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Re: [Freetype] Re: To Hint or Not To Hint

From: David Turner
Subject: Re: [Freetype] Re: To Hint or Not To Hint
Date: Tue, 25 Feb 2003 22:05:26 +0100
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.0; en-US; rv:1.3b) Gecko/20030210

Hello Jon,

Jon Harrop wrote:
As you can see when hinting is on fonts look real bad. Anyone got any
idea what may be the problem?

I am not a fan of hinting myself but I must say that the hinted version of your text actually looks better to me. I would class your example as intermediate size because the resolution is small enough that pixel boundaries are visible but large enough that each glyph fills more than 5 pixels (which is really the minimum size for a readable font, IMHO).

I think you missed what he was really complaining about: the letters are
slightly distorted compared to their "original" hinted shape (e.g. the 'e'),
which is why it found it bad.

The example you give is much better than other examples that I have seen, particularly on my own computer (KDE v 2.2.2 with FreeType 2 v 2.1.2) where hinting runs glyphs together, alters the final size of text and can considerably change the optical weighting of a font.

FT 2.1.2 with or without the bytecode interpreter enabled ? With TrueType or
Postscript fonts ? This can make huge differences in rendering, much more
important than the distortions described here...

And *any* kind of hinting (native, auto, wathever) will change the final size of
text, unless you're performing WYSIWIG rendering (which most applications don't
do for complexity reasons)

Just out of curiosity - do you guys think that automatic hinting could work on general vector graphics?

It could work, but the improvements might not be very noticeable (or it could
even make things wrong). The main reasons behing this are the following facts:

 - for arbitrary shapes, you cannot define "blue zones" to define important
   alignment zones with specific behaviour, these are very specific to

  - hinting works well with fonts because glyphs are made of lots of horizontal
    and/or vertical stems with similar widths/heights. This is used by the
    hinting algorithms to decide that in some cases, a width of 1.5 pixels
    should be snapped to 1 pixel, 2 pixel, or left untouched, depending on
    context (like character pixel size which determines the size of the
    "main" stem width, etc...). You can't use such information for general

Hope this helps,

- David Turner
- The FreeType Project  (

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