Guide To OpenType Features
Confused by terms like stylistic and contextual alternates? Not sure how to find those hidden ornaments? Here’s a basic guide to opentype features that will get you caught up. This tutorial focuses on Adobe Illustrator and InDesign. Right now photoshop doesn’t have a glyph palette so some of these features can’t be accessed. Hopefully in the future that will change.
This feature will give you access to all the alternates available for a glyph. The most common way this is done is within the glyph palette in the adobe applications, InDesign and Illustrator. In the glyph palette simply find a glyph that contains an arrow in the lower right corner and click it and select the alternate.
Here we see the K swash alternate for the typeface Taroca in the Adobe Illustrator glyph palette.
A ligature is two or more letters combined into one character often connected by a single stroke. Standard ligatures are usually turned on by default.
Double t ligature in the Lavender Script typeface.
Discretionary ligatures have less to do with legibility and more to do with style.
These alternates are triggered when a certain condition is met. These are often used in script faces to create smooth connections between letters. I would suggest that this feature be turned on at all times.
The Azuki typeface has contextual alternates when two identical letters are placed side by side. This creates a more authentic look.
This kind of alternate is based on style. If you don’t like the look of a certain letter there may be a different style to choose from. When this feature is turned on the first alternate in a list of alternates replaces the default character. I think a better way to do this is to select alternates manually using the glyph palette.
Lavender Script contains many stylistic alternates.
These are characters that contain some kind of decorative flourish. Swashes can be used to add drama or demand attention. There is a swash button that can be turned on but I think using the glyph palette to select swashes at your own discretion is far better.
Taroca’s swashed Q and R.
These are better suited when numerals are used with lowercase letters. Typically the 6 and 8 contain ascenders and 3, 4, 5, 7 contain descenders. Under the opentype tab, in the figure drop-down menu select proportional oldstyle.
Oldstyle numerals from the typeface Delorita.
These are decorative elements that can be used in your layout. Some are as simple as a floral bullet or can be more intricate and used as spot illustration. Use the glyph palette to find these by going to the drop-down menu and selecting show ornaments.
Ornaments from the typeface Taroca.