Font Design and Development - NRSI

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This blog contains information on tools and techniques related to font development and design, for both designers and engineers.

  • Kerning is often used to give a better presentation of characters which might otherwise have too much space between them. In typesetting Ethiopic texts (in a variety of languages), there are some standard pairs of fidels which often looked like they are too far apart. This is a list of 279 pairs which needed kerning in the  Abyssinica SIL font. This list should be useful as a starting point for others who develop Ethiopic fonts. Because the amount of kerning varies by the typeface this document does not specify the amount of kerning required.

    PairsUnicode Scalar Values
    U+1202 U+121a
    U+1202 U+121b
    U+1202 U+1265
    U+1202 U+1275
    U+1202 U+1285
    U+1202 U+12d2
    U+1202 U+12d4
    U+1202 U+130a
    U+1202 U+130d
    U+1206 U+1207
    U+1206 U+1212
    U+1206 U+1225
    U+1206 U+1228
    U+1206 U+1243
    U+1206 U+12ed
    U+1206 U+130b
    U+1206 U+1348
    U+1206 U+2d85
    U+1206 U+2d8b
    U+1206 U+2d8f
    U+1207 U+1208
    U+1207 U+1212
    U+1207 U+1213
    U+1207 U+1225
    U+1207 U+1228
    U+1207 U+1243
    U+1207 U+1251
    U+1207 U+130b
    U+1207 U+2d8b
    U+1207 U+2d8f
    U+1208 U+12b8
    U+1208 U+12bd
    U+1209 U+1225
    U+1209 U+1243
    U+1209 U+12f0
    U+1209 U+130b
    U+120a U+121a
    U+120a U+121b
    U+120a U+121e
    U+120a U+1233
    U+120a U+123d
    U+120a U+1240
    U+120a U+1245
    U+120a U+1251
    U+120a U+125a
    U+120a U+1265
    U+120a U+1275
    U+120a U+127d
    U+120a U+1285
    U+120a U+1293
    U+120a U+1295
    U+120a U+1296
    U+120a U+12b8
    U+120a U+12b9
    U+120a U+12ba
    U+120a U+12bb
    U+120a U+12bd
    U+120a U+12be
    U+120a U+12d2
    U+120a U+12d4
    U+120a U+1308
    U+120a U+130a
    U+120a U+130d
    U+120a U+132d
    U+120a U+134b
    U+120c U+123d
    U+120c U+1295
    U+120c U+12b8
    U+120c U+12b9
    U+120c U+12ba
    U+120c U+12bb
    U+120c U+12bd
    U+120c U+12be
    U+120c U+12d2
    U+120c U+12d4
    U+120c U+130d
    U+120d U+121a
    U+120d U+121b
    U+120d U+123d
    U+120d U+1285
    U+120d U+1295
    U+120d U+12b8
    U+120d U+12b9
    U+120d U+12ba
    U+120d U+12bb
    U+120d U+12bd
    U+120d U+12be
    U+120d U+12d2
    U+120d U+12d4
    U+120d U+12e9
    U+120d U+1308
    U+120d U+130a
    U+120d U+130d
    U+1212 U+1202
    U+1212 U+121e
    U+1212 U+1233
    U+1212 U+123d
    U+1212 U+1285
    U+1212 U+1293
    U+1212 U+1295
    U+1212 U+1296
    U+1212 U+12b8
    U+1212 U+12b9
    U+1212 U+12ba
    U+1212 U+12bb
    U+1212 U+12bd
    U+1212 U+12be
    U+1212 U+12d2
    U+1212 U+12d4
    U+1212 U+1308
    U+1212 U+130a
    U+1212 U+130d
    U+1212 U+134b
    U+1215 U+1295
    U+1218 U+1212
    U+1218 U+1225
    U+1218 U+1228
    U+1218 U+1243
    U+1218 U+12f5
    U+1218 U+130b
    U+121a U+1275
    U+121a U+12db
    U+121b U+120d
    U+121b U+1225
    U+121c U+1295
    U+121d U+1208
    U+121d U+120d
    U+121d U+1212
    U+121d U+1213
    U+121d U+1225
    U+121d U+1228
    U+121d U+122a
    U+121d U+122b
    U+121d U+1243
    U+121d U+1273
    U+121d U+12eb
    U+121d U+12f0
    U+121d U+12f5
    U+121d U+12f6
    U+121d U+130b
    U+121d U+1320
    U+121d U+1348
    U+121d U+2d85
    U+121d U+2d8b
    U+121d U+2d8f
    U+121e U+1273
    U+1224 U+12d4
    U+1225 U+1218
    U+1225 U+1228
    U+1225 U+122b
    U+1225 U+130b
    U+1225 U+1322
    U+1225 U+1348
    U+1228 U+1203
    U+1228 U+1218
    U+1229 U+130a
    U+122b U+1295
    U+122b U+12bd
    U+122b U+12ed
    U+1232 U+1245
    U+1232 U+1275
    U+1232 U+1293
    U+1232 U+12b9
    U+1232 U+12d2
    U+1232 U+12d4
    U+1232 U+1325
    U+1232 U+134d
    U+1238 U+1218
    U+123a U+1245
    U+123a U+1275
    U+123a U+1293
    U+123a U+12d2
    U+123a U+1325
    U+123a U+134d
    U+1240 U+1228
    U+1243 U+12eb
    U+125a U+12b9
    U+1261 U+1243
    U+1262 U+1270
    U+1262 U+1271
    U+1262 U+1272
    U+1262 U+1274
    U+1262 U+1275
    U+1262 U+1276
    U+1262 U+12d2
    U+1262 U+1325
    U+1262 U+134d
    U+1264 U+1275
    U+1264 U+12d4
    U+126a U+1245
    U+126a U+1275
    U+126a U+1293
    U+126a U+1325
    U+1273 U+1225
    U+1273 U+12a1
    U+1273 U+12f0
    U+1275 U+12b9
    U+128b U+120b
    U+1292 U+123b
    U+1292 U+1275
    U+1293 U+12a2
    U+1295 U+122b
    U+1295 U+12a1
    U+1296 U+120a
    U+1296 U+12a2
    U+129b U+1273
    U+12a1 U+1295
    U+12a1 U+12b8
    U+12a1 U+12bb
    U+12a1 U+12bd
    U+12a2 U+1293
    U+12a2 U+1296
    U+12a2 U+12b8
    U+12a2 U+12b9
    U+12a2 U+12bd
    U+12a2 U+12be
    U+12a2 U+12d2
    U+12a2 U+12d4
    U+12a3 U+12b8
    U+12a3 U+12b9
    U+12a3 U+12ba
    U+12a3 U+12bb
    U+12a3 U+12bd
    U+12a3 U+12be
    U+12a5 U+123d
    U+12a5 U+1295
    U+12a5 U+12bd
    U+12a5 U+130d
    U+12a9 U+12b9
    U+12aa U+1270
    U+12aa U+1271
    U+12aa U+1272
    U+12aa U+1274
    U+12aa U+1275
    U+12aa U+1276
    U+12aa U+127d
    U+12aa U+1293
    U+12aa U+1295
    U+12aa U+12ca
    U+12aa U+1325
    U+12aa U+132d
    U+12b9 U+12a2
    U+12b9 U+12a3
    U+12b9 U+12f0
    U+12ba U+1275
    U+12be U+12a2
    U+12c9 U+1295
    U+12c9 U+12bb
    U+12cb U+12eb
    U+12cd U+1243
    U+12cd U+12eb
    U+12d2 U+123d
    U+12da U+12b8
    U+12e8 U+1348
    U+12eb U+12f6
    U+12f0 U+1275
    U+12f5 U+1212
    U+1309 U+1225
    U+130a U+1229
    U+130a U+1275
    U+130a U+12d2
    U+130b U+121d
    U+130b U+1225
    U+1322 U+1275
    U+1322 U+1295
    U+1322 U+12d2
    U+1322 U+134b
    U+1328 U+1252
    U+132a U+1275
    U+133d U+1213
    U+1348 U+121e
    U+1356 U+1228
    U+1356 U+1328
    U+2d84 U+1247
    U+ab02 U+12b9
    U+ab02 U+12d2
    U+ab02 U+12d4
    U+ab04 U+12d4
    U+ab12 U+12b8

    Suggested kerning pairs

    Copyright© 2017 SIL International
    LicenseCreative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Allows modification and redistribution
    ContributorLorna Evans
  • Posted by Martin Raymond on 2017-01-10 12:07:55

    The SIL Non-Roman Script Initiative (NRSI) is streamlining its font development workflow, with an emphasis on the use of open source tools and formats which can be used in an automated build process. Hopefully this will make it easier for others to participate.

    At the same time the NRSI is trying to collect and make available information on the "Best Practices" used in developing fonts. About 30% of the articles in our intended outline have been written, with plans to make further progress on the remainder in the upcoming year. These "Font Development Best Practices" can be found at and corrections, clarifications and contributions are welcome (source is at

  • Posted by Lorna Evans on 2015-03-25 07:18:02

    SIL's Non-Roman Script Initiative has created very comprehensive fonts for Latin and Cyrillic character sets.  Charis SIL,  Doulos SIL,  Gentium Plus and  Andika are very large fonts that cover just about every need we know about in the Latin and Cyrillic world. Now, as we move into the age of mobile phone and web usage, there is a need for fonts that are small and compact. Our fonts are over a megabyte each and that is considered much too large for mobile phone usage.

    In October 2014 we released version 5.000 of SIL's Charis SIL, Doulos SIL, Gentium Plus and Andika fonts. We have now created regional subsets based on each of these fonts. These fonts currently only contain OpenType smart code (we hope to add Graphite soon). Each regional font only contains the characters (and glyphs) that are known to be used in that region of the world. We have attempted to use the most common glyph required for that region.

    Our regional subsets are as follows:

    • Africa [Afr]
    • Americas [Am]
    • Asia/Pacific [APac]
    • Europe/Eurasia [Eur]
    • Vietnam [Viet]
    • Phonetic [Phon]
    • Cyrillic (Basic) [Cyr]
    • Cyrillic Extended [CyrE]

    You can download the subset fonts from here: Both .ttf and .woff fonts are included in the download. The .woff fonts will especially be helpful for those using these fonts on websites.

  • Posted by Sharon Correll on 2015-02-27 08:18:28

    In the course of my work to add web font capability to ScriptSource, I've discovered that it is often really important to be able to determine exactly which font the browser is using to display a bit of text. Unfortunately it's not always straightforward to figure this out, since the browser doesn't necessarily use the exact font that is specified in the HTML or CSS. There are several situations where the browser may substitute one font for another:

    1. the preferred font can't be located or there is an error in loading it
    2. the preferred font doesn't support the characters to be displayed

  • Posted by Bob Hallissy on 2014-08-11 10:56:50

    I was asked recently Where do I find the specification for TrueType fonts? The question could be broadened to various font formats (e.g., Type 1), so here is a start of a list of such specifications. Feel free to send me additional information to be included.

    TrueType fonts, OpenType fonts, OpenFont Format

    In terms of specification, OpenType should be considered as the successor to TrueType. Several companies have contributed to the specification over time and maintain their version of the specification on their own website. However, the agreed-upon latest standard, now called the Open Font Format, is maintained officially as an ISO specification, in particular part 22 of ISO/IEC 14496 Information technology — Coding of audio-visual objects. Here are some links to find these specifications:

    Postscript Fonts

    Postscript font specifications are maintained on Adobe's website:


    W3 is developing a standard for fonts expressed as Scalar Vector Graphics:

    Other references

    Wikipedia has a number of useful pages relating to fonts, including:

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  • Copyright © 2017 SIL International and released under the  Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license (CC-BY-SA) unless noted otherwise. Language data includes information from the  Ethnologue. Script information partially from the  ISO 15924 Registration Authority. Some character data from  The Unicode Standard Character Database and locale data from the  Common Locale Data Repository. Used by permission.