Let’s have the “slab serif” talk

I’ll say it from the beginning: I’m not particularly fond of slab serif fonts, specially when they go crazy like those reverse-contrast abominations that even a Western fanboy should hesitate to use on real documents.

But there are a couple of slab serif that are not that bad, specially when they are close to “normal” serifs, and they have their use case on low resolution devices after all. Let’s talk about some of them then.

I’ll not talk here about all the monospaced slab serifs that are Courier derivatives, though. If you are interested, check “Courier Prime.”

Bitstream Charter derivatives

Bitstream Charter was originally developed to use on low resolution printers, but remains usable on high quality media too.

In 1992 Bitstream donated a version of Charter to the X Consortium under terms that allowed the font to be modified and redistributed. This has resulted in several open source derivatives, including Charis SIL, an OpenType fork of it called Velleka and Michael Sharpe’s XCharter.

A few notes:

  • Of all three, the one with the most OpenType features is Veleka: Charis SIL does not offer old style numerals nor sub-superscripts while the other two does, for example, and Veleka is the only one to offer arbitrary fractions.
  • XCharter seems to be the only of the three projects actively maintained.
  • Charis SIL comes with HUGE default line spacing. See here for more details.
  • XCharter offers a “slanted” version too, but LibreOffice gets confused by it, so it is either slanted or italic: you cannot use both in the same document. Since I do not like slanted fonts, I simply avoid installing that shape, but consider this issue in Writer. There is no problem with XƎTEX, of course.
  • XCharter includes work (mainly, the Cyrillic alphabet) from another Charter derivative called Khartiya.

Bitstream Vera Serif derivatives

I think the DejaVu project does not need introduction, so I’ll not introduce it. Instead, I’ll talk about just one Vera Serif derivative: Verajja Serif. As usual with Bhikkhu Pesala’s fonts, Verajja Serif offers a lot of OpenType features

Just check the sample pdf! This font has a Sans companion, if you are interested 😉


A small, really nice bracketed slab serif face with some ball terminals here and there, Munson really recalls XIX Century press

NOTE (June 2020): the deviantart page does not exists anymore. It’s still possible to download the font for free from a LocalFonts page, but even if it’s for free you’ll need to fill a form indicating your “billing address” 🙄

Let’s hope the author finds soon a new site to host his projects.

(Updated: May 2019) Version 2 of Munson offers many OpenType features, such as complex fractions, subindex, scientific inferiors, etc.

And that’s it

There is another “slab serif” that seems interesting: Besley* from Indestructible Type*, but I did not test it yet.

So that’s it: I do not have any other “slab serif” font to share with you, but I believe that the few presented on this article are quite good and I’m sure they will find a place on many documents. And yes, all of them (except Besley*, but I did not test it) are “almost normal serifs,” but that’s as far as I can go: as I said at the beginning, I do not like the extreme slab serifs.