Open Standard Color Font Fun for Everyone

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

People love using Emoji to communicate—it started in Japan and then spread through Asia and is becoming increasingly popular in the rest of the world. Instead of texting "How about going for a burger and beer at 7pm?", it’s much more fun to say,
To make this possible everywhere, we are releasing an open standard for color fonts and have added support for it to one of the most popular font rendering engines in the world—FreeType.

We want to make color Emoji available in an open and free way anywhere that you use text. Before the release of this new open standard, the use of color glyphs has been limited to systems doing special text processing and inserting images into the text or by using closed proprietary font formats. Both of those approaches have serious limitations. They make it difficult for developers to support color text in their applications and it is impossible for users to change the images used for the characters.

We are releasing four pieces to help developers start adding support to their systems: 
  1. specification for enhancements to the OpenType standard
  2. source changes to the FreeType rendering engine and the Skia 2D graphics library
  3. a tool to embed color glyphs into fonts
  4. three sample color fonts

These are all freely available to download and use from the Color Emoji Font Project site. Further, the changes to FreeType have also been integrated into the main code repository.
While color emoji may be the initial motivation for adding color to fonts, it is not the only reason to do so. Color fonts allow for a huge amount of extra expressive power. How about a font made from color images of fruit or a font that looks like extruded plastic blocks? You don’t have to imagine them -- have a look at the text that starts this blog post, it was produced using the FruityGirl font. You can download this font as well as Funkster from our project site and a prototype emoji font built from the Phantom Open Emoji images. These fonts show just a hint of what is possible.

This new format for storing color glyphs in fonts will allow for more expressive communication in everything you use. We hope that providing this open source release will truly bring a more colorful tomorrow!
Note: What appears to be color fonts in this blog post have been simulated. There is not yet a way to show these in text form until this technology makes its way into the products that you use. The work we have released is the first step in this process. We are working to get all of the other pieces in place.
By Behdad Esfahbod and Stuart Gill, Font and Text Team, Google Internationalization Engineering