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manual hintig necessary?

Is manual ttf hinting still technically necessary and common? How do you handle this when developing new fonts?

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    never did it. No one ever complained.
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    TimAhrensTimAhrens Posts: 48
    My experience is that, if something does not work properly, people don’t complain. They just silently decide not to use it.
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    Adam LaddAdam Ladd Posts: 253
    edited April 25
    I think Thomas already kind of answered this, but in a similar vein, I'm curious the current perspective on editors auto-hint settings/feature — its usefulness with basic alignment zones set (maybe satisfactory in most cases?), or potential conflicts.
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    John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 3,009
    We mostly do autohinting these days. The majority of rendering, even in environments like Windows that still respect (most) TT instructions, benefits from y-direction alignment controls and some shapes from y-direction interpolation, and that can be automated fairly reliably.

    That said, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question, because individual designs, writing systems, and target environments may combine in ways that still benefit from manual hinting, e.g. to be able to delta y-direction features at specific sizes, or to use instructions that apply in specific rendering environments. In those cases, we would use a semi-automated approach with VTT, which enables us to go in and manually tweak edit the automated hinting, add higher level instructions, etc.
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    Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,151
    The only manual hinting I do is in PostScript—I find that auto-hinting of the letter “i” (and j) in some typefaces, at some weights, causes the stem of the letter to be thickened to the width of the tittle, so when that happens, I manually remove the tittle hint.
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    Mike DugganMike Duggan Posts: 239
    Still necessary for devices with 96 – 120 – 150 dpi … the difference between autohinting and manual is in the details which is what matters most 
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    Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,767
    Thanks Aaron! That is super insightful. Both the amount of time tweaking the autohinting parameters (WAY more than most people ever do), and the ranking of hinting approaches.

    I think a lot of people might be surprised that, in that hierarchy, you rate no hinting (GASP set to full blur) as preferable to straight autohinting.
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    Aaron BellAaron Bell Posts: 93
    edited April 26
    Yes. I've seen enough bad results from autohinters to ever feel comfortable trusting them.
    Oh, also, it is also worth noting that because Aptos is built as a variable font, there's a whole host of modifications necessary to address that because autohinters aren't that smart :)
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    Jens KutilekJens Kutilek Posts: 342
    We still do manual hinting (in different degrees) for all TrueType-based fonts we deliver.

    The difference on modern systems is not huge, but noticeable. For example, I just generated a variable font for TheAntiqua that contains custom functions I wrote that will

    - keep the x-height constant across the weight axis for small sizes
    - keep top accents from crashing into their base letters
    - control at which height overshoots become visible

    You don't get such control with autohinting. And sadly, on macOS the hinting is ignored anyway :(

    Here are two examples, screenshots from Edge. On the left is the hinted version, on the right the unhinted (full-blur gasp table) version. They need to be viewed at 100% scale, of course.

    TheAntiqua Black at 15 ppm


    TheAntiqua Plain at 23 ppm

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    John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 3,009
    While I agree with pretty much everything Aaron wrote regarding quality, I’m finding that no one wants to pay for manual hinting any more. For a long time, I have quoted hinting costs separately, because failing to do so tended to kill projects, and increasingly customers simply opted not to have the fonts hinted or to live with autohinted output.
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    John ButlerJohn Butler Posts: 254
    If ever there were a demand for AI in type design, it would be in manual hinting. I wonder if someone is already working on that.
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    Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,767
    AI-powered manual hinting == better autohinting.
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    Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,151
    If AI hinting is that good, it should likely be done by the rendering device or layout app—after all, that is where Adobe’s “optical kerning” takes place, not in the font. 
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    TypedesignerTypedesigner Posts: 33
    edited April 28
    @Jens Kutilek You have some very interesting examples. Especially in the two texts below, one can see that the text on the right is somewhat blurred. Are you working with FontLab 8 or Glyphs? The autohinting is different depending on the software.
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    John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 3,009
    ‘Autohinting’ in the context of TTF may refer to a number of different tools and processes, but probably most frequently to ttfautohint or to tools incorporating it. A lot of modern build processes incorporate ttfautohint as something that is done to fonts after they are generated or exported from whatever design tool is used.


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    I am new to font hinting. Aaron, Thomas and Jens, all of you mention "no hinting" respectively "unhinted" and set in brackets "GASP set to full blur" or "full-blur gasp table" as an alternative to auto hinting. 

    How do i achieve this "full blur"? Simply by exporting the font unhinted? Or do I need to set parameters somewhere to get better or correct "full blur"? 

    Do you consider this approach valid for both, static and variable fonts?
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    Mike DugganMike Duggan Posts: 239
    hi Donat, this article I wrote may be useful, its pretty extensive and covers everything that you might need to know about VTT Hinting for Variable fonts.

    https://googlefonts.github.io/how-to-hint-variable-fonts/

    In addition, this article gives many examples of the typical problems that hinting can address, and so might be useful in answering the original question about if manual hinting is necessary. I go into some detail on the 'gasp' table, including some historical details. If you want to achieve full blur in DirectWrite environments, such as most modern browsers and MS Applications, the font can be un-hinted and the 'gasp' table should be set to enable symmetric smoothing at all sizes. The approach is suitable for both Static and Variable fonts. 
      
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    John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 3,009
    What font tool(s) are you currently using, Donat? A lot of the people on this thread are used to working with multi-tool production workflows, and I think few of us actually produce fonts by simply hitting the export/generate fonts button in a tool like Glyphs or FontLab. Whether and how you are able to appropriately set gasp table values within your font design tool will depend on what tool that is.
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    @Mike Duggan

    Thank you for the link, I have seen this detailed text before. Though VTT is very powerful and interesting, as a beginner I do not consider working with VTT in the moment. I work on Mac and do not have experience with running virtual Windows. I do my first steps within Fontlab 8 to experiment with settings (use Fontlab? use ttfAutohint?) and whether i can improve the auto-hinting with manual hints, as seen in some videos (also yours). I know that I can not judge the hinting here entirely, because of my Mac computer. 

    That is what i had in mind, before i’ve seen this thread. Here I find now the suggestion not to hint at all and set GASP to full blur - that sounds interesting, hence i asked how to do so. 

    I could not find a precise table for GASP (as you show it for VTT) in my Fontlab 8 font-info but maybe it is these settings below? Is this addressing symetric smoothing at all sizes? (Do not use TT hinting; zero/0 stands for „always smooth” in Fontlab.)


    @John Hudson

    Yeah, producing fonts can be complicated for one being 20 years behind! No multi-tool workflow here. It is Fontlab 8 I am working with. I try to stick to just that for all font aspects, not to technically overstrain myself. 

    Is the above shown table (picture) the right place to enter GASP values in Fontlab?

    Thank you both for posting!

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    Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,767
    That is indeed the GASP settings in FontLab 8.
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    great, thank you both for the info.
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    Jens KutilekJens Kutilek Posts: 342
    edited April 30
    @Jens Kutilek You have some very interesting examples. Especially in the two texts below, one can see that the text on the right is somewhat blurred. Are you working with FontLab 8 or Glyphs? The autohinting is different depending on the software.
    At LucasFonts, we still use FontLab Studio 5 :) We usually manually hint TrueType MM files, and then transform the FL hinting code into TrueType assembly using our own custom tools, which allow improvements over the TrueType assembly generated directly by FLS5.

    For some projects, we use Glyphs or VTT.
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