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Concerning the smoothing, I presume this is macOS’s glyph dilation. pcwalton reverse engineered it in order to replicate it in Pathfinder (so that it can render text exactly like Core Text does), concluding that the glyph dilation is “min(vec2(0.3px), vec2(0.015125, 0.0121) * S) where S is the font size in px” (https://twitter.com/pcwalton/status/918991457532354560). Fun times.

Trouble is, people then get used to macOS’s font rendering, so that (a) they don’t want to turn it off, because it’s different from what they’re used to, and (b) start designing for it. I’m convinced this is a large part of the reason why people deploy so many websites with body text at weight 300 rather than 400, because macOS makes that tolerable because it makes it bolder. Meanwhile people using other operating systems that obey what the font said are left with unpleasantly thin text.




I've blocked font-weight: 300 in my browser because of this permanent macOS bug. It's funny because people now abuse a thoughtfully-designed CSS property to disable this dilation on webpages, to the point that that CSS property is used exclusively to account for macOS's incorrect font rendering and is inert on other platforms.


How do you block font-weight: 300? On Windows I uninstall thin fonts, but on Linux, Firefox doesn't respect my fontconfig settings to avoid using thin fonts.


I tried turning off smoothing and frankly the text was uncomfortably thin to read. I guess maybe their font should just be bolder by default so you don't need the glyph dilation to compensate.


I didn’t actually know you could turn it off before today! I’ve never had a Mac, I’m used to FreeType and Windows font rendering.

I have a vague feeling that Macs also have somewhat different gamma treatment from other platforms, which would be likely to contribute to thickness perception.


I totally agree.

In Leopard that font smoothing preference wasn't a checkbox, but a drop-down menu specifying how much font smoothing. If you select "Strong" you get a result that looks even bolder than normal. Even when a website is using an extraordinarily thin font, this setting makes it readable.

Apple replaced the drop down menu with a checkbox in Snow Leopard, but the underlying functionality wasn't removed until Catalina. Naturally I was very disappointed after my upgrade to Catalina because all text looked too skinny to me.


You get used to it after few days


this is interesting, thank you! And font-weight: 300 has been an old personal nemesis. That explained at least part of it! Do you know if font dilation is on by default?


Hello there, perhaps it's a joke, but dark mode makes the article unreadable.


Maybe this was done to emulate font bleed that happens in the printing process. It's a common problem that latex PDFs look too light, because the build int fonts where copied from mechanical type, which assumed the ink would bleed on the page.


Eh, I think everyone serious about typography agrees that Computer Modern is just unreasonably thin. This is easily enough for me to consider it a lousy font that should literally never be used on screen, and I’m dubious about usage on paper. Unfortunately stockholm syndrome applies.

If you’re interested about the general topic, though, give https://mbtype.com/pdf/equity-type-specimen.pdf#page=5 a read!




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