Type 1 Fonts Knowledge Base

Introduction to Type 1 font

Type 1 (PostScript Type 1) is a widely used and well-established vector font format designed for high-quality printing and publishing. Let’s take a look at their key characteristics:

However, it’s important to note that with the emergence of OpenType fonts, Type 1 fonts have become somewhat obsolete for new font development.

Advantages and disadvantages of Type 1 font

The table below shows the pros and cons of Type 1 fonts, so you could decide whether to use it in your project or not.

Offer exceptional print quality with sharp and clear text and graphics, making them ideal for professional printing applications like books, magazines, and commercial documents.Lack some of the advanced typographic features found in more modern font formats like OpenType.
Use vector graphics, which allows for smooth and precise character rendering at any size.May be subject to licensing and usage restrictions, which can limit their availability for certain projects.
Type 1 fonts are compatible with various operating systems and software applications.Nowadays they are considered to be outdated for new font development and largely replaced by OpenType fonts.
Stored in two separate files, one for font metrics and another for glyph data which improves font management and reduces file size.Creating or modifying Type 1 fonts can be more complex compared to other font formats.
Some Type 1 fonts support Multiple Master technology, valuable for designers who require customized fonts.
Have historical significance in the desktop publishing revolution.

Technical details of Type 1 fonts

Type 1 fonts have a specific technical structure that makes them suitable for high-quality printing and precise character rendering. Here are the key technical details of Type 1 fonts:

  1. Type 1 fonts are based on vector graphics.
  2. Each character in a Type 1 font is defined by a set of glyph outlines that consist of a series of connected curves and straight segments. The outlines define the shape, size, and proportions of each glyph. The Outline Font File (PFB or PFA) contains the glyph outline data, which defines the actual shapes of the characters.
  3. Type 1 fonts store font metrics separately from glyph outlines. The Metrics File (AFM) contains font metric data, including character widths, kerning pairs, and font information.
  4. The PFA (PostScript Font ASCII) format and PFB (PostScript Font Binary) format are two variations of the outline font file. PFA is in plain ASCII text, making it human-readable and editable. PFB is a binary format, which is more compact and efficient but hard to read by a human.
  5. Type 1 fonts may include hinting instructions.
  6. It’s possible to create Type 1 subset fonts that include only a subset of characters from a larger font.
  7. Type 1 fonts use various encoding schemes, such as Adobe Standard Encoding or custom encodings, to map character codes to glyph outlines. These encoding schemes determine which glyphs are available in the font and how to access them.
  8. Fonts often include font dictionaries with additional information(metadata) about the font, such as copyright notices, font names, and font version information.
  9. Font metrics ensure that characters are spaced and sized correctly, whether they are displayed at 10 points or 100 points.
  10. Type 1 fonts can be embedded within documents, such as PDF files to always maintain the intended typography.

How do Type 1 fonts render glyphs?

Type 1 fonts render glyphs using vector-based outlines and a process called “hinting” to ensure precise character rendering. Let’s have a deeper look at the process:

  1. The font renderer accesses the glyph data for the glyph from the Type 1 font file. This glyph data contains the outline information necessary to draw the character.
  2. The position of points and curves in the glyph outlines are adjusted using the hinting instructions.
  3. The font renderer scales the glyph outline data to the desired size. The font renderer also takes into account the font metrics to ensure that the glyph fits correctly within the line of text.
  4. Depending on the rendering settings and the output device, anti-aliasing may be applied to smooth the edges of characters.
  5. The renderer places the character within the text layout according to the specified character spacing and kerning information.
  6. The rendered character is sent to the output device, whether it’s a printer, computer screen, or another medium. This device processes the data and displays or prints the character as part of the overall text or image.

How to create a Type 1 font?

To create Type 1 font you will need specialized font design software and knowledge of font design principles. Here’s an overview of the general process:

  1. Learn font design basics.
  2. Choose software fitting for the creation and editing of Type 1 fonts.
  3. Decide on the design characteristics of your font, including the style (e.g., serif, sans-serif, script), character set (e.g., Latin alphabet, special characters), and any unique features to include.
  4. Create individual glyph designs for each character in your font drawing vector-based outlines for characters. Pay attention to consistency in character width, stroke thickness, and overall design.
  5. If you plan to use the font at small sizes, consider adding hinting instructions but you may require specialized knowledge for that.
  6. Define the font’s metrics, including character spacing, ascent, descent, and baseline, and implement kerning.
  7. Generate font files one for font metrics (AFM - Adobe Font Metrics) and another for glyph data (PFB - Printer Font Binary) or (PFA - Printer Font ASCII).
  8. Test your Type 1 font in various applications and at different sizes to ensure it renders correctly and maintains legibility. Solve any issues found.
  9. Include metadata in your font files, such as font name, copyright information, and all licensing details.
  10. Use font validation tools to check for errors and inconsistencies in your font files.
  11. When the font is ready to use and validated, package it for distribution. You may need to create an installer or ZIP file containing the font files, metadata, and licensing information.
  12. Provide documentation with your font package that explains how to install and use the font. It should contain details on character support, special features, and any specific instructions for designers using your font.

How to optimize Type 1 files?

Optimizing Type 1 font files can help reduce their size and improve their performance when. Here are some strategies for this:

  1. Subset fonts to include only the necessary glyphs, reducing file size.
  2. Examine the complexity of your glyph outlines. Simplify excessively complex curves or details that are not visible at typical text sizes.
  3. If your font includes hinting instructions, review and optimize them.
  4. Use font compression techniques to reduce file size using tools and font packaging utilities that offer options to compress Type 1 font files. This can significantly reduce the size of the PFB or PFA file.
  5. Use subroutines that allow the reuse of common parts of glyph outlines, reducing the redundancy of data which leads to smaller font files.
  6. Consider using the ASCII format (PFA) for your Type 1 font if it doesn’t require binary efficiency.
  7. Check and optimize font metrics (AFM - Adobe Font Metrics) to ensure efficient character spacing and alignment and remove unnecessary metrics data.
  8. If you’re embedding fonts in documents, embed only the characters you need.
  9. If possible convert Type 1 to more modern font formats like OpenType if possible.
  10. Make sure that your font uses Unicode encoding for character mapping.
  11. Remove any unnecessary metadata, comments, or licensing information that may bloat the font file.

Embedding Type 1 fonts

Embedding Type 1 fonts in documents is a common practice to ensure that the fonts are available and displayed correctly when the document is viewed or printed on different systems. Here are methods and considerations for embedding Type 1 fonts in various types of documents:

File formatConsiderations
PDFSubset fonts to reduce the size of the file.
If you want to ensure that the PDF looks the same on all systems and printers, embed the entire font.
Check if you have the proper licensing rights to embed the Type 1 fonts in your PDF document.
Specify font substitution preferences in your PDF authoring software to ensure that the document remains readable.
MS WordWhen saving a Word document, you can choose to embed fonts.
InDesign has a “Package” feature that collects all the fonts used in a document and copies them to a folder, making it easy to share the document with embedded fonts.
LaTeXInclude font in the TeX distribution when compiling the document.
LaTeX supports various font
packages. Check if there’s a package available for the Type 1 that handles font embedding automatically.
All formatsAlways make sure you have the legal right to embed the Type 1 fonts in your documents, especially for distribution or commercial use.
Subset or embed only the characters you need to help file sizes manageable.
Test the embedded fonts on different platforms and devices to ensure they display correctly.
Use the correct and compatible versions of Type 1 fonts, as font format variations can affect embedding and rendering.
Take into account the compatibility of embedded fonts with the software and devices your audience will use to work the document.
Always keep a backup copy of the font files.

Several well-known Type 1 fonts have been widely used in the fields of graphic design, desktop publishing, and typography. Let’s take a look at them:


Type 1 fonts have a unique place in the history of typography and graphic design. Developed by Adobe Systems in the 1980s, these vector-based fonts revolutionized the world of printing and publishing, offering outstanding print quality. Their use of mathematical curves, separate font metrics, and extensive hinting instructions ensured that text and graphics were rendered with crisp clarity, regardless of size.

Type 1 fonts have played a pivotal role in the desktop publishing era, but newer font formats, such as OpenType, offer expanded features, broader character sets, and improved cross-platform compatibility, so they are a preferred choice for modern design projects.

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