TypeTalk: Small Caps in Illustrator

TypeTalk is a regular blog on typography. Post your questions and comments by clicking on the Comments icon above. If Ilene answers your question in the blog, you’ll receive one Official Creativepro.com T-Shirt! Q. When I’m using Adobe Illustrator, how can I access the true-drawn small caps available in many OpenType fonts?

Q. When I’m using Adobe Illustrator, how can I access the true-drawn small caps available in many OpenType fonts?

A. The Illustrator interface differs from that of Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress in that its OpenType Palette doesn’t contain the All Small Caps option that accesses an OpenType font’s true-drawn small caps (when available). (See “Small Cap Confusion” for an explanation of this feature.)

Figure 1. ITC Goudy Sans Pro Medium contains true-drawn small caps (top example). The Bold weight (bottom example) doesn’t have true-drawn small caps, so Illustrator created the fake variety when I selected the Smalls Caps option.

Illustrator’s Small Caps option is located off of the Character Palette. It converts all selected characters, both cap and lowercase, to small caps. However, if true-drawn small caps aren’t available in a font, Illustrator creates the fake, scaled-down version, which is a typographic taboo.

Figure 2. Illustrator’s Small Caps option is located off of the Character Palette.

So if you want to stick to the true-drawn variety (which I recommend), make sure the font contains real small caps by checking the Glyph Palette before using the Small Caps option.

Note: To easily differentiate between real and scaled-down small caps in Illustrator, go to File > Document Setup > Type > Options, then change the Small Caps percentage from 70% to 100%. This way, if a font doesn’t have true-drawn small caps, they’ll be converted to full caps, which are much easier to spot and convert back to lowercase. This trick only works on a per-document basis; you can’t make it a default setting.

Figure 3. For easy identification of scaled-down small caps in Illustrator, change the small cap scaling percentage from 70% to 100%.

Ilene Strizver conducts her acclaimed Gourmet Typography workshops internationally. For more information on attending one or bringing it to your company, organization, or school, go to her site, call The Type Studio at 203-227-5929, or email Ilene at info@thetypestudio.com. Sign up for her e-newsletter at www.thetypestudio.com.

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Posted on: August 28, 2008

Ilene Strizver

Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer, writer and educator specializing in all aspects of visual communication, from the aesthetic to the technical. Her book, Type Rules! The designer’s guide to professional typography, 4th edition, has received numerous accolades from the type and design community. She conducts her widely acclaimed Gourmet Typography Workshops internationally. For more information on attending one or bringing it to your company, organization, or school, go to her site, call The Type Studio at 203-227-5929, or email Ilene at info@thetypestudio.com. Sign up for her free e‑newsletter, All Things Typographic, at www.thetypestudio.com.

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