Japanese typesetting with English version InDesign

Japanese typesetting with English version InDesign

It is always tough to typesetting foreign languages. Especially if you don’t have a right software to do it. I’m a native Japanese, so the Japanese typesetting is not the hardest job for me. But if you are using English version Adobe softwares, it will be bit tricky as they don’t have some functions for the Japanese typesetting. I have learned a few tricks to make the Japanese type beautiful with the English Adobe tools.


Kerning: Metrics or Optical

With the metrics kerning setting, the spacing after punctuations is quite tight. On the other hand, there is nice amount of space with the optical setting. So I would use optical for a body text and use metrics for titles and headline.



Use Justify setting

Most of the Japanese typefaces are designed in a perfect square because a text flows horizontally and vertically. So people think it looks easier to read if the text is justified. Especially you are typesetting for brochures or books, justify setting is much preferable.

Left alignleft-align


Make the Japanese font 1-2pt smaller

Many Japanese typefaces are 10-15% bigger than alphabets fonts. So if you make the Japanese font 1pt smaller or bit more, X-height of the English font will become more similar to the Japanese one.

Helvetica Neue (8pt) vs Kozuka Gothic (8pt)


Helvetica Neue (8pt) vs Kozuka Gothic (6.5pt)size2

Some grammer rules

There so many grammatical rules for the Japanese setting, but I just would to mention only 2 things that you should be aware.

1. Avoid putting a dash on a very left side of a text box.
A dash and 1 in Chinese character is very similar, a horizontal line. If you know it is 1 in Chinese character, it is fine, but you can not do it with the dash. So if you don’t know if it is a dash or number, just avoid putting them in the very left side of the text box.

2. Avoid putting a small letter on a very left of a text box.
Japanese has small letters like キャッシュ(2nd, 3rd and 5th letter). These smaller letters cannot go to the first word of the line.

Do Not



The Japanese type setting is quite difficult even for Japanese people as there are so many different characters such as Hiragana, Katakana, Alphabets, Kanji (Chinese characters), and numbers. But if you follow my suggestions above, it will not look very unprofessional at least.

Apply ‘Hanging Punctuation’ to selected paragraphs

Apply ‘Hanging Punctuation’ to selected paragraphs

I finally found a way to apply ‘Hanging Punctuation’ to selected paragraphs.

With Indesign, you can do the hanging punctuation from Type>Story. And you check ‘Optical Margin Alignment’ and put the type size. But the problem for me was that it adjusted spacing between letters on the entire story. If you do this after you finished the typesetting, almost all paragraphs go wrong.

So I was wondering if there is a way to apply the function to the selected paragraph.

Here is what I found.

1. Apply Optical Margin Alignment from
2. Select all the texts and click Ignore Optical Margin from Paragraph menu.
Then all the spacing goes back to normal.
3. Select the paragraph you would like to apply the hanging punctuation
and deselect Ignore Optical Margin. Then the hanging punctuation will be applied to
only the selected paragraph.

This is a very tiny detail, but it will make your typo better.

Typography for Information Design

The concept of that “the simpler the form of a letter the simpler its reading” was an obsession of beginning constructivism. It became something like a dogma, and is still followed by “modernistic” typographers.

This notion has proved to be wrong, because in reading we do not letters but words, word as a whole, as a “word picture.” Opthalmology has disclosed that the more and the letters are differentiated from each other, the easier is the reading.

Without going into comparisons and the details, it should be realized that words consisting of only capital letters present the most difficult reading – because of their equal height, equal volume, and, with most, their equal width. When comparing serif letters with sans-serif, the latter provide an uneasy reading. The fashionable preference for sans-serif in text shows neither historical nor practical competence.

Josef Albers, Interaction of Color

Sound Effect in American Comics

Sound Effect in American Comics

Sound effects in American comics are different from Japanese ones. They are basically sounds of action in American comics. On the other hand, sounds describe feeling of the characters in Japanese comics. I think that’s why the choice of font is different between American and Japanese comics. You can see thick sans-serif in American comics, but Japanese comics often use hand writing font for the sounds to make more personal.
Continue reading

Japanese Sound Symbolism

Mimic Sounds in Comic 01

This article describes sound symbolic or mimetic words in the Japanese language. Most languages have such words; for example, “bang”, “zap”, “ding”, “slither”, “pop”, etc. inEnglish. Sound symbolic words occur more often in Japanese than in English—they are found in formal as well as vernacular language.

These words cannot all be considered onomatopoeia. Many mimetic words in Japanese are for things that don’t make any noise originally, most clearly demonstrated by しいんとshiinto, meaning “silently”.
Continue reading