What is your workflow on italics?
I've noticed that you can get quite far by finishing a font and setting kerning, and then tilting/slanting glyphs + of course modifying the glyphs that needs different shape. But what about (negative) side bearings? What else needs to be considered?
Pick a point on the y-axis to slant from and use it for all glyphs. I like to slant from 1/2 of the x-height. Some designers like to split the difference between 1/2 the cap height and 1/2 the x-height.
The way to think about is this:
No matter how you do it, some characters in the italic will be out of alignment with the roman to some degree. I prefer to slant on the lowercase x-height because I think it's more likely that roman and italic will be mixed in lowercase text settings, not all caps settings.
- If you mix roman and italic, and you slant from the baseline, the italic will be shifted to the right relative to the roman. This will be especially noticeable with the caps.
- If you slant from the center of the x-height, the italic lowercase will be aligned with the roman lowercase, but the italic caps will be shifted somewhat to the right relative to the roman caps.
- If you slant from the center of the cap-height, the italic caps will be aligned with the roman caps, but the lowercase will be shifted somewhat to the left relative to the roman lowercase.
- If you split the difference, the italic lowercase will be shifted slightly to the left relative the roman lowercase and the italic caps will be shifted slightly to the right relative to the roman caps.
And, it's okay to have negative sidebearings with italics. Sidebearings are perpendicular to the baseline, so it's unavoidable.
Possibly less work, since, if you slant from the bottom, every glyph will need to be shifted to the left in order to look right when mixed with the roman style in text. If you slant from, say, the middle of the x-height, the slant and the shift happen in one step. I realize I'm not counting setting the anchor point for the slant as a step, but you have to set it or at least check it before you slant anyway.
Often with obliques, I'll reduce the width before slanting to add extra emphasis. I find the rhythm changes when I squeeze & slant. I add sidebearings until the rhythm feels right.
To calculate the offset, I copy the H and the H to a new, blank font. Then I type HHHHH in the metrics window. I offset the H until is looks right and use the difference as my offset. It doesn't have to balance perfectly between the H's but the top of the H shouldn't collide with the following H. I tried using a formula and the results were similar but exaggerated. Even when I used a formula, I needed to check and adjust it visually so I don't waste my time with that anymore.
I feel like it should be a bit tighter on the right than the left... it feels correct and the lowercase italics end up exactly in the right spot. Since heavier weights usually have tighter sidebearings, the offset needs to be calculated for each weight/axis.
When I'm shifting italics to the left in FontLab, I use the adjust metrics command to reduce the left sidebearing and once more to increase the right sidebearing. That way it won't mess up my composites like the shift command does. I manually realign any 180° composites such as ¿¡>)}]ə. *
* Don't worry, they get decomposed before export.
Got more tips on italics (or obliques) FontLab workflow? These are puzzling me:
- Do you have to set reference point in every glyph one by one?
- Do you decompose the glyphs with components before slanting? Or set components on place manually after slanting the components?
I've never used a reference points in FontLab...I never figured out a use for them that didn't waste time.
I think I know what Chris was referring to. I've used the same (or similar) technique sometimes. It easier to show than to explain. Here's an image I posted on Typophile.com about ten years ago when there was a similar discussion:
Basically, you create a glyph that is a slanted rectangle. The angle should be the same as your italic angle. It should be full-width (e.g., if the set width of the glyph is 300, the rectangle should be 300 wide). It should also cross the side bearings on either side at the point on the y-axis at which your italics slant. The idea is that when you set this glyph on either side of the glyph you are working on, you will be able to see if the space around it is balanced.