Creating a Chinese Font.

Nikhil Sonnad takes a look at “The long, incredibly tortuous, and fascinating process of creating a Chinese font” over at Quartz; it presumes you don’t know the first thing about Chinese writing, but if you skim past the historical boilerplate you get some interesting stuff:

As with Latin fonts, a crucial initial decision is to determine which font “style” to use. Chinese has two main styles, called Mingti and Heiti, akin to the serif and sans-serif of Latin. Heiti is a bit like sans-serif: clean, straight lines without extra ornamentation at the ends, common on the web. Mingti is similar to serif, with extra embellishment at the end of strokes that give it a more bookish feel. […]

After deciding whether to go in a Heiti or a Mingti direction, designers hone the typeface design further by looking for inspiration from sources as wide-ranging as calligraphy, ancient lettering, and other Chinese and Latin fonts. For JinXuan, Justfont is attempting to apply the feel of the Latin typeface Optima—which blends the simplicity of sans-serif fonts with the extravagance of serif ones—to the writing style they found on an ancient scroll. (Su, the co-founder, studied Chinese literature in university.)

The calligraphy of the scroll is indeed very nice, and it’s worth visiting the link just for that. Thanks, Nick!


  1. Well, I’m way behind. I just noticed the other day that Chinese fonts have an italic style: 三國演義. It sort of distorts things; 三 becomes .

  2. Not really a style, just a mechanically applied slant to the right. Italic is much more different from Roman than that.

  3. Interesting — Heiti/Mingti are described as sans and serif, with this project aiming for an Optima in between those. But to me the Heiti example actually looks something like Optima already — it certainly has thickenings at the ends of strokes.

    Are there Chinese fonts that go harder in the direction of sans-serif, with no stroke width terminal variation? Or ones that go for zero strike width variation throughout?

  4. There are certainly Japanese fonts like that that include the Chinese characters used in Japanese. So surely there must be Chinese ones too.

  5. Japan is a quite good market for fonts. Most really serious Chinese/Taiwanese typographers, I think, mainly rely on Japan for income, as Greater China has no respect at all for copyright, even for small, independent creators.


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