Figures: small-cap figures

by Rainer Erich Scheichelbauer
en fr zh

8 August 2022 Published on 12 July 2013

You would like to add those pretty small-cap figures to your fonts? It is so easy with Glyphs!

Since neither lining nor old-style figures really go well together with small caps, you may want to make a typographer happy by adding small-cap figures to your font. It is easy in Glyphs. Simply create copies of your lining figures, edit them to match the small-cap height, and make sure they all carry a .sc suffix:

That’s it. Glyphs will add the appropriate substitutions to your smcp and c2sc features once you push the Update button in File > Font Info > Features.

Multiple suffixes should be added in the order of the features as displayed in Font Info > Features. Then, Glyphs can still auto-generate the features for you. So, if you have a in your font and want to have a small-cap variation of that one as well, then you simply call it, assuming that the small-cap features come before the slashed-zero feature.

Likewise, if you have a three.ss01, then the corresponding small-cap numeral is called, because stylistic sets are applied after the small caps. That is, unless you changed the order of the features. Then you will also have to adapt the order of the suffixes.

Tabular vs. proportional small-cap numerals

This one is exclusively for the überfontgeeks among you. Here’s how the story goes: Since small-cap variations only offer a vertical differentiation, additional to lining and old-style figures, the question is, what happens to the differentiation between tabular and proportional? We have both tab and proportional old-style figures, as well as both tab and proportional lining figures. Why not tab and proportional small-cap figures?

Okay, all the normal people will rightfully ask, ‘Who the heck needs this?!’ After all, the sole purpose of small-cap numerals is to accompany small-cap letters. So, it most likely won’t be a table you will need them in. Thus, we can safely cut out those tab numerals. If this seems logical to you, stop reading right here. Otherwise, you’ll go crazy in about a minute.

To finally enable our secret deep wish to have small-cap number tables, we need to add variations of the .sc numerals we already have. Again, we need to add a suffix, but which one?

The answer is, it depends on your default figures. Your tabular small-cap figures need to be the .sc variation of your primary tab figures, so they will take their suffix plus .sc. And since your proportional small-cap figures are variations of your primary proportional figures, they inherit their suffix plus .sc. Primary (tab or proportional) figures are either the default figures or the ones they get turned into in the tnum and pnum features, respectively.

Again, once you refresh the features in File > Font Info > Features, Glyphs will automatically add appropriate substitutions in the two small-cap features.

An example. Let’s assume your default figures (i.e., one, two, three, etc.) are proportional lining figures. That means, your primary proportional figures are the default figures, and your primary tabular figures are the ones with the .tf suffix. Thus, your proportional small-cap numerals will carry merely the .sc suffix, whereas the tabular small-cap features will sport a suffix. Just to make sure, you can even add copies, in order to cover the possible case where a user selects both ‘tabular old-style figures’ and ‘small caps’ in the layout application of his or her choice.

If this doesn’t sound too complicated to you, then you officially are a type geek. Welcome to the club.

Update 2020-03-25: prefixed title with ‘Figures’. Added ‘assuming that the small-cap features come before the slashed-zero feature’.
Update 2020-03-26: updated name of button Refresh to Update.
Update 2022-08-01: updated title, related articles, minor formatting.