Notes on the rendering of Garamond and Caslon typefaces when set at small sizes. Also, a request.

Hello everyone,

I have been printing several texts using Plantin for some months. All of them have been copied from the Internet (they are mostly articles on topics than I enjoy taken from the digital edition of a newspaper) and then printed on DIN A4 paper of medium quality. I first chose Plantin because I felt there was something reassuring about its design - regular Plantin is satisfyingly heavy and I found its shapes to be agreeable to my eye.

Over time, I have realized there is a weird gap between classic typefaces and modern ones. I find most classics (Garamond, Caslon...) to be exceptionally beautiful when rendered at a large size. I don't mean these letters should be used in posters or any other graphic job at very large sizes. I mean that their character/nature and their shapes just look beautiful when enlarged on a computer screen. Alas, I've already had the awful experience of having to print text using a Caslon variant or a Garamond and setting the text at 11 points. When seeing the result, I feel that the outcome is just not visually pleasing... and not very legible, either. Could it be related to the fact that I'm printing on a DIN A4 format and perhaps creating a line lenght that is at odds with the proper usage of a Garamond/Caslon?

After I revised several of those printed documents earlier this week, I realized that Plantin is most definitely the typeface I don't want to use to print those texts. If pressed to say what I'm exactly looking for, I would say "friendly and highly legible, without being overly cute". I tried to print some texts with the light version of Eames from House industries but I found it too spindly. The regular version of it, as lovely as it looks on their website, just doesn't do it for me when I print it at 11 points.

Could someone please offer some orientation on the typeface I should use?

Thanks for your help and advice.

Comments

  • Lyon Text?
  • Thank you! I will try it.
  • Matthew SmithMatthew Smith Posts: 63
    edited August 6
    Dave Foster’s Blanco is perhaps one of my favorite serifs drawn.

    You may also take an interest in Klim’s Tiempos Text if Plantin previously interested you.

    And I echo Jasper’s recommendation for Lyon Text, another favorite of mine.

    If you are interested in Caslons—Commercial’s more recent Frame may be of interest or Tiny Type’s Dover Text.
  • Fern Micro (or Fern Text) from DJR works well at small sizes. Although it is a Venetian oldstyle (e.g., Jenson) rather than a French (e.g., Garamond) or a Dutch (e.g., Caslon), Fern nevertheless carries that “friendly and highly legible” quality.
  • Fiz,
    you are welcome to have a look at my Andron, which has been designed with the scope of use in mind you describe.
    There is a free Roman font available at the MUFI site: https://mufi.info/m.php?p=mufi&i=960

    Also keep an eye on the basic parameters of the printed text page: margins not too narrow; not more than 80 characters per line, leading at least 115% of the nominal point size.



  • Fiz, you might do well to look for fonts with size-specific iterations. You’ll find an excellent rendering of Caslon’s types, in both text and small text versions, in Bill Berkson’s Williams Caslon, available through Typenetwork. The small text is used in The New Yorker magazine (Caslon has been its text type since the first issue, in 1925). Also available from Typenetwork is Mark van Bronkhorst’s rendering of ATF Garamond, which is available in subhead, text, and micro text versions.

  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 986
    Alas, I've already had the awful experience of having to print text using a Caslon variant or a Garamond and setting the text at 11 points. When seeing the result, I feel that the outcome is just not visually pleasing... and not very legible, either. Could it be related to the fact that I'm printing on a DIN A4 format and perhaps creating a line lenght that is at odds with the proper usage of a Garamond/Caslon?

    The reason you are having this issue is something well known. The way in which certain classic typefaces differ from more recent ones is in their x-height.
  • I should have asked: What sort of printer are you using? If it isn't true PostScript, the text will always look mediocre. I'm not sure that any inkjet printer is true PostScript; usually just an emulation.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,406
    Do you need multiple weights? Or can you make do with regular roman and italic?

    Perhaps Castoro (which has the added value of bring free, and also comes with a set of tirling capitals)?
  • Given the Plantin reference, also have a look at Galaxie Copernicus
  • I should have asked: What sort of printer are you using? If it isn't true PostScript, the text will always look mediocre. I'm not sure that any inkjet printer is true PostScript; usually just an emulation.
    Unfortunately, I am using the cheapest Canon MG3650S, an inkjet one. On the other hand, I am printing on Canson 125 grams/square meter paper - it is creamy, not too thick, and seems to render most typefaces perfectly up to the tiniest detail.
  • Thanks again for the help and advice.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,289
    edited August 9
    I should have asked: What sort of printer are you using? If it isn't true PostScript, the text will always look mediocre. I'm not sure that any inkjet printer is true PostScript; usually just an emulation.

    Inkjet printers very rarely have any RIP at all. They generally don’t have significant memory and rely on host-based processing. Which means they get OS rendering, which for PostScript Type 1 and OpenType CFF in macOS and Windows is… Adobe’s own rasterizer. And of course they have native original rasterizers for TrueType. So, inkjets not being PostScript printers has zero negative impact on the rendering of fonts.

     For laser printers that have PS clone RIPs, and are being driven using that RIP and not PCL, some of those RIPs have occasional bugs that can affects fonts and/or graphics. IIRC, HP had a bug with overshoot suppression (blue zones), where they did not kick in at the small sizes, as they should have. But even given some particular bugs, I think “text will always look mediocre” is a major overstatement.
  • Indeed, that was an over-generalization. A better question would be to ask what benchmarks are you using to judge the performance of type in the medium of its intended use. The variables in inkjet printers are many—ink formulations, dryers, and, especially, reactivity with various paper coatings. They are, therefore, unreliable for judging type in text sizes (the smaller the type, the more unreliable the rendering).

    My own perspective is that of someone who makes printed books that use a variety of paper surfaces printed on conventional offset, H-UV presses, and sometimes digital presses. To test fonts, I use only a PostScript Level 3 laser printer that I know from experience will produce a reasonably good match (in black) to the result I will see in the final printed product.

  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,867
    I’ve found David Quay’s Foundry Wilson to be “satisfyingly heavy”, in John Ruskin: Artist and Observer, but note that the book is set in two columns per page, rag right. I suspect that it would be slightly overpowering at a wider measure, justified.

    But why restrict oneself to a single typeface? Why not use printing our swiped texts as an opportunity to experiment with layout, typeface and typography, matching form to content?
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,289

    My own perspective is that of someone who makes printed books that use a variety of paper surfaces printed on conventional offset, H-UV presses, and sometimes digital presses. To test fonts, I use only a PostScript Level 3 laser printer that I know from experience will produce a reasonably good match (in black) to the result I will see in the final printed product.

    Yes, but you are making recommendations to somebody who is printing one-off documents on a cheap laser printer for their own personal use. That’s what the thread is about; they are not proofing fonts, nor making printed books from an offset press.
  • Thomas, I think your argument is unproductive and unhelpful. Fiz’s question showed taste and discernment. As it is likely that his taste had been formed by his examination of printed books, my response regarding desktop printing methods analogous to offset lithography was an attempt to guide him to a line of inquiry that would likely—perhaps even more likely—address the problem he identified. Switching fonts alone might not yield the result he seeks.

  • John ButlerJohn Butler Posts: 40
    edited 9:16PM
    Not to take a side on this issue, but I will note that fonts output from the Print dialog in more recent versions of Inkscape seem to print ridiculously heavier than normal, but if I first export to PDF then print the PDF, the problem goes away. I made several loud noises when discovering this.

    To put it another way: maybe Inkscape’s stupid print bug could accidentally solve your problem.
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