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Disable Subpixel Rendering (or Cleartype) of Affinity Photo GUI under Windows 10


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Hi,

i bought Affinity Publisher and Photo and am exited of the possibilities of this programs. I am a longtime user of Adobe InDesign (since version 1.0), Photoshop and Illustrator. At present i am working with CS6 Design Standard). But i want to change to the Affinity programs because i dont't like Adobe anymore (monthly subscriptions).

Now for me there is a real serious problem with the Affinity programs: I get strong headaches and burning eyes with the subpixel rendered fonts in the User Interface and Options. In the moment, i cannot work with your programs, i just can't...

In the attached image you can see what i mean.

My system: Windows 10 1903, build 18362.267, x64, Display native 1920x1080 px.

My desktop looks like Windows 95, no cleartype, green background, large font size (100 %, font size 10, Microsoft Sans Serif).

Will there be the possibility in a future version of your pgorams to turn off all rendered GUI fonts?

Thanks very much!

Kind regards

BigTower

Aufnahme15.jpg.9928274ffe5bf287b349b9bce377612c.jpg

Edited by BigTower
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  • 9 months later...

Hi can i bump this topic up?

Please Serif Team can you guys respond? I know a small team is very busy with many things, and this seems a minor problem. I  find it great we designers finally get an seriouse alternative to the big A. Never liked GIMP. I dont want endless features, i need ease of use / usability. Tight time schedules dont allow me to hassle with overcomplicated quirks .Dont like subscriptions either.

To the topic, i have the same issues reading anti aliased fonts or cleartype( even worse). I have seriouse issues with my diopters so anything in between screen pixels appears like unsharp for me and causing headache. I already have problems turning off all font AA on win 10. Seems MS doesnt care this problem either. My first LCD screen was such a relief to finally read binary fonts clear. Now with the advent of new win 10 and other modern applications i feel back to those horrible times of CRT screens that allways caused me issues. I hope the developers read this and can make it possible to deactivate all font AA withing their programms, and maybe even make it possible to choose a font. I prefer Tahoma since its a font you can already ready quite good at 12 pt.

Kep the good work going guys!

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2 hours ago, UncleJimbo said:

Please Serif Team can you guys respond?

Welcome to the Serif Affinity forums.

The Serif team generally does not respond in the Feature Request forums. They are for input to Serif, not discussion with Serif. They sometimes respond here, but often only when the request is unclear and they need clarification.

-- Walt

Windows 10 Home, version 20H2 (19042.685),
   Desktop: 16GB memory, Intel Core i7-6700K @ 4.00GHz, GeForce GTX 970
   Laptop (2021-04-06):  32GB memory, Intel Core i7-10750H @ 2.60GHz
, Intel UHD Graphics Comet Lake GT2 and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Laptop GPU
Affinity Photo 1.9.2.1035 and 1.9.4.1065 Beta   / Affinity Designer 1.9.2.1035 and 1.9.4.1065 Beta  / Affinity Publisher 1.9.2.1035 and 1.9.2.1024 Beta

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Hard to tell with image compression, but it doesn't look like there is subpixel rendering in AP UI text when compared with desktop text. At least in the screenshot.

Microsoft Windows 10 Home (Build 19041)
AMD Ryzen 5 3600 @ 3600Ghz; Mobo: Asus X470-PRO
32GB DDR4 (3000Mhz)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060Ti 6GB
Monitor 1: 4K @ 150%
Monitor 2: 4K @ 200%

WACOM Intuos4 Large; X-rite i1Display Pro; NIKON D5600 DSLR

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Hello there

 

I made a screenshot and enlarged the picture to 200% without interpolation

You can see that the font on my desktop is much more clear to read than Affinitys font. I tried to regedit, turned off cleartype etc. I run Win 7 at home and have set it to max performance (This way all anti aliasing will be turned off) In the Office we recently purchased Affinity Photo and Designer and playn to replace Adobe with it. My Computer in the Office has Win 10 installed, its much more unasy to turn off all Anti Aliasing and Sub Pixel Anti Aliasing for the Win 10 System, change the system font? Need regedit to use Tahoma. I found no backdoor way to disable AA in Affinity, there seems no config file whatsoever in the install folder, only alot of dll.

 

aat.gif.31f5533b6e965dc63d02f63c1b0b862f.gif

 

 

Edited by UncleJimbo
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1 hour ago, UncleJimbo said:

in Affinity, there seems no config file whatsoever in the install folder, only alot of dll.

You'll find a bunch of .xml files in the Affinity Application Data, but I'm not sure if any of them will help you:

image.png.67b38a6236c8c61c1bff28cf118716ff.png

-- Walt

Windows 10 Home, version 20H2 (19042.685),
   Desktop: 16GB memory, Intel Core i7-6700K @ 4.00GHz, GeForce GTX 970
   Laptop (2021-04-06):  32GB memory, Intel Core i7-10750H @ 2.60GHz
, Intel UHD Graphics Comet Lake GT2 and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Laptop GPU
Affinity Photo 1.9.2.1035 and 1.9.4.1065 Beta   / Affinity Designer 1.9.2.1035 and 1.9.4.1065 Beta  / Affinity Publisher 1.9.2.1035 and 1.9.2.1024 Beta

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36 minutes ago, csc14us said:

I think the user interface looks great as-is, so I certainly hope they don't make a change like this as the default option.

Why would they?

  • "The user interface is supposed to work for me - I am not supposed to work for the user interface."
  • Computer-, operating system- and software agnostic; I am a result oriented professional. Look for a fanboy somewhere else.
  • “When a wise man points at the moon the imbecile examines the finger.” ― Confucius
  • Not an Affinity user og forum user anymore. The software continued to disappoint and not deliver.
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In Windows 8.1 you can change various font sizes for Menus etc in the Ease of Access Centre.  Here I've changed the Menus Font size from 11 to 14 and made them bold.  (just an example)

It may help some people, who can't read certain things on the interface, to know they can change them. (There should be a corresponding setting in Windows 10).

 

screen.png

Due to the fact that Boris Johnson is now our Prime Minister, punctuation, spelling and grammar will never be worried about ever again.  We now have far bigger problems to be worried about.

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1 hour ago, csc14us said:

I think the user interface looks great as-is, so I certainly hope they don't make a change like this as the default option.

I think a checkbox for Anti Aliasing of the UI font, plus the ability to change the font and the size is not changeing the whole interface. In Blender you can fully customize font and aa etc. Many 3d applications allow many interface customizations. I tried to load all those xml files and looked into them but nothing refers to font or font rendering.

Edited by UncleJimbo
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  • 10 months later...

I totally agree with the original poster. Subpixel rendering such as ClearType works great for some people and causes headaches for others. From what I read it is half/half. It also depends on the monitor and the higher the res the better it works. For me it is unwatchable. It is also the only reason I am not buying Affinity Photo even at 50% discount 😞

:)

K
P.S. here are some screenshots from my display, 100% size, no compression. Yes, it is this unreadable 😞

unwatchable.png

unwatchable2.png

unwatchable3.png

Edited by K2021
adding a third picture with totally unreadable font, sigh
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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm not related to Affinity, but out of general interest in sub-pixel, could I ask  @BigTower and others suffering from sub-pixel effects if they experience similar problems when using 4KUHD and retina displays rather than the more common HD displays. The 4K displays have much smaller (physical) dots on the screen. Although over the past 10 years MS have expended a lot of effort on clear type and made many tweaks, they have also greatly improved font scaling so that many of the issues with type sizes on high resolution displays have now been fixed. There are also various per-application options on the program's compatibility tab (fight click photo.exe and select the compatibility tab, then experiment with the various DPI options.2021-04-19_153410.jpg.b66c4da78c91613e278dfbd219609227.jpgclick 'Change High DPI settings.

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@DrBob53

My resolution is 1680x1050. I don't have long experiences with higher resolution, only what I see at other people and my estimated perception is, as I stated above, that subpixel looks better at higher resolutions. For me it is not a way to go considering the fonts get smaller (the last I checked, the Windows based font scaling did not work well at all across different apps) and harder to see.

I have actually purchased Affinity Photo despite my issues with it, simply because I don't use it that often and for a shard of the price it totally replaces (for me) that overpriced excuse for ripping people off called Photoshop (which IMO is otherwise a very good program).

Thank you for pointing out the DPI settings! I toyed with them but there was no visible effect :-(

I think this really has to do with one's eyes and brain because to me the letters on your screenshot (I don't mean to be mean) look, well, not pretty to put it mildly. A letter is supposed to be a visible line. What I see on your screenshot (and in my Affinity interface), all those colors surrounding the black line of the letter-to me it just looks like one very ugly mess :-( I am sorry :-(

:)

K

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@K2021
your screen res is quite low compared to a 4k uhd screen. If you can find a way to see how it appears on a 4k screen it may make a big improvement. Any chance to try on a work machine or a pc showroom. (I think you can get AFPhoto to run of a usb stick so you would not need to install, or take a notebook to pc world when they are not busy). It may wel help not only for phoro, but other apps. I assume the problem is not limited to photo.

 

@Renzatic
 it's not really fair to blame Windows. MS work very hard to get the best out of cheap hardware. if you work ona Mac you probably wont see the issue, but for me, my budget excludes that option.  One issue is that programmers have so many ways to render text to the screen. WPF has at least four options for programmers  (for example this link). Then there are libraries like Xamarin or old school MFC, GDI+ or even GDI. In the case of Afinity their code will be heavily constrsined by the need to support Windows, Windows store, iPads and the Mac. Its a tall order for a limited team on a budget product. Using a high pixel count display to sidestep sub pixel issues is a potential solution thats available now, at modest cost, and without the need to wait for the developers to act.

 

 

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@DrBob53

re: your screen res is quite low compared to a 4k uhd screen.

A good point here is that I don't need a higher resolution. For both my work and my pleasure this is just great. I have no need to move to 4k.

re: If you can find a way to see how it appears on a 4k screen it may make a big improvement. Any chance to try on a work machine or a pc showroom. (I think you can get AFPhoto to run of a usb stick so you would not need to install, or take a notebook to pc world when they are not busy). It may wel help not only for phoro, but other apps. I assume the problem is not limited to photo.

I would assume as much also, but I can't see myself investing the time to do that so I won't be able to tell. On the other hand I would like to try it so when I get to see my gfx buddies (hopefully this pandemic will come to a healthy end), I may ask them to show me some cleartype fonts on their screens, but that will not happen anytime soon.

re: Using a high pixel count display to sidestep sub pixel issues is a potential solution thats available now, at modest cost, and without the need to wait for the developers to act.

You can't really expect anyone to buy a new LCD just because a development team either large or small enforces subpixel rendered fonts, can you?

:)

K

Edited by K2021
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1 hour ago, DrBob53 said:

@Renzatic
 it's not really fair to blame Windows. MS work very hard to get the best out of cheap hardware.

Thing is, you get excellent font rendering out of the box with Ubuntu, which has roughly the same hardware and software constraints as Windows. It's just something that Windows has always been weak on.

Though to be fair to Microsoft, it's not like they can make too many sweeping changes to the OS like Apple can. If they change too much too quickly, they risk an angry mob of people marching on Redmond. 

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1 hour ago, Renzatic said:

Thing is, you get excellent font rendering out of the box with Ubuntu, which has roughly the same hardware and software constraints as Windows. It's just something that Windows has always been weak on.

Core  Text on Apple, and FreeType on Linux both render small text on lower resolution screens basically the same.
They take the sledgehammer approach - and cram everything into full pixels.
This results in small text which looks clearer, but is also looks darker, and also more distorted from the actual letter shapes.
Fairly easy to find the old screen rendering articles which show this with images.
Many people prefer this method.
Some people prefer properly working Cleartype rendering.

If one desires, you can run FreeType on Windows and have it override Cleartype.
I fact you can set it to look nearly identical to the Apple/Linux text rendering.

Applications can use FreeType for text rendering, and do.
LibreOffice on Windows used FreeType up until v5.3, when with the "upgrade" to Harfbuzz it was removed.
Since then the text rendering in LO Windows has fallen off a cliff in terms of quality.
This is due to short-comings in the LO programming, and the fact they do not give a crap about Windows users.
They could fix it, but it is not a priority.
My point is that bad rendering on Windows may also be the result of poor programming in the app.

Windows UI fonts are highly optimized and extensively hinted to look very good, very crisp, at many sizes.
Which is why MS Office apps and the OS apps all look good.

Other fonts which are not optimized or hinted for Windows may look significantly less clear.
Applications may be using less-than-optimal fonts. (I assume Affinity is using the optimal system fonts)
Applications may or may not be fully supporting Cleartype properly.
Or at all.

On 4/10/2021 at 1:18 PM, K2021 said:

P.S. here are some screenshots from my display, 100% size, no compression. Yes, it is this unreadable

@K2021
I do not see any sub-pixel rendering evident in your first screenshot.
When zooming way-in, I should be able to see the different colored pixels. I do not.
All I see is gray-scale anti-aliasing. And it appears to only be horizontal.
This is not full feature Cleartype rendering. (which would be color, horizontal, and vertical)

Not sure what the limitation is here, could be the application, could be the system, could be the video card, dunno.
But "turning-off Cleartype" is not going to solve this.

EDIT: Which version of DirectX is on your PC?
https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/which-version-of-directx-is-on-your-pc-3c688307-6c44-2ff5-9df7-d90d92bf5239

 

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37 minutes ago, LibreTraining said:

Windows UI fonts are highly optimized and extensively hinted to look very good, very crisp, at many sizes.
Which is why MS Office apps and the OS apps all look good.

There are situations where text rendering can look decent on Windows. The modern features of the OS do tend to look better than their Win32 equivalents, like Settings, Edge (which may inherit Chromium's font renderer, not sure), UWP apps, etc. But there are more than a few occasions where you run into older programs, and get blasted by those thin, rainbow bordered fonts that just look...janky.

No matter how many times I try to adjust Cleartype, that slight colored haze always manages to keep lurking about, especially on darker themes.

It doesn't help that Segoe UI, which is EVERYWHERE in Windows, is a fairly thin and spidery font. Something medium weighted would help things out tremendously.

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@LibreTraining

re:

I do not see any sub-pixel rendering evident in your first screenshot.
When zooming way-in, I should be able to see the different colored pixels. I do not.
All I see is gray-scale anti-aliasing. And it appears to only be horizontal.
This is not full feature Cleartype rendering. (which would be color, horizontal, and vertical)

Not sure what the limitation is here, could be the application, could be the system, could be the video card, dunno.
But "turning-off Cleartype" is not going to solve this.

EDIT: Which version of DirectX is on your PC?
https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/which-version-of-directx-is-on-your-pc-3c688307-6c44-2ff5-9df7-d90d92bf5239

 

I will gladly supply info on my system if you want it. Just let me know what you need.

I have DX12 installed.

BTW I have ClearType turned OFF, Win10 x64.

:)

K

P.S. thanks for the interesting info on fonts that you posted here :)

 

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Just tested this myself. While I prefer AA for font rendering in Windows, I use this tool to improve the contrast:

https://github.com/bp2008/BetterClearTypeTuner

If this tool is run as an administrator, and font AA rendering is turned off, most applications will stop rendering fonts with AA.

But Affinity will not. Then again, the latest version of Photoshop also only partly changes its fonts to non-AA ones. Perhaps it requires a computer reboot in that case - have not tested this. Applications like Krita and PhotoLine work without a hitch, though. Krita arguably looks more readable without AA!

So it seems the Affinity developers will have to actively support this in their apps' font rendering in WIndows, otherwise it will not function.

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On 4/19/2021 at 3:52 PM, Renzatic said:

No matter how many times I try to adjust Cleartype, that slight colored haze always manages to keep lurking about, especially on darker themes.

It doesn't help that Segoe UI, which is EVERYWHERE in Windows, is a fairly thin and spidery font. Something medium weighted would help things out tremendously.

Unless the font fits exactly within the pixel grid, there is always going to be some Cleartype visual adjustments.
Which means sub-pixel rendering and anti-aliasing, which means "colored haze."

Let's look at the Apple onscreen text situation by comparison.
Apple knows the resolution of its screens, and they are typically of higher resolution than the typical Windows users' screen.
This gives them an advantage right off the bat.
They can, and do, make their fonts fit exactly within the pixel grid of this known small set of screen resolutions.
OTF-PS fonts typically have a Units per EM of 1,000. OTF-TT fonts typically have Units per Em of 2,048.
Apple SF fonts and New York fonts both have Units per Em of 2,048.
Why? It is easier for them to fit the grid without fractional measurements, and it calculates faster (power of 2).
Then they designed the fonts so the vertical and horizontal stems fit exactly in the grid (at the sizes they use).
They know the resolution, they know the grids, they know the zoom levels, etc.
So in the interface everything just fits. (usually)
And if it does not fit for some reason, in some app, they just hammer it into the grid.

Now let's look at Windows.
Somewhere around a gazillion screen sizes, shapes, resolutions, zoom levels, etc., etc.
Looking good is easy at HiDPI.
But there are far more Windows users in offices, and schools, and government - without unlimited budgets.
So rather than just requiring all users to acquire HiDPI screens, an attempt was made to look better at lower resolutions.
By its nature this is a series of compromises.
Often users have some unrealistic expectations based on their actual hardware.
As much as I loved my old Toshiba laptop, at 1440x900 it just could not ever look crystal clear.
On my Dell XPS laptop at 3,840x2400 everything looks crisp by comparison. (its easy)
So between those two there are varying levels of what you can do.

Even at 1920x1080 an interface look pretty good, with the right settings.
Fonts can be designed for different screen resolutions, and zoom levels, etc.
Above you mentioned that Segoe UI may look better on your screen if a Medium were available.
There is a Segoe UI SemiBold, that may look better.

It is all about getting the font to better fit the pixel grid.
Programming fonts are very aware of this and are designed to fit the grid.
Fira Code uses a Units per EM of 1,950 to make it easier to fit the grid at their targeted 13px font size.
Each weight is designed to fit the grid, and they even have a HiDPI weight (called Retina, ugh) which fits better on HiDPI screens.
They stopped providing OTF-PS fonts because they got tired of explaining why those un-hinted fonts looked so bad.
Now only OTF-TT fully hinted are available.
Cascadia Code, JetBrains Mono - also designed, and extensively hinted for screens (lower resolution).

Inter is a font designed for interfaces.
The Units per EM is set to 2,850.
Which they did so they could more easily design the glyphs to fit the pixel grid at the different weights.
It has an extensive set of static weights, and a variable font.
Recursive is another font option with many statics, and a variable.

Why all this background info?
Because there is a font design, and font size, and zoom level - which is going to better fit your particular pixel grid.
If you find that sweet spot, it will look crisp and clean.

One Cascadia Code user who was using the font in Visual Studio 2017 commented the other day that setting his interface zoom to 110% and his font to 11 px was his sweet spot - it all became clear.

It is possible to calculate the best settings.
Based on OS zoom level, application zoom level, font size, font weight, font width, screen DPI, etc.
But that can be a bit complicated.

You can try looking at some of the variable demos in your browser to get an idea of what is possible.
Inter has a "Lab" page where you can play extensively - including with a dark background.
Like this: https://rsms.me/inter/lab/?antialias=default&invert-colors=1&varfont=1
Find the magic size and weight for your display - and we can export the custom font for you.

Recursive also has a demo/test page: https://www.recursive.design/
It has more variable design options, but the basic Sans would be appropriate for UI.

 

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On 4/19/2021 at 9:32 AM, K2021 said:

My resolution is 1680x1050. I don't have long experiences with higher resolution, only what I see at other people and my estimated perception is, as I stated above, that subpixel looks better at higher resolutions. For me it is not a way to go considering the fonts get smaller (the last I checked, the Windows based font scaling did not work well at all across different apps) and harder to see.

At that resolution the reality is you only have so many pixels to work with.
And if the interface is expecting more resolution to draw a smaller font crisply, then Cleartype is the only thing which can help.
Help, not fix, simply help to make the best of a bad situation.

When the font is so small, and the resolution too low, it starts trying to draw half pixels, or third pixels, etc.
And then the only options are to (1) alias it and try to look better, or (2) hammer the font into fewer pixels (or more sometimes).
I had a 1440x900 display laptop for many years.
Many apps look really bad at that resolution (now).
But it is what it is.

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On 4/20/2021 at 10:09 PM, Medical Officer Bones said:

Just tested this myself. While I prefer AA for font rendering in Windows, I use this tool to improve the contrast:

https://github.com/bp2008/BetterClearTypeTuner

If this tool is run as an administrator, and font AA rendering is turned off, most applications will stop rendering fonts with AA.

But Affinity will not. Then again, the latest version of Photoshop also only partly changes its fonts to non-AA ones. Perhaps it requires a computer reboot in that case - have not tested this. Applications like Krita and PhotoLine work without a hitch, though. Krita arguably looks more readable without AA!

So it seems the Affinity developers will have to actively support this in their apps' font rendering in WIndows, otherwise it will not function.

Thanks for the tip. I tried it, but it had no visible effect.
Since I have ClearType turned off on my system, the app displayed with just that (see screenshot).

Also of possible interest, Krita does not display subpixel rendered fonts on my system (see screenshot)

:)

K

better.png

krita, nosubpixel.png

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