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+1,000 for variable fonts. I'm finding these are increasingly entering my workflow in recent months, and having to maintain both static (for Affinity apps) and variable (for pretty much every other app I use) versions of fonts is getting old.

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Where are you all using variable fonts? I tried a variable font in Indesign, love the options it gives to adjust a font but it seems that when it came to making a PDF for print the fonts were no good in the PDF for this application. Simple work around was outline the fonts in Indesign. Is this strictly for web use right now? 

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2 hours ago, wonderings said:

Where are you all using variable fonts? I tried a variable font in Indesign, love the options it gives to adjust a font but it seems that when it came to making a PDF for print the fonts were no good in the PDF for this application. Simple work around was outline the fonts in Indesign. Is this strictly for web use right now? 

I'm using them on the web more and more (also for print/pdf via PrinceXML), as Google Fonts has been routinely adding more and more high-quality variable fonts. There's a great primer here, a guide from Google here: Variable Fonts Are Here to Stay, and some great inspiration to be found via Typearture, complete with a tutorial and showcase. I wouldn't say they are just for use on the web, as there is nothing stopping other applications from using them (ie. Godot just added support for their upcoming 4.0 release) other than having the intent to do so.

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On 3/23/2021 at 8:35 AM, wonderings said:

Where are you all using variable fonts? I tried a variable font in Indesign, love the options it gives to adjust a font but it seems that when it came to making a PDF for print the fonts were no good in the PDF for this application. Simple work around was outline the fonts in Indesign. Is this strictly for web use right now? 

They are quite useful for branding too. Having the ability to fine-tweak positive/negative versions, for instance. Or coming up with a combination of weight and any other feature fits better with your design is a plus

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17 hours ago, Guillermo Espertino said:

They are quite useful for branding too. Having the ability to fine-tweak positive/negative versions, for instance. Or coming up with a combination of weight and any other feature fits better with your design is a plus

I was questioning its use because a variable font I tried did not export well to PDF, I thought this was a common problem with variable fonts and PDFs for print at the moment. After trying a different variable font I did not have the issue so I think it was isolated. If the fonts work and export fine for pdf and print then I think they are an amazing upgrade to how we use fonts. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I'd also like to use a variable font in my design. This seems to be the only thread about this topic here. And the only time someone official said something was a "no" some 5 years ago. The Affinity store says that I should go to these forums to ask for support with the application. I'm feeling a little lost now. Is there another way to make the developers aware of this and get a statement on how they see the future of these apps? A roadmap would be a good starting point so that the users have some perspective. As it looks now, I cannot assume there is a future for Affinity because I can see none. (There probably is some kind of future but I can make no assumptions about it. And there's nothing I can even look forward to. Pretty dark there.) Right now (and also from other experiences) I have that feeling that "you get what you pay for" and Affinity will always be that cheap little wannabe Adobe replacement but never even get close to it. I guess what I'm looking for is a solution a little more powerful (and a little more expensive) than Affinity but also a lot less powerful (and a lot less expensive) than Adobe. Any ideas?

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 4/30/2021 at 5:35 PM, ygoe said:

I'd also like to use a variable font in my design. This seems to be the only thread about this topic here. And the only time someone official said something was a "no" some 5 years ago. The Affinity store says that I should go to these forums to ask for support with the application. I'm feeling a little lost now. Is there another way to make the developers aware of this and get a statement on how they see the future of these apps? A roadmap would be a good starting point so that the users have some perspective. As it looks now, I cannot assume there is a future for Affinity because I can see none. (There probably is some kind of future but I can make no assumptions about it. And there's nothing I can even look forward to. Pretty dark there.) Right now (and also from other experiences) I have that feeling that "you get what you pay for" and Affinity will always be that cheap little wannabe Adobe replacement but never even get close to it. I guess what I'm looking for is a solution a little more powerful (and a little more expensive) than Affinity but also a lot less powerful (and a lot less expensive) than Adobe. Any ideas?

There used to be a rather public roadmap of really basic functionality. Easy pickings, if you will.

Now there's still one, either for point releases, or for the upcoming – who knows when – 2.x branch, except it's kept secret for competitive reasons.

I would say this is still the place to request new features. I am as disappointed as you in this, but at the same time happy to know I'm not the only one who cares. Also, if you know other people who do and would buy Affinity apps if these features were available, do invite them over to the forum. They can get their hands on trial versions while they're at it, too, and, who knows, maybe even give more feedback in other areas. ;)

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Just for the record, I am very interested in variable fonts, and as they are really starting to gain momentum, I look forward to being able to finally use them for layout work. I have been meaning to post a couple of thoughts of how they can improve the work we do, so now seems like my chance:

1. Back in the days well before my time, when fonts were sold as chunks of metal type, they would necessarily be fixed sizes, and you would purchase particular sizes according to need. No question about the disadvantages of the way it was in those days, but there was an advantage to that method if it came from a quality foundry: the different sizes in a single family would have subtle variations on weight and other features (ink traps, for example) so that the optical characteristics of the font would be tuned to its own specific size. Although our fonts today are vastly more convenient, we have lost a little something in quality with a one-size-fits-all approach to scalable fonts (consider the difference between true versus “faked” small caps for a rough comparison of the idea I am talking about).

Here is a quote from an old but good article over on CreativePro.com (link). The main article is about adjusting tracking for different point sizes, but this part also describes the issue I am talking about.

Quote

As type gets larger (especially typefaces intended for text), thins get thicker, design details appear clunkier, and the overall spacing looks too open. Conversely, as display type is set smaller, thin strokes and fine serifs begin to get very light and disappear, design details intended to be visible at larger sizes get lost, and the overall spacing starts to look too tight. In the days of metal type when each point size was cut individually, minute adjustments were made to both the design and the spacing of each point size to compensate for this occurrence. But in today’s world of digital type, a font consists of one scalable outline that is used for all sizes.

Variable fonts gives us a way to apply fine-tuned adjustments for weight to suite different sizes.

2. Different print mediums have different characteristics. About five years ago at my little publishing operation, we got a new production machine, and one of its features was how accurate the fine details were as compared to older models. I printed a test page to compare against the same layout as printed on the previous machine. My boss looked briefly at the two specimens, then said simply, “I don’t like it.” The new machine was technically more accurate, but the type looked a good deal thinner, especially fine typefaces like Baskerville. (Perhaps the older fonts in use were also designed with machines of the era in mind.) In order to adjust, we either had to change fonts or use the workaround of applying a very fine character outline (something like .04 pt) to be able to continue using the same fonts as before. On our machine, that workaround does the job for printed results, but I have to be careful with the settings lest the outline can have a disconnected ghosting appearance, and the PDF version where every character has an outline is much bigger, performs poorly, and basically looks bad onscreen.

Here too, variable fonts could be a good solution. If it prints a little too faint on our machine, we would just adjust the weight by fine amounts in the text styles and print again.

Summary: I can be patient with Serif, as there is room to grow the suite in multiple directions, and they can’t do it all at once. Maybe they should focus on other things first while variable fonts spend a little more time maturing. But if ignored indefinitely, it would really start to seem a great loss.

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@garrettm30

All of what you have described is really related to optical size.
Bad faked small caps look bad because of the lack of optical size adjustments, and the lack of good kerning.
Bad faked superscripts/subscripts look bad because of the lack of optical size adjustments, proper placement, and bad kerning.
Same with faked or poorly created numerator/denominator figures.

Some newer fonts have been built "more sturdy" to address the subtle reduction in visual weight in newer systems (e.g. STIX Two).
But this sturdiness is really an overall optical adjustment, not an just increase in width or height or spacing.
Which is what your current work-around of the thin outline attempts to address, but with some obvious drawbacks.

So my point is that the most common variable axes of Weight [wght] and Width [wdth] will not actually solve this.
Just make it a bit easier for you to do the work-around.
But the end result will still not be a well designed optical size - which would look perfect.

Out of the relatively small number of variable fonts out there, there even fewer which have the Optical Size [opsz] axis.
In FOSS fonts - Source Serif 4, Franuces, Merriweather, and RobotoFlex are a few which come to mind.
RobotoFlex even has the multiple axes which are the individual components of optical size.

Variable fonts like these will actually address the issues you raised.
So the solution being available and widespread is still a ways off ... but it is coming.

In the mean time, if you find a variable font you like, you can export your own custom instance using some free tools.
Less problems with embedding a static font.
One of the issues not being discussed much is the somewhat spotty support for embedding variable fonts for output.

Finally, if you have a variable font you want to use now, I can easily export a custom static instance for you.
Only takes a few minutes and is really quite easy.

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  • 2 months later...
On 5/20/2021 at 11:17 PM, LibreTraining said:

Finally, if you have a variable font you want to use now, I can easily export a custom static instance for you.
Only takes a few minutes and is really quite easy.

Not sure about this, font and copyright are not so easy (except if this is an open source project) :)

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