Which Unicode fonts are available with grades/optical sizes comparable to Donald Knuth's awesome eight grades in Computer Modern Roman?

It would be great to get at least 3 options!

This question is a logical follow-up question to this popular question. Although this question is not targeting a specific problem, I think it will provide some really valuable answers for XeLaTeX and LuaLaTex users.

Finding out that Computer Modern Unicode does not have the optical sizes / grades of Computer Modern Roman was disappointing. As a linguist, using unicode characters makes things much easier.

My options are as follows:

  1. Use a unicode font that has many optical sizes / grades (like CM Roman)

  2. Use CM Roman and hope for the best

  3. Create a custom command for all instances of unicode input/output (e.g. phonetic transcripts)

Option 1 is the best option!

  • I think you should probably edit your previous question to incorporate this information. This page, as it stands, does not provide an actual question, just a point of information. Jun 3, 2013 at 16:16
  • @John Wickerson It has been said that this site operates best when questions are kept separate such that each page has one question and one answer. The question provided is straightforward. I prefer to see how it goes and if it turns out that no usual answers are provided, I will consider integrating it into the previous question. Jun 3, 2013 at 16:22
  • 2
    Do you want one font per answer or a single over all answer? The former sounds like 'community wiki' to me (no one right answer, no rep for answers).
    – Joseph Wright
    Jun 3, 2013 at 16:24
  • I see the link to the earlier question, but this is really about fonts rather than TeX, so it's borderline for 'graphic design'. What do others think?
    – Joseph Wright
    Jun 3, 2013 at 16:25
  • @macmadness86 Oh, I see now that the question is in the title. I had been focussing only on the body of your question. Jun 3, 2013 at 16:29

4 Answers 4


The Latin Modern font family, for one, would seem to meet all of your needs.

  • 7
    it might be added that the number 8, which seems to impress @macmadness86 so much, is going to shrink quite a bit if we specify what exactly we mean by the Latin Modern family. There's 8 grades of Latin Modern Roman Regular (not it, not sc, not sf, not tt). How many grades of LMR Italic are there? 5! A line of text in \Large LMR will use the 17pt version for Regular, but fall back to the 12pt version for Italics, thus mixing two grades and rendering the 17pt version entirely useless IMHO. 5 and 6pt Italics are missing as well. Small Caps? Only available in one (!) grade. Etc...
    – Nils L
    Jun 3, 2013 at 19:32
  • 1
    @NilsL - I'm not sure I understand the point of your comment about LM featuring "only" 5 separate optical sizes for the italic shape. Five shapes is, after all, still one more shape than is provided if one shells out $$$ for all four optical sizes of various fonts sold by Adobe, isn't it? Separately, are you maybe overstating just a wee bit the issues that might arise from using a 12pt-sized italics font at 17pt?
    – Mico
    Jun 3, 2013 at 22:04
  • 2
    > I'm not sure I understand... that »only« was a relative rather than absolute one: 5 in relation to @macmadness86's standard of 8. I can live happily with only one or two, if the font has other qualities. > Overstating just a wee bit... maybe I am. I guess it depends on your level of sensitivity to issues like that. Mine is pretty high, I admit to being a micro-typographic nitpicker. For example, these differences I'd call »significant«. Under the magnifying glass as well as (more importantly) at reading distance.
    – Nils L
    Jun 4, 2013 at 10:07
  • @Nils L Excuse me - > Donald Knuth's, the God of TeX, standard of 8. Just yesterday I didn't know what optical sizes / grades were—just recognized that texts at various sizes appear differently. Jun 4, 2013 at 10:11

A number of Adobe's fonts come in a range of grades, the most versatile (and most widely used) being . It comes with 4 optical masters: caption (intended for 6–8 pt) - regular (9-14 pt) - subheading (14-24pt) - display (>24 pt). This may sound less awesome than eight, but the point is: everything is available in all grades -- very unlike Computer Modern, which, for example, has smallcaps in only one grade.

Everything, in this case, means, IIRC,

  • all styles (reg, it, each including smallcaps),
  • all weigths (reg, med, semi, bold)
  • all widths (reg, condensed)
  • and, within each of these, the full character set

...resulting in 65 font files. As for the unicode thing, the character set covers all Western European languages, Cyrillic, modern and polytonic Greek, maybe more.

Additionally, typoma GmbH offers Minion Math, which comes as 20 more font files: all four weights from Minion × five optical sizes—Caption, Text, Subhead, and Display as in Minon, plus Tiny, intended for second-order superscripts and subscripts.

Needless to say that, except for the four basic cuts which come with Adobe Reader, it's not a »free« (i.e. $$$) font. A font with that range of features plus that range of grades you're not going to find from non-professional type designers. It's usually either the one or the other (in most cases: the one).

  • 4
    There's also Minion Math available, making this font suitable for all TeX purposes. Jun 3, 2013 at 20:32
  • @J.C. Salomon Thanks for that valuable input! Jun 4, 2013 at 10:15
  • @Nils L Please merge your answers into one detailed answer. Jun 4, 2013 at 10:16
  • 1
    thanks to @J.C.Salomon for the addendum that a "tiny" size has been added to minion math -- that's the size that's needed most (and usually missing)! Jun 4, 2013 at 16:19

Another particularly well-done typeface is Nick Shinn's Scotch Modern and its sans-serif companion Figgins Sans. The serif comes in footnote, text, and display grade. It's a typeface rooted in the same period as Computer Modern (think Victorian-era UK, mid-1800s). [highly subjective and possibly controversial statement follows:] If Computer Modern were good-looking, this is what it would look like.

enter image description here

Language support and glyph coverage are huge. Have a look at the specimen sheet, which is a little piece of art in its own right.

Another one: when it comes to grades, the most famous font is probably Sumner Stone's Cycles. Released in the early 90s, with seven grades, if was the font that kind of popularized the idea of optical sizes in the DTP and graphic design world. The progression seems a bit more useful than Knuth's:
five - seven - nine - eleven - eighteen - twenty-four - thirty-six


Neo-humanist style, not unlike Minion. Quite handsome, but unobstrusive, i.e. pretty versatile and useful for academic publications. OpenType Std character set. Sumner Stone also did the great ITC Bodoni (three grades).

enter image description here

A bit more exotic, not a proper alternative to CMR: The Fell Types, released under SIL Open Font License. Design sizes: 12.5 - 13.5 - 17 - 21 - 39 - 48pt, plus two ornament fonts, 17.5 and 25pt.

Further reading:

List of fonts with opticals at Typophile. More at Identifont and MyFonts. Book by Tim Ahrens (2009): Size-Specific Adjustments to Type Designs.

  • 1
    scotch modern is absolutely gorgeous, but the numerals are entirely too flowery for practical application in math. also, i suspect that the fine hairlines will not stand up well to multiple photocopying, especially in small sizes. the solidus bottoms out at the baseline, so is suitable only for text (i may have missed something here though). absolutely wonderful for literature of the victorian period, especially if multiple languages in western scripts are involved. but, sadly, not math. Jun 3, 2013 at 21:06
  • why did adobe kill multiple master technology? for quite a while, that looked very promising. Jun 3, 2013 at 21:09
  • Something to do with “lack of support on the applications' part“ IIRC…
    – Nils L
    Jun 3, 2013 at 21:29
  • well, that was more a rhetorical question (read "whimper") than a real one; the audience that really needs such niceties is too small to make a dent in the market. nobody is ever going to get rich off of math typography. Jun 3, 2013 at 21:47
  • re sumner stone's "cycles", not sure you mean "started it all". (perhaps "made the concept popular for desktop publishing"?) there were earlier multi-"grade" fonts for photocomposition (and even a few for early laser printers) before the early '90s, not counting computer modern, which was first conceived in 1978. Jun 5, 2013 at 13:14


Here is a great open-source font from Friedrich Althausen with eight styles and multilingual support. http://vollkorn-typeface.com/. The following font flavors are supported:

  • PostScript OpenType .otf
  • TrueType OpenType .ttf
  • Web open Font Format .woff
  • Embedded OpenType .eot

Vollkorn Font







Found in this tex.stackexchange answer.

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