OpenType Pro “Opticals” Explained

Most fonts are designed for use in a specific range of sizes — 11 to 13 points is a common average. When used larger, the font may appear thin and spaced too widely. When used smaller, the font may appear thick and too closely spaced. Some OpenType fonts solve this problem by including several complete sets of glyphs (or even separate fonts) designed for use in a specific size range.

A handful of Adobe’s OpenType “Pro” fonts include size-specific variants that Adobe refers to as “opticals”. For example: caption (6–8.4 pt), small text (8.5–10.9 pt), regular (11–13.9 pt), subhead (14–21.4 pt), and display (21.5 pt and higher) and poster (72+ pt). Other font developers may use different size ranges for their “opticals”.

Some Adobe Pro fonts that include opticals include Arno, Brioso, Cronos, Chaparral, Garamond Premier, Jenson, Kepler, Minion, Sanvito, Utopia, and Warnock.

You can experiment with these fonts in QuarkXPress by choosing them from the Font popup menu in the Measurements palette:

Tip: If you decide that you prefer to use, say, the “Caption” variant wherever you’ve set your text at 6 points, you can use the Find/Change feature in QuarkXPress (Edit> Find/Change) to replace all instances of 6 point type with the “Caption” variant of your fancy optical font. Better yet, use a Character Style Sheet for that.