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CorelDRAW X5 : Typography Rules and Conventions - Font Families and Font Styles

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When beginning a project, it’s usually best to cruise the Installed Fonts drop-down list in CorelDRAW, see what you think is an appropriate typeface choice, find fonts that work harmoniously if you need more than one typeface in the design, and then, if you’re drawing a blank, check out the typefaces you own but have not installed. It’s generally a bad idea to pick the first font on the installed fonts list; Arial is a good workaday font, but it’s most appropriate for text on aspirin bottles and caution signs because of its legibility at small point sizes and its authoritative, clean but spartan look.

The following sections describe the anatomy of a font, what stroke width means, serifs and font characteristics, and basically explain why a typeface looks the way it does and therefore becomes appropriate for a design idea. Also, the better you understand the characteristics of characters, the better you’ll be able to communicate a specific need to a typographer or a press operator, and to conduct a quicker search on your drive and the Web for the typeface you need.

Styles and Types of Typefaces

There are two basic categories of typefaces a designer uses daily:

  • Roman The characters (called glyphs by typographers) consist of thick and thin stems (called strokes) providing good contrast between characters to make long paragraphs at small point size easy to read.

  • Gothic The characters are made up of strokes of even or almost-even widths. This makes a Gothic font an excellent choice for headlines with impact and for official signs.

Within the categories of typefaces, there are two more branches: serifs and sans (from the Latin “without”) serifs. Serifs are an embellishment at the end of a stroke in a character; their original purpose was both as a flourish when scribes would hand-copy manuscripts and, as typesetting was invented, serifs made the wooden and metal slugs easier to remove from the surface the slug was pressed into.

Typographers ages ago decided that a Gothic font could benefit from serifs and, conversely, a Roman typeface could become more functional as a headline-style font by removing the serifs. Designers now enjoy the use of both Roman and Gothic type cast in serif and sans serif treatments, examples of which are shown in Figure 13-1.

Figure 13-1. Examples of Gothic and Roman typefaces in serif and sans serif styles


In typographer’s language, a font is usually part of a family of typefaces. Optima, for example, has normal, italic, bold, and bold-italic as part of the font family; additionally, other weights of Optima, part of the Optima family, are available from several vendors you can find online. Typeface, in contrast, is generally used to describe either a single member of a family (Optima Bold is a typeface) or a typeface that has no family members, such as Rockabilly.

Other Types of Typefaces

The design world would be a fairly boring place today if there weren’t other types of fonts designed by professionals. Variations on the traditional Roman and Gothic typefaces abound in the desktop publishing world and many defy classification. On the CorelDRAW installation disk(s), you’ll also find about a thousand typefaces, many of which would fit in the category of “designer” fonts: from classic to classy, from appropriate for packaging to logo treatments. In the world of digital typefaces, an element of playfulness has snuck in, and we have “grunge” fonts that look as though the office photocopier’s having a bad hair day, elegant script typefaces that are ideal for wedding invitations, Blackletter typefaces that span usage from fairytales to metal band logos, fonts that look like handwriting, and Pi (picture) fonts. In Figure 13-2 you can see a small collection of different types of fonts gathered from the CorelDRAW disk and third-party vendors such as Émigré, The Font Bureau, and Stu’s Font Diner.

Figure 13-2. Examples of fresh and uncommon styles of typefaces

Distant Cousins in Typeface Families

Often, font families are written for normal, bold, bold-italic, and italic variations on a typeface. However, as the need arose for specific printing purposes, typographers extended font families to include expanded versions—compressed, condensed, engraved, stenciled, and professional sets that include characters not regularly written to standard typeface sets. For example, Helvetica, Futura, and Goudy come in more than 17 “flavors” from different typeface foundries. Typeface manufacturers have retained the name “foundry” from the days when typefaces were cast from metal using a forge, much like a metal foundry that manufactures machine parts. When shopping and using Bitstream Font Navigator , it’s important to know a few of the fancier variations on typeface families. On the next page are examples of a small caps typeface: it’s appropriate for formal announcements and doesn’t assault the reader as ALL CAPS does! Look for SC in a font name; typographers often use it to denote this special font. Also, some Roman serif typefaces have swash members: Bookman, Goudy, Garamond, and other popular fonts for body text can be purchased with characters that have strokes that sweep under and above neighboring characters for an elegant look. OldStyle versions of fonts contain numbers that alternate in position to make long sequences of digits easier to read, and frequently their filename is appended with OS.

What Is a Digital Typeface?

Fonts you use in CorelDRAW and most every other Windows application are actually applications, specifically runtime applications that require a “player” to display, print, and otherwise use the characters contained in the typeface. Fortunately, after you add a typeface to the Fonts folder in the Windows Control Panel, you don’t have to worry about the player; it’s in the operating system, and most applications recognize a recently added typeface immediately.

A digital typeface has outlines that describe the shape of the individual characters. This is why you’ll see a lot of picture fonts available on the Web for free: characters can be anything in a font, and it requires less skill to draw a tiny picture than to design a professional font such as Times New Roman for desktop publishing. Because the shapes are vector in nature, fonts can be small in file size, they scale smoothly to any size you might need, and CorelDRAW can simplify characters you type in a document so they become regular vector shapes that can be manipulated in any way you like. Common file extensions for digital typefaces are .OTF (OpenType font) and .TTF (TrueType font), and older fonts come in two parts: PostScript Type 1 fonts have the .PFB file extension for the binary data part, which contains the outlines of the characters, and an accompanying .PFM file holds header and metrics information (information character width, space surrounding characters, and so on). Windows and CorelDRAW can handle all three types of digital fonts.

Finally, a well-designed, professional typeface of any family member will contain extended characters. An extended character is one you can’t directly access from the keyboard; instead you must first hold ALT and then type four digits on the numeric keypad area of your keyboard. For example, if you want to put a pause in a sentence, one way to punctuate is with ellipses (three periods when we used typewriters). However, the proper punctuation in today’s typesetting is the ellipse character, which is accessed from standard-encoded typefaces by pressing and holding ALT, then typing 0133.

Some typefaces don’t come with extended characters, some come with a few, and the more professional typefaces have ligature characters in the extended range of the font. Ligatures were first invented by scribes several centuries ago to get more words per line on parchment and to even out the look of certain words, usually Latin. For example, (in today’s English) the word “find” looks awkward in certain typefaces because of the proximity of the f’s extension to the right, hitting the dot in the i. Because today’s digital typefaces can contain thousands of characters including entire foreign-language character sets, a specific typeface might have a ligature for fi with the dot missing from the i, but this ligature is nearly impossible to look up to use. Fortunately, you can add an fi ligature, an fl, or any other extended character through the Insert Character docker (CTRL+F11). If you’re into typesetting, it’s a good idea to remember this keyboard shortcut.


Ligatures occasionally come as part of an Expert set of a specific typeface, making it easier to locate the ligature you need. These sets are often called “Extras” in their filename.

The Anatomy of a Font

When looking for a font that seems appropriate for a specific design, the shape of the individual characters might or might not work out the way you intend; you want the spacing between lines of text (called leading) to be extremely tight, but the ascender on certain characters is too high and juts into the preceding line of text. What’s an ascender? The vertical strokes in characters have names typographers use and you should, too, when describing an ideal font or when seeking one:

  • Character height Used to describe the overall height, which includes not only the character but also the space above the character, this is usually coded in by the person designing the typeface. Character height determines how much interline spacing you’ll need to make more than one line of text.

  • Cap height This is the height of a capital letter in a typeface, which is usually not the same as character height, nor is it necessarily the height of all characters (which is called the ascender).

  • Ascender This is the height of the tallest character in a font; usually it’s the f, the h, or a swash if the font contains this embellishment.

  • Descender This is the lowest part of a character; usually a g or a y, except when a font has swashes.

  • X-height This is the measurement of a lowercase character, traditionally measured by the letter x in the font.

  • Baseline An imaginary line where all the characters should rest.

Figure 1 shows all the measurements just described.

Figure 1. The heights of the strokes in a typeface


A few typographic elements have characters not found in a digital typeface, but instead are built by CorelDRAW and other applications. For example, an underscored character, used a lot in legal documents, in CorelDRAW is built from any typeface: you select the character(s) to be underscored, click the Underline button on the property bar, and you’re done. Similarly, if you need a Superscript or Subscript character (see the next illustration), CorelDRAW builds one from any font. However, a Superscript is a special treatment of a character, and you need to first choose the character’s glyph node with the Shape tool (not with the Pick or the Text tool). Then the Super and Subscript buttons appear on the property bar and you’re home free.

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