Color fonts nowadays

What's your sense of the market for color fonts today? Are there particular color-font formats that are sought in the market? Do single-color fonts made to stack on top of each other see more use among graphic designers? Are type-buyers knowledgable about what to buy and how to use? What would be the best means of delivery of a typeface that is intended to have multiple, different-colored layers (but not necessarily pre-chosen colors)? 

Comments

  • As for as layout/design work goes, I've used exactly one SVG brush script and one COLR type (two different jobs).

    Over the years I've used "layered" fonts many times in ads and the like.

    Without access to a colored font's color palette, I personally do not see the utility in them.
  • I've found one very useful for highlighting visually very subtle (or optional) semantically significant encoding differences.  I'm using it for checking spelling.  I'm just using red v. foreground; grey-scale rendering would also serve me.  I doubt the commercial market would be significant, and I'm still waiting for a colour-capable word processor.  Still, it's been very useful in Wikipedia.  (HarfBuzz-based browsers support colour fonts.)
  • Word supports color fonts with the COLR extension.

    For more information about what web browsers and design software support color fonts see this article:
    https://www.high-logic.com/font-editor/fontcreator/tutorials/create-opentype-color-fonts



  • My empirical, anecdotal, evidence is that designers (as Mike pointed out) are far too used to being able to change typefaces' colouring, to easily accept fonts that do not let them do so. In this way, although I don't have real data to support it, I would be inclined to answer "yes" to your third question.
    Do single-color fonts made to stack on top of each other see more use among graphic designers?

    Are type-buyers knowledgable about what to buy and how to use?
    I don't know; perhaps colour fonts are a bit more straightforward given their illustrated nature.

    What would be the best means of delivery of a typeface that is intended to have multiple, different-colored layers (but not necessarily pre-chosen colors)?
    If you want it all in one font and expect the colours to be able to blend, OpenType SVG stylistic sets should be possible to activate on top of each other and the format supports transparency iirc. Getting that to be correctly exported to a pdf, however…

    If having these as in a single font is not a necessity, a package of layered fonts would work best, I think. This would depend on what you want the layers for – if you're looking to allow the user to only change the color and not the shape of the glyphs, then I don't see why you wouldn't simply ship a simple font and let them deal with changing the colours.


    As an aside, I would have expected the SVG colour palette option to be available by now, but I supposed this is a chicken and egg problem. Doesn't help that colour fonts, as a whole, were overshadowed by variable fonts.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,014
    edited September 28
    Is it possible to a separate app that would alter the colors in a color font...directly in the system fonts folder? The user would see a sample and they could change the colors of the SVG layers. When they get the desired colors set, they would hit save which would overwrite the font in the system folder. Maybe this would require triggering a system font uninstall/install with updated internal naming. I don't know how it works on Mac but I think in Windows, the user would get a pop up each time the font is updated. Not sure if there's a way around that. Photoshop, Illustrator etc. would notice that the font has been updated and refresh. This already happens (in Windows) when you install an updated font while a document is open so no changes to Adobe apps would be required. It's not quite as good as seeing the changes in real time in the document but maybe not too hard to deal with. Take that idea and make it a plug-in. Perhaps it's possible for the plugin to generate a preview so the user can see how the color changes would look in the document. Maybe the user could pick colors from the palette or use the eyedropper on the preview. If it achieves popularity, maybe Adobe will incorporate it into their apps.
  • @Ray Larabie while that would work, it comes to mind that it would be allowing for modifications to font data, which many type designers are not keen on.

    Even if they would be, I think it would be hard to define that that particular font data is OK to modify, while others bits aren't. Seems like a can of worms, to me but I don't know enough about the legal side here.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,014
    Sérgio Martins
    It's just a matter of a slightly different EULA for color fonts. For big distributors that have standard agreements they could provide a separate color font desktop EULA. Maybe add something to the filename so the system knows that a font is okay for modification. like blahblah_color.otf That way existing color fonts won't be modified without an override check and new fonts that allow modification of the color table won't nag users.
  • Is it possible to a separate app that would alter the colors in a color font...directly in the system fonts folder? The user would see a sample and they could change the colors of the SVG layers. When they get the desired colors set, they would hit save which would overwrite the font in the system folder.
    This is an interesting proposition, but I suspect the colors in the color font would need to change on a project-to-project basis. While one could maybe outline the fonts, this makes preserving working files impossible.

    The problem persists in the inverse—by keeping live type in your files they are vulnerable to changes if the user later changed the palette of the color font for a different project.

    While I have never used it, DJR's Color Font Customizer is very intriguing. It allows users to upload their licensed color font, change the colors, and then save out a new version. 
  • I remember when DJR made the colour-customisable Pappardelle download page. IIRC, Pappardelle uses the COLR format, but don't quote me on that.

    Matthew raises a good point – for something like this to be the most useful it would have to create a new font with different colours, otherwise you'd always be changing the same font.

    Ray, I'm still not thoroughly convinced this wouldn't open some kind of precedent exploitable to change other font data. Then again, that's probably just paranoia against legalese.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,014
    @Matthew Smith The app would save user palettes and import/export palette files. But you're right about collaboration being tricky since everyone would need to apply the palette changes to the fonts.
  • In case it's useful info:

    In an OpenType font, the COLR format relies on colour palettes defined in a CPAL table. The SVG format can make use of colour palettes defined in the CPAL table, or fixed colours set by the font developer within the SVG document.

    For both CPAL and SVG, there is a way to specify that the (application determined) text foreground colour be used.

    For CPAL palettes, a font can define alternate palettes (they must have the same number of entries), and the application can choose which palette to use. The application could potentially also allow the user to define a custom palette. This is explicitly mentioned in the SVG table chapter of the OT spec; it's not called out in the COLR table chapter, but the same would apply—from the OT spec perspective, that's a higher-level protocol decision.
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