Chinese typefaces/fonts

We study the typographic styles of the West and translate these into their equivalent style for use in the East!

Chinese or Japanese typography may not always be the same as Roman, eg Tate Chu Yoko and Wari-Chu apply to Chinese and Japanese. The Roman ellipsis is three dots (…) whereas the Chinese one is six dots (……). There are differences.

There is a wide range of Chinese typefaces available, but the same typeface varies between font supplier. Therefore, the possibility of misalignment or inaccuracies could occur when Roman and Chinese setting is mixed, eg baseline, unless known and set by skilled typesetters (compositors/ typographers) or graphic designers, may vary.

It is not always possible to match Chinese typefaces to all Roman ones, but there are certain rules which apply, such as Serifs or Sans Serif, Modern or Old Classic and Script…etc.

Choosing and recognizing typefaces

To be able to choose the appropriate typeface for the job, one must first know something about how typefaces are constructed and classified.

Each face has its own personality, and typefaces are sometimes described by typographers in the same hallowed tones used by connoisseurs to talk about wine. Garamond is said to be quiet; Bodoni sparkles. [Claude Garamond (1480–1561), a Parisian publisher, leading type designer].

Each has its place in the graphic designer's toolkit: for a bank's annual report, for example, you may wish to use a well established "classic" face like Garamond to convey tradition and solidity; a music magazine aimed at young people will look better with a fashionable type like Futura. Some typefaces are chosen for practical reasons. Newspapers tend to use faces with large x-heights and open counters, because the ink spread on low grade paper would fill in less robust faces.

Serif or Sans Serif?

The most obvious distinguishing feature of a typeface is whether it has a serif or not. Serifs are marks or flourishes around the extremities of letters, on the baseline and at the top, usually at right angles to the direction of the stroke. They help to make type more readable, and take several different forms: bracketed, with a smooth curved 'fillet' between the serif and tem; slab, with sharper corners and almost the same thickness as the stem; hairline; or wedge. Take the following examples from the Goudy Old Style font. First an example of Serif type:

Chinese serif font exampleA typeface without serifs is called sans serif, or just sans, and looks like:

Chinese sans-serif font exampleOther issues include Earmarks, Text typography, Readability and Legibility.

Chinese character and Roman alphabet word formation

Roman letters form words and can be hyphenated when reaching the end of a line. On the other hand, in order to accommodate the wording, you need to know where in the language or word, you should break the Chinese character to the next line and when it should be kept together. See the illustration below.

Chinese word formation example

The colour-coded Chinese texts indicate which characters need to be positioned next to each other to form words. Those highlighted as a block of colour also indicate that the characters all need to be kept together as it is the same word and therefore should not be split over two lines.

Horizontal writing scripts justify with last line aligned left and align left summaries

Generally, traditional horizontal Chinese publication are set to justify with the last line aligned left with two character spaces at the beginning of a new paragraph. Nowadays, it is acceptable sometimes not to follow the rules and text is arranged by following the actual design or layout.

For justified-left contexts that strictly follow the traditional setting it is normally necessary to edit the texts to ensure it is correct. This could be very time consuming. For left align, on the other hand, it is easier to adjust.

But first the basics!

To be able to typeset an acceptable Chinese publication, first you need to have a basic knowledge of the language, then learn about Chinese glyph, Chinese punctuation, Chinese numerals and Chinese typefaces…etc. This is where the expertise of can provide customers with essential, informed guidance.

Chinese Typography

There is no right or wrong in typography; just appropriate or inappropriate! But, is your Chinese typesetting done professionally? Read A brief guide to quality Chinese type layout below by David Tsai and you'll get some pointers.

The purpose of showing the example below is to:

  1. Seek higher standards of typesetting Chinese typefaces and to help achieve better results using Chinese typefaces.
  2. Show prospective clients how to spot and judge the quality of Chinese typesetting work for themselves.
    (©'Cambridge and China', this example of our work is taken from the University of Cambridge.)

chinese typography guide

The easiest way to look at this is to compare the original English text to the Chinese one.

Typeface/Font weight:

English typeface: Myriad Pro light. Compare the two in Green, the Chinese and English typefaces.

Type Size:

Look at 2008 in Yellow, compare the two in English, Chinese and the size of the Chinese character – 年 (nian – Year) in thick Red underline next to it.


Look at the Cyan lines under the English/Chinese texts, to ensure all sit on the same level.

There are, of course, other important issues such as indentation, leading, spacing, 'widow' and 'orphan' control, paragraph and character styles... etc.

Designing a multi-lingual publication:
Suggested guidance for designers

If the publication is going to appear in Chinese characters, we suggest the Chinese 'main body type' is not set smaller than 7/10 pt., otherwise it will be too small to read, or too crowded, see example below.

chinese characters designer guides

Chinese multimedia subtitling

Do you need Chinese subtitles for your animation, film, interactive CD-ROM, television or video?

We can typeset the Chinese translation and provide all the major graphic formats for you to incorporate in your work. Let us know if you need this service.

Chinese typesetting (type layout) consistency ensured

For type to remain consistent within a document, our typesetters will complete a style sheet or type specification before starting a job. This will define the size, typeface, and measure of the body type, captions, headlines and so on, to ensure that we always provide the best results for you.