Color Fonts – the next big thing in typography

Since the introduction of OpenType fonts, there hasn’t been a big change in typography. Until color fonts emerged. Their birth probably was in 2010 when Apple added colorful emoji, which we all have been using since on our mobile.

However – due to the lack of color fonts – designers have always been using colorful fonts; mostly by taking an existing font and converting it to boxes and then changing its shape, its outline, adding colors or blends. So they weren’t fonts anymore but looked like type.

“Stroke text” is another use case where designers add a colorful border to live text, often also even dashed or stripped. And working around the issue that kerning and overlapping suddenly needed to be adjusted.

If you want to read more color fonts (or chromatic type) – which are not new; the first production types appeared in the 1840 – then read  more about it here:

Color fonts save time!

For designers, Color Fonts are gold!

Think of the time you had to spend in the past taking a plain font shape and then running it through lots of filters and other steps to get a chiseled look; brush strokes, wood, etc.

Now you just type!

– Kurt Lang, JKL Studios, when pre-release testing color fonts in QuarkXPress 2018

Color fonts represent a key evolution in typography. They add rich graphic features into font files. And as they behave like standard fonts, once design applications support them, they are easy to use and easily accessible for millions of creatives.

And they are fun!

Color fonts can impact any type of text, can contain multiple colors, shades, textures, blends and transparency. And even animations (ok, now that’s hard to print ;-)

Are there different formats for color fonts?

Yes. There are four different formats and some formats support both vector and bitmap:

Color Font formatBitmap?Vector?Format?
Apple SBIXProprietary
Google CBDTProprietary
Microsoft COLRBased on OpenType
(OpenType SVG)
Based on OpenType

All modern browsers support some format of color fonts, but not all. For example, Google’s CBDT is only available in Chrome on Android.

Which creative pro applications for print design support Color Fonts?

Full support in Illustrator CC 2018, Photoshop CC 2018 and QuarkXPress 2018

Photoshop CC 2017 was the first application to support bitmap color fonts. With the release Photoshop CC 2018 also vector color fonts are supported.

Illustrator CC 2018 is the first version of Illustrator to support color fonts, both vector and bitmap.

And QuarkXPress 2018 is the first version of QuarkXPress to fully supports color fonts, both bitmap and vector; in the formats SVG, SBIX and COLR.

Experimental support in InDesign

InDesign CC 2018 added experimental color font support, Adobe calls it a “technology preview feature”. According to a blog entry from Adobe there seems to be output issues with Color Fonts in InDesign:

Color Font format support by application

ApplicationOpenType SVG VECTOROpenType SVG BITMAPApple SBIXMicrosoft COLR
(last updated March 14, 2018)
Adobe Illustrator CC 2018✅ – YES✅ – YES✅ – YES❌ – No
Adobe InDesign CC 2018💤 Experimental💤 Experimental💤 Experimental❌ – No
Adobe Photoshop CC 2018✅ – YES✅ – YES✅ – YES❌ – No
Affinity Designer 1.6❌ – No❌ – No❌ – No❌ – No
Affinity Photo 1.6❌ – No❌ – No❌ – No❌ – No
Pixelmator 3.7❌ – No✅ – YES✅ – YES❌ – No
QuarkXPress 2018– YES– YES– YES– YES

Can I use them in Print and Web?

Yes. In digital publishing (browsers, apps), color fonts have been around for a while. We all use them (e.g. emoticons).

In Print – if the application fully supports it – color fonts can be used too, colors are RGB and can be color managed using ICC-based color management. Similar to how an RGB image is color managed.

Where can I get some color fonts?

Here are some 100+ sample color fonts to download:

The Typodermic Color Font Experiment

Please read their license agreement first.

More fonts can be found here:


More background info

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Both an engineer and a layout artist, Matthias bridges the gap between technology and people.

Before joining Quark, Matthias pioneered print, Web, and multimedia products for multiple German publishing companies. Since 1997 he has played a central role in shaping Quark’s desktop and enterprise software.
Starting 2003 Matthias has focused on Quark’s interactive and digital publishing solutions. He is an active participant in design and publishing communities and represents Quark in the Ghent PDF Workgroup.

Since February 2014 Matthias heads Quark’s Desktop Publishing business unit and is therefore responsible for QuarkXPress.