Embedding in public PDF specimen (outline or not outline text)?

The font store gives the option to attach a PDF specimen along with the promo images. Since this PDF will be publicly available, what to do with the font in it?

If I keep it live/editable the font can be easily extracted. If I outline it, then the text preview looks bad because the "Enhance thin lines" option in Adobe Acrobat is on by default. This option makes some characters look bolder than the rest, a kind of bad hinting.

Should I export a version of the font with a read-only embedding option for this purpose? Does this prevent font extraction?

And second, which embedding option is the most common? I used to put "Editing the document is allowed" and "Allow subsetting".


  • John ButlerJohn Butler Posts: 240
    Some countermeasures are simple and reasonable. A bitmap of sufficient dpi works perfectly well. Enschedé uses 600 dpi bitmap PDFs for all their specimens. There are worse examples to follow.
  • The slight problem with that argument and line of thinking is that I’m absolutely certain I could find illegal downloads of all of their fonts within a few minutes.

    Nobody goes through the trouble of ripping fonts from a PDF when they could just download them after searching on certain websites.
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,648
    Theoretically, if a font is not yet released, it might be worth the trouble. Once something is out, maybe not. 
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,703
    Bitmapping the fonts in the PDF makes for a worse sample. At any decent resolution, it also means a bigger PDF.

    As a user, I find it really irritating. As a type designer, I won’t do it unless required to (for some reason).
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,966
    Theirry is right; people will find ways to pirate your fonts no matter what you do. If they really want the fonts they’ll just use a stolen credit card number to buy them.
  • And second, which embedding option is the most common? I used to put "Editing the document is allowed" and "Allow subsetting".
    I see no reason to make the PDF easily editable unless there might be a need for the end user to edit the file.

    There's really no reason to embed the entire character set of a font in the document when those characters aren't used, so yes, use subsetting. In addition, subsetting will prevent people from extracting the entire font from the file, which you're concerned about.
  • edited March 2023
    In practice it's not always easy to extract embedded fonts. Tried it with the character tables of Unicode for the purposes of machine learning. They reduce the fonts to the minimum needed. Some embedded fonts are reduced to 1, 2 or 6 glyphs, for the common text something like ASCII or Latin1 range.

    Converting the pages of a PDF to images (dpi choosable) is always possible. For machine learning it's the easier way to learn the shape of glyphs.

    Subsetting is a usual method to reduce size. E.g. for the installer of Debian Linux supporting >70 languages only the characters used in the translation files are left in the fonts.

    IMHO there is no need to have the full font in the PDF. Disadvantage is, that some users will see the full character repertoire or some special glyphs. I always look at long-s, \f, punctuation, numerical digits. And I want to see them in special combinations. That needs an interactive resource (rendering them as image in a webpage is ok.)
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,648
    edited March 2023
    I've always included full character sets in my PDF specimens, even though I know the risks. I believe the whole point of these specimens is to show people what they will be getting when they license the font.

    At the very least you need to show the basic alphabet, figures, and punctuation. For work in English, you don't need more than this for many uses (headlines, logos, etc.). But you don't really want to leave these basic characters out for a type specimen, even if you're subsetting. So with subsetting you end up leaving out less-used characters, which, for the pirate, may not matter.

    The other thing is that things like kerning and OpenType features are left out when embedding a font in a PDF. When you extract a font, you get only the character outlines and the advance widths, and maybe the vertical metrics, not the full font. (At least this is my understanding.)
  • I don't include entire character sets in my pdf samples. I have a graphic showing the the complete set on the website. I tend to password protect opening the pdf but allow viewing and printing. 
  • Jens KutilekJens Kutilek Posts: 334
    edited March 2023
    We don't do PDF samples anymore, but on our website only one Roman and one Italic style per package is shown with its full character set and OpenType features, e.g. https://www.lucasfonts.com/fonts/package_details/tao. The styles overview page only contains subsetted versions with minimal OT features: https://www.lucasfonts.com/fonts/tao/normal
    So if someone downloads the webfonts from the site, they don't get the full character set or in all styles.
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