Optical Size

Beginning in the sixteenth century, type designers often cut a series of point sizes for a particular type style in order to form a cohesive range of type sizes. For every size that was hand-sculpted in metal, subtle adjustments were made to letter proportion, weight, contrast, and spacing so that the type would be comfortable to read at various sizes.

With the advent of photo and digital type technologies, most type manufacturers abandoned the design of optical masters, because it was economically more viable to produce a single master which was then scaled photographically or algorithmically to each point size. Unfortunately, typefaces generated from a single master have a limited range at which they look their best. For example, a typeface that performs well at text sizes may appear light and cramped at smaller sizes, and heavy and ungraceful at larger sizes.

A Return to the Way It Should Be

Optical sample 1

Ever since the early days of the type program at Adobe, we have taken a leadership position in the field of typography by merging advanced type technology with state-of-the-art digital typefaces. As part of this ongoing program to advance the craft of typography in the digital era, we have incorporated optical masters into our Adobe Originals composition families throughout the last eleven years, encouraging others in the industry to follow suit. The four designated size ranges cover the full spectrum of usage in modern typography, and provide users with fonts of greatly enhanced aesthetic appeal and readability, from text sizes that are clear and easy to read, to display sizes that are refined and elegant.


The typefaces families listed to the right are available in a full range of optical sizes that are intended to be used when setting captions, text, subheads and display headlines.

Adobe Originals




Adobe Jenson






Garamond Premier

Arno Pro

Opticals sample 2

Display types are designed to showcase the elegance of the letterforms and to compliment the smaller size ranges as a lighter and more refined version of the typeface. The display masters are designed with subtle and often stylized detailing, elegant proportions, and increased stroke contrast to help give larger sizes enhanced visual appeal. The display fonts are intended for type sizes above 24-point.

Subhead fonts are best for setting phrases in 14- to 24-point type and are well suited for use as a complement to body text. The subhead fonts represent a middle ground between text and display type, maintaining the practical concerns of readability, while displaying a greater degree of delicacy relative to text sizes.

Text fonts are the cornerstone of a composition family and are intended for 9- to 14-point type. Their weights and proportions have been carefully balanced for reading comfort at the most commonly used point sizes for setting extended text.

Caption fonts, with their sturdy non-idiosyncratic forms, are designed for maximum legibility and work best for 6- to 8-point type.


Font Finder: Find the perfect font for any assignment

Font Categories Browse fonts by category
Font Collections Explore the beauty and breadth of the Adobe Type Library
Font designers Meet the designers behind Adobe fonts
Resources Learn more about Adobe fonts

Adobe Font Folio Education Essentials - The essential font collection for design education.  Buy now.