Variable Font Options

Additional adjustments can be made to variable fonts that affect their axes, fallback mode on legacy systems, and file size.

Variable Font Origin

Variable fonts require an origin master. The outlines of this master will be stored in the variable font file. All other masters are only stored as deltas from the origin master.

By default, Glyphs uses the first master in File → Font Info… → Masters as the origin master. Designate a different master as the origin by adding the Variable Font Origin custom parameter in File → Font Info… → Font.

A minimal variable font setup requires at least an origin master and one master for each variation axis. This is described in detail in Minimal Multiple Masters Setup.

The origin master is used as a fallback on operating systems and applications that do not support variable fonts. Therefore, consider picking a regular master as the origin. Thereby, legacy systems will show a regular font instead of a thin, bold, or italic font. Since the regular master tents to sit in the center of the designspace, it requires more deltas to describe the other masters. This increases the font file size compared to picking a corner master like Light or Light Condensed. For environments where file size is paramount (for example, webfonts), consider picking the origin master from a designspace corner.

Axis Location

When exporting a variable font, its design variation axes will use the same coordinates as the axis coordinates set in Glyphs. However, in some cases, the coordinates inside the Glyphs file might differ from the desired axis coordinates of the variable font. A common example is the Weight axis, which in Glyphs is often based on steam widths, but the OpenType specification recommends the Weight axis to use a range of 1–1000. Similar recommendations exist for the Italic, Optical Size, Slant, and Width axis.

Use different axis coordinates by adding an Axis Location custom parameter to all masters in File → Font Info… → Masters. Click its value to edit it and assign each axis the coordinates that the master represents in variable fonts. Further configure the axis coordinates of variable fonts using axis mappings.

Axis Mappings

For variable fonts, the axis coordinates that the user picks can be transformed to different axis coordinates by the font. Axis mappings perform these transformations.

By default, variable fonts use a linear axis mapping. Linear in this context means that each axis coordinate is mapped onto itself and is thus unchanged. For instance, consider a Weight axis ranging from 44 to 130. If a font user picks a weight of 95 on a slider, then that value is mapped to 95 (it is left unchanged) and used for interpolation:

The linear axis mapping that is used by default.

The slider is equally sensitive for the entire axis range. This means that changing the slider value by the same amount changes the interpolation value by the same amount everywhere along the axis.

Axis coordinates are mapped to other values by adding control points to the axis mapping that deviate from the linear diagonal:

A non-linear axis mapping with two control points.

The slider is more sensitive on the lower end than on the higher end. This means that the same amount of change on the low end of the slider results in larger interpolation value changes than on the high end.

The internal coordinates are the values set in File → Font Info… → Masters → Axes Coordinates. The external coordinates are the result of axis mapping; they are used for interpolation.

Setup axis mapping by adding the Axis Mappings custom parameter in File → Font Info… → Font. Click its value to edit the mappings:

The axis mappings dialog is split into three panes:

The mappings list is divided into two columns: the internal coordinates on the left and the external coordinates on the right. Note that the external coordinates also have the Axis Location custom parameter applied, if set, which is why the internal and external coordinates might differ even for a linear mapping.

Click the plus  button to add a new control point. The new point will show up in the mappings list and the visual editor. Alternatively, click on the blue line in the visual editor to add a new control point.

Click a value in the list to edit it or drag a control point up and down in the visual editor. Move the currently selected point with the arrow keys up/down and left/right. Hold down Shift for increments of 10 and Command for 100. The currently selected control point is highlighted in the list and enlarged in the visual editor. Delete the selected control point by clicking the minus  button.

Add an Axis Mappings custom parameter to a variable font setting in File → Font Info… → Exports to customize the mapping for different variable font exports.

Style Attributes Table

The Style Attributes (STAT) table is information stored in a font file that gives names to different locations on the variation axes. This allows software using a variable font to display a style name for every possible axis configuration.

For example, consider a variable font named Example that has a Weight axis (200-700) and a Width axis (50–150). The STAT table allows to define names for certain axis locations:

























With this information, applications can construct a style name for arbitrary axis configurations. Setting Weight = 600, Width = 75 might yield Example Semibold Condensed. Names can be marked as elidable. An elidable name is removed when combined with other names. For example, the default Normal width name may be marked as elidable so that the Bold Normal style is simplified to Bold.

Glyphs automatically compiles all information required for the STAT table from the font instance names and their axis coordinates. If the STAT table is not as desired, customize it by adding the following two custom parameters in File → Font Info… → Exports.