Chinese Typesetting and Chinese fonts

Using Chinese fonts in Chinese typesetting

Adelphi has been producing Chinese printed materials for over 20 years; our own in-house typesetting studio produces Chinese typesetting for regular clients such as Disney, HMI Market, the Overseas Development Institute, Hutchison Whampoa Hong Kong and Barclays Bank, to name a few.

Examples of Chinese typesetting by Adelphi

Traditional  (Cantonese) and Simplified (Mandarin) Chinese

The terms “Mandarin” and “Cantonese” refer to spoken Chinese languages, whereas “Traditional” and “Simplified” refers to different writing systems. Mandarin is the official spoken language in mainland China and is written in Simplified script, while Cantonese is used in Hong Kong, Macau and the province Guangdong Hong Kong-based written Cantonese and the Taiwanese variety of Mandarin Chinese both use Traditional characters.

chinese samples

Chinese fonts

Chinese fonts broadly fall into two categories just like Western fonts do. We have serif and sans-serif: think of Arial and Times New Roman. Chinese, on the other hand, has Song (宋体) and Hei (黑体). Where Song is the Chinese equivalent of serif, Hei is akin to sans-serif. For much more detailed information on Chinese fonts, I recommend the blog “The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Chinese Fonts” at

Licensed fonts

Legally, to print your materials for use in the PRC, you must be using fonts that are licensed for use in the territory; otherwise, you will be breaking the licensing agreement of the font manufacturer. Adelphi has over 100 fully-licensed Monotype fonts for use in the PRC.

To see a list of our fully licensed Chinese fonts please click here. There are many manufacturers of Chinese fonts and thousands are available online for free, but you should be careful of these as many have been copied from established font houses and are therefore not licensed for use in mainland China.

The font manufacturer pays the Chinese government for these fonts to be licensed and if you’re not paying to use these, then the Chinese government is not being paid. It’s generally unwise to upset the Chinese government or your client, after all.

To produce and release a professional font, the font house has to create a character set of at least 20,000 characters and ideally, they have to do it twice: once for simplified and once for traditional. This is, as you can imagine, a lot of work. Western fonts do not even come close to this, even with the addition of extended characters and symbols.

If a font of Simplified Chinese is installed into any electronic product for export to the People’s Republic of China, it is necessary to use a font that is authenticated by the Chinese government“.

Many typesetting companies and their clients ignore the licensing agreements and just use any font they have, which can be very risky. Obviously, when dealing with clients such as Disney for their Chinese materials as we have, all work must be above board: therefore we only use fonts that are fully-licensed for use in the PRC. If the fonts are not licensed, you will be in danger of hurting your client legally and financially.


Arabic typesetting and Arabic fonts

Arabic fonts when typesetting

Adelphi has been producing Arabic printed materials for over 20 years, our own in-house typesetting studio produces Arabic typesetting for regular clients such as Vidal Sassoon, HMI Market, the Overseas Development Institute, HSBC and Barclays Bank to name just a small selection.


Many of the products we produce are of course business orientated and the demand for stylistic Arabic fonts is not often requested and many are happy to use Arial or Times New Roman. But some clients do have specific requirements such as Jaguar Land Rover specified the use of Tahoma and others like Amnesty International have their own Arabic font based on Helvetica.

The most common style of Arabic used is called Nashk and this is used in most Arabic newspapers and other commercial printed materials. There are other styles but these are not used in most everyday commercial Arabic materials.

The five principal Arabic calligraphic cursive styles:
1. Naskh (نسخ nasḫ)
2. Nasta‘liq (نستعلیق nastaʿlīq)
3. Diwani (ديواني dīwānī)
4. Thuluth (ثلث ṯuluṯ)
5. Ruq‘ah (رقعة ruqʿah)

Arabic fonts available:

There are many “Font Houses” that specialise in fonts for specific languages and even Microsoft have their own Arabic range. Recently an Arabic font has been created called Dubai and it was commissioned by the city of Dubai itself and is free to download and use. Some of the bigger font houses such as Monotype have a large selection of Arabic fonts to choose from but please read the license as some of these can be restrictive.

Common problems when typesetting Arabic

Arabic letters are generally not written separately but joined to each other in groups or entire words and unless an Arabic reading software is used then the characters will split into their components.

The example below shows the word ‘August’ in Arabic. The top version is correct, however, the bottom version did not have Arabic InDesign support switched on and has thus been reversed and broken into separate components.

arabic text sample

Also, most industry standard typesetting packages such as Indesign or QuarkXpress will not work with Arabic unless special versions are purchased or the World Ready Composer plugins are used to enable the right to left function. We use the latest version of Adobe InDesign enabled to work with Arabic and all other right to left languages.

What are Arabic numbers?

We often get asked to use Arabic numbers in the document but “Arabic numbers” most commonly refer to the numerals widely used in Europe and the Americas. e.g. 123456789. Whereas the client often wants us to use Arabic-Indic numbers. See the examples below.

arabic numbers

Drop caps and uppercase for emphasis can look great in English, but some languages don’t use them, including Arabic. In these cases, we have to advise the designer the options to give the words a distinctive look without the English options.

Flipping the document from right to left

Arabic typesetting requires flipping the document so it reads right to left, also so it can be read with the correct pagination in place. This can be quite a time consuming if the English original has not been designed with this in mind. The World Ready Composer plugin has a reverse document option but it isn’t perfect and every page has to be checked for consistency.