact should instead be called a cursive-roman).
  • I never liked the “true” italics that were designed for Frutiger Next—and apparently neither did Adrian Frutiger, because subsequently Neue Frutiger reverted to the original oblique form.
    There's a similar story involving Arrow by Treacy Faces: initially it was released featuring an oblique for its italic; when he eventually replaced it with a "true" italic, his customers loudly clamored for the original oblique to be brought back!
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,379
    I think the oblique got a bad rap in the late 1990s and early 2000s because they were conflated with the easy skewing generated by the word processors and 10-second Fontographer slant jobs like the old ITC Avant Garde Italic. In those days, the oblique was seen as a cheap cop-out and true italics made a typeface more valuable. This resulted in lots of typefaces with forced italics that looked out-of-place. Or half-hearted efforts to create the bare-minimum of true italicness like dropping a cheesy ascender on the f and angling the bowl and hump shapes. Just enough visual cues to let the buyer know that it's not just an oblique, it's a real italic therefore worth more money. I think we're at the point now where a good oblique is preferred over an out-of-place true italic.

    That's not to say a quickie slant is acceptable. A proper oblique can be deceptively difficult, especially in a light weight, squarish-round sans. The worst part about making obliques is spending weeks fine-tuning oblique curves and wondering if people will assume you pressed a magic slant button.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,458
    There was some slanting done in the phototype days as well.  It also did not look great.  I must admit that I really like the oblique Univers pre-digital.  It was very well drawn and worked perfectly with the upright.  I do not feel that every Sans must have a true italic, some do, some don't.
  • Fascinating, Hrant. While I still think "upright italic" has a punchy, intriguing ring to it, you make a good case for something like "cursive roman" replacing it. Food for thought indeed.
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  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,144
    InDesign can slant text. 
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