Advanced diacritics: narrow marks

by Rainer Erich Scheichelbauer
en fr zh

25 July 2022 Published on 8 November 2012

Refine your type design by adding special marks for your narrow letters.

Disclaimer: This tutorial assumes that you are familiar with building diacritics in Glyphs.

‘What are narrow marks?’, I hear you ask. Usually, you will build your diacritical marks in such a way that you can re-use them for as many base letters as possible. That’s great for a, e, o, u, y etc. But there are letters that are a little narrower than others, namely i and j. And for those, diacritical marks like macroncomb, circumflexcomb and dieresiscomb may be too wide. Wide marks could collide with the previous letter. Take, for instance, this icircumflex in the Afrikaans word for ‘wedges’, ‘wîe’. At the beginning of a sentence, you’d capitalize the W and it would look like this:

Okay, it doesn’t exactly collide in this case. So, admittedly, it’s not that dramatic, but it does come too close. We can alleviate that problem with a narrower circumflex that we use on the i (or actually the idotless, to be precise). So we switch to Font View (Cmd-Opt-1), go into the Marks category and open the Combining subcategory. There, we select the circumflexcomb and choose Glyph > Duplicate Glyph (Cmd-D). Glyphs adds a copy of the mark to the font and calls it circumflexcomb.001. We change the extension to .i or .narrow. Then, we open the glyph in Edit View, either with a double click or by opening a new tab with Cmd-T, and adjust its design, i.e., make it a little narrower:

Now, we rebuild icircumflex by selecting it and choosing Glyph > Create Composite (Ctrl-Cmd-C). For diacritics based on i and j, Glyphs will prefer a mark with an .i or .narrow ending. And voilà, the whole thing is a little less problematic now:

Similarly, you may want to turn your acutecomb.narrow and your gravecomb.narrow a little steeper, move the dots in dieresiscomb.narrow a little closer together, shorten the macroncomb.narrow, and make the brevecomb.narrow, tildecomb.narrow and perhaps even the ogonekcomb.narrow a little more condensed.


Update 2014-12-11: updated to new notation for dotless glyphs.
Update 2015-09-02: updated to new glyph names in Glyphs 2.
Update 2021-08-07: updated the wording for Glyphs 3.
Update 2022-07-25: updated title, related articles, minor formatting.