Notes on Lucida® fonts

This text was written by Charles Bigelow and Kris Holmes. B&H have given TUG permission to post it here.

This information about the Lucida® fonts was distributed by Microsoft in connection with various software releases in the 1990s. So it does represent the current state of affairs, but we hope the descriptions and typographic information will be of interest nonetheless.

Lucida fonts from B&H - Lucida fonts from TUG.

Introduction - Lucida Bright - Lucida Sans - Lucida Sans Typewriter - Lucida Handwriting - Lucida Casual - Wingdings - Lucida Blackletter - Lucida Fax - Lucida Typewriter - Lucida New Math.


Lucida is a family of harmonized typefaces that includes a variety of styles: seriffed and sans-serif, roman and italic, normal and bold weights, scripts, blackletter, icons, and symbols. This extra-large family of type styles is often called a “super-family” or “extended-family” because it extends beyond the usual font family that contains just roman and italic, normal and bold. Because of the richness and variety of its different styles, Lucida allows new forms of typography for electronic communication, printing and publishing.

Between all the different Lucida styles, the capital heights, x-heights (height of a lower-case x), and main stem weights are coordinated. Lucida makes it easy for users to achieve variety and harmony by mixing and matching different fonts in the same text and page. The designed coordination of so many different styles means that when different Lucida fonts are used together, the effect is lively and interesting but without the confusion of randomly mingled and uncoordinated fonts.

In the Windows environment, the Wingdings symbol font designed by Bigelow & Holmes, is coordinated with the Lucida alphabetic fonts. Most of the signs and symbols in Wingdings are the same size as the capitals of the other Lucida fonts. This makes the Wingdings special signs and symbols easy to use.

The standard way of combining different type styles is to use one style (usually roman) for main text, another (usually italic or bold) for differentiation or emphasis, another for headlines, and so on. The Lucida family is especially well suited to such traditional uses, but the coordinated design of the Lucida fonts also allows more adventurous users to experiment with new ways of mixing and matching fonts. Styles can be changed inside words or between capitals and lowercase. Icons, signs, and symbols can be more freely integrated with alphabetic characters. Script and blackletter designs can be reintroduced into normal typography. These kinds of experiments are especially effective in display typography, as in headlines, posters, and the like, but they can also be effective in memos, faxes, and other documents, where they are like exotic spices in the plain printed page.

Lucida Bright

Lucida Bright has a brilliant look that comes from high contrast between strong stems and fine hairlines, sharply cut details of serifs and joins, and tight letter fitting. Lucida Bright Regular has a formal, authoritative, and elegant appearance, to which Lucida Bright Italic adds dynamic action for a distinctive, lively pattern. Lucida Bright Demibold and Demibold Italic are strong enough for emphasis and headings, but light enough for full paragraphs of text. The crisply defined forms of all the Lucida Bright faces are effective at larger sizes in titles, headlines and display.

Lucida Bright's large x-height helps text look big at small point sizes, and its tight fitting and slightly narrow letterforms help fit more words on a line. The Lucida Bright family of typefaces is especially effective where legibility and economy are important, as in the text columns of newsletters, manuals, magazines, and newspapers. For wider text columns, as in books, Lucida Bright is most effective with additional “leading” or line spacing to separate the text column into clearly defined rows that the reader's eye can follow easily. Lucida Bright is a modern design of the computer age, but its inner forms are based on writing styles of the Italian Renaissance, and its sophisticated detailing is reminiscent of printing types of the French Enlightenment. It can be classified as a “Transitional” or “Reale” style of typeface, like the 18th century designs of Baskerville or Fournier.

Professional tips. Like many typefaces, Lucida Bright can be “fine-tuned” for small sizes (8 point and below) by adding a few units of letterspacing (positive “tracking”). At all text sizes, words or lines in all capitals can be given a more rhythmic pattern by careful amounts of additional letterspacing, though many graphic designers prefer to space capitals more tightly at larger sizes.

Complementary Lucida fonts. Lucida Sans is the perfect sans-serif companion to Lucida Bright, because both families are based on the same basic inner forms, thus guaranteeing harmony on the page. For ornament and decoration, the Wingdings font has alternate ampersands, delicate rosettes, graceful leaf and vine ornaments that all harmonize with Lucida Bright. To spice up Lucida Bright Italic, the capitals of Lucida Calligraphy can be substituted for a more playful, lively effect. For an even more striking and elegant companion to Lucida Roman, use Lucida Calligraphy, but add enough extra line spacing that the longer ascenders and descenders of Lucida Calligraphy do not collide. For a sophisticated look when setting text in all capitals in either Lucida Bright Italic or Lucida Calligraphy, use the Lucida Calligraphy swash capitals at the beginnings and ends of words, and Lucida Bright Italic plain capitals in between.

Lucida Sans

Lucida Sans brings a human look to the sans-serif mode. As in Lucida Bright, the inner forms of Lucida Sans are based on writing styles of the Italian Renaissance and have a more relaxed, handmade rhythm than the rigid shapes of “grotesque” sans-serifs based on 19th century industrial type styles. The large x-height, clear forms and open spacing of Lucida Sans create a rhythmic, readable text at all sizes throughout a wide range of office and professional documents. Lucida Sans is legible at small sizes in directories, tables, and forms, is strong and clear at text sizes in correspondence, memos, telefaxes, instruction sheets, and manuals, is emphatic and attention-getting at large sizes in headlines and titles, and, especially in the Demibold weights, arresting at very large sizes in posters and displays. In all capital settings, Lucida Sans capitals make a strong, readable, and harmonious pattern that is ultimately derived from the ancient Roman inscriptions that were admired and copied by Renaissance scribes.

Lucida Sans Italic is a dynamic and distinctive design that appears formal yet handwritten. It is a true cursive, a “running” style, because its inner movement is based on formal chancery handwriting of the Renaissance. Unlike most sans-serif italics, it is not merely a slanted version of the roman. Used by itself, Lucida Sans Italic gives a personal, active, but disciplined look to any text. This blend of action, rhythm, and precision is even more emphatic in Lucida Sans Demibold Italic.

Professional tips. For larger sizes (above 14 point), Lucida Sans can be “fine-tuned” by subtracting a few units of letterspacing (negative “tracking”) for a tighter, more active look. At text sizes, all capital settings can be given a more rhythmic pattern by careful amounts of additional letterspacing (positive “tracking”), though many graphic designers prefer to space capitals more tightly at larger sizes. Complementary Lucida fonts. Lucida Bright is the perfect serif companion to Lucida Sans because both families are based on the same basic inner forms, thus ensuring harmony on the page while maintaining a distinctive difference in style. At smaller sizes and lower resolutions, including telefaxing, or for a more technical and utilitarian appearance of correspondence and documents, Lucida Fax also makes an excellent seriffed companion to Lucida Sans.

Lucida Sans Typewriter

Lucida Sans Typewriter adapts the humanized look of Lucida Sans to the fixed pitch of typewriter fonts, in which all letters have the same set width. The vertical proportions, strong stem weights, and crisp details of Lucida Sans are continued in Lucida Sans Typewriter. The result is a strong, clear fixed-pitch design that can be used wherever a functional, legible monospaced font is needed, such as “typewritten” correspondence, memos, and telefaxes, commercial forms, invoices, packing lists, programming and data processing applications, line printer emulations, terminal emulations.

Lucida Sans Typewriter Bold has the same set width as the Regular weight, and can be combined with it for emphasis, headings, titles, etc. Both the Regular and the Bold weights have Oblique companions which are slanted versions of the roman. The Obliques can be used in place of underlining for differentiation or emphasis. Professional tips. Lucida Sans typewriter is economical in setting: at a 10 point size, it is equivalent to a 12 pitch typewriter font. For good legibility in long lines of 80 characters or more, add extra line spacing equivalent to 20% or more of the font size. For example, add 2 points of line spacing to 10 point text, to make a total of 12 points from base-line to base-line. This is equivalent to “pica” line spacing or escapement on a typewriter.

Complementary Lucida fonts. Both Lucida Bright and Lucida Fax can be used as seriffed faces to accompany Lucida Sans Typewriter.

Lucida Handwriting

To a business world dominated by formal, traditional fonts, Lucida Handwriting brings a refreshing and modern informality. Lucida Handwriting is a lively, connected script that brings warmth and personality to the printed page. More mature but less formal than traditional school penmanship, Lucida Handwriting combines strong basic letter shapes into rapidly flowing word sequences. The casual and confident capitals and deftly joined lowercase give a relaxed, friendly flair to a wide variety of messages, whether memos, greetings, announcements, placards, or posters. Lucida Handwriting also gives an informal, individual look to addresses on envelopes and labels, and to salutations and signatures on form letters. The capitals make an attractive word pattern on their own, in all capital setting, and also combine well with the rhythmically joined lowercase. Lucida Handwriting brings a new look to office printing and invites users to invent new uses for it.

Almost all of Lucida Handwriting's extra signs and symbols—from arrows to smile faces—are designed as true, hand-written shapes, to maintain a hand-written feeling throughout all texts. Because it was developed especially for digital typography and desktop publishing, Lucida Handwriting is surprisingly legible at small sizes on screen and printer, and can be used where other scripts might not succeed. Lucida Handwriting is coordinated in weight and letter heights with other fonts in the Lucida family, so that it can be used in harmony with the normal weights of other Lucida styles, maintaining the same approximate weight and size as its companion fonts.

When combining Lucida Handwriting in the same lines as other Lucida fonts, be sure to provide enough line spacing. In general, Lucida Handwriting looks best with extra line spacing, from 33%—50% of the type body size. This gives more room to the lively ascenders and descenders, and helps separate the text into more easily readable lines.

Lucida Casual

Lucida Casual regular and Italic are, well, “casual” cursive typefaces, based on Kris Holmes' relaxed handwriting with a worn fiber-tipped pen—“Just when the tip is getting good and soft and flexible,” she says. The faces are related to Lucida Handwriting, but are unjoined. They can be used whenever a relaxed, informal, even funky look is desired, without the complexity of joining cursive. Since users are often more clever than type designers at thinking of imaginative ways of using a new typeface, we won't offer much advice about using the faces, but we should mention that the Cap height, x-height, weight, and slant of Lucida Casual is the same as for Lucida Handwriting, so if you have that latter font too, you can “mix-'n'-match” characters, using individual Handwriting capitals as sentence or word initials, or in all caps as word initial and final, with the Lucida Casual Italic caps in-between. Similarly, Lucida Handwriting lowercase letters can be used individually as word or sentence finals. We hoped that more users, typographers, and graphic designers would take advantage of the harmonization of the Lucida family to do more creative mixing between weights and styles within words, but we have not seen as much as that as we anticipated. Maybe another idea ahead of, or behind, or to one side of, its time.

The term “Casual” has been used before in typeface naming, as in “Dom Casual”, though Lucida Casual is a very different design.


Microsoft's Wingdings symbol font is not a part of the Lucida family, though it was designed by Bigelow & Holmes to harmonize with the Lucida alphabetic fonts. From the traditional pen and pencil to computer mice (including the Microsoft Mouse and Ballpoint), and from pointing hands to computer disks and tapes, Wingdings offers a large set of icons, pictograms, and symbols for a wide range of functional and decorative uses in office, school, and home printing.

Wingdings contains pencil, scissors, bell, book, and candle, mail and telephone, as well as modern computer icons including files, documents, clipboard, trash, window, keyboard, computer, and disks. A wide variety of hand signals is provided, along with smile, frown, and neutral faces, bomb, skull & crossbones, flag and pennant, airplane, sun, raindrop, and snowflake, a variety of check marks and ballot boxes, religious symbols, astrological signs, alternative ampersands, ornamental flowers, vines, and leaves, and circled numerals in normal and reverse.

Complementary fonts. Most of the icons, pictograms, and symbols are design-neutral and can be used with most any fonts in appropriate circumstances. Some of the characters are designed to harmonize especially well with Lucida fonts. The normal and demibold italic “j” ampersands and italic swash “k” ampersand are intended to be used with Lucida Bright Italic and Calligraphy Italic. The normal and demibold roman weight “j” ampersands are intended to be used with Lucida Sans regular and Demibold. There are normal and Demibold weight interrobangs for both Lucida Bright and Lucida Sans regular and Demibold. The bold roman “&” ampersand and bold quote marks are for extra emphasis with Lucida Bright fonts, but can be used with other fonts as well.

The more delicate vine and leaf ornaments (sometimes called “fleurons”) are also designed to harmonize well with Lucida fonts, though they can really be used anywhere for a festive and decorative effect. The smaller leaves in normal and Demibold weights work best with Lucida Bright fonts. They can be used as single piece ornaments to enliven title pages or chapter openings of books and other documents, as well as decorations on greetings, menus, and a wide range of festive messages. These ornaments have both left and right, and up and down orientations, and so can be combined into friezes, borders, and frames. The larger leaves have a strong and active quality that harmonizes well with Lucida Sans fonts, though they can also be used with other Lucida fonts and other fonts in general. These leaves have clockwise and counter-clockwise direction, as well as left and right, and up and down orientations, so they can be combined into attractive borders and frames with different dynamic effects.

Lucida Blackletter

Lucida Blackletter is a modern interpretation of an internationally popular style of printing types used for vernacular literature in northern Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Lucida Blackletter connects today's computer typography to the earliest printing in the English language, for William Caxton, England's first printer, used a font in this style for the first book printed in England with place and date of printing (Westminster, 1477). This cursive blackletter style was also very popular in France where it was known as “Batarde” and was extensively used by printers in the Low Countries (Belgium and Holland). A related style became popular in Germany, where it is known as “Fraktur”.

Lucida Blackletter is not an imitation of any historical font, but a new interpretation of the cursive blackletter style. Lucida Blackletter has the dark texture, fractured curves, and tight fitting typical of the gothic type styles, but it is much more relaxed, playful, and exuberant than the stiff, conservative “textura” blackletter once used for religious and legal documents and publications in Latin. To modern eyes accustomed to disciplined roman types, the sharp, broken shapes and sinuous swashes of Lucida Blackletter seem unfamiliar at first, but the forms have their own logic and soon become surprisingly legible to modern readers, while still expressing the typical gothic spirit of the scribes and printers who founded the art of typography and the modern age.

Lucida Blackletter is not exclusively English, French, Dutch, or German in style, but appeals to the international spirit that typography had in its early days. It can be used wherever a popular style of blackletter is desired for “allusive” typography—to evoke an historical era, like England at the time Henry VIII, or France in the early Renaissance, or the American colonies during the Revolutionary era. And it will also look properly quaint on the sign of an antique shop and dazzlingly delicious in a menu for strudels and Black Forest cakes. But Lucida Blackletter can be used for more than allusion; it is a strong, enthusiastic, and decorative script with a vigor and charm that stem from the very roots of typography. The cursive blackletter style has been seen by almost all Americans, because the elegantly “engrossed” version of the Declaration of Independence used cursive blackletter for special emphasis. Modern typographers will likewise find new uses for the expressive qualities of Lucida Blackletter.

Complementary Lucida fonts. Lucida Blackletter aligns in the heights of lowercase and capitals with other Lucida text fonts, so it can be used in text together with other members of the family. Its swash ascenders are longer than most other Lucida ascenders, so when setting it in combination with other Lucida fonts, be sure to allow enough line spacing so that ascenders and descenders do not collide. In technical publishing, Lucida Blackletter has the proper proportions and weight to be used with the Lucida Math fonts, so for something a little different, it can be used as a substitute for the generic fraktur styles.

Professional tips. Blackletter capitals were traditionally not designed to be combined into all capital settings; capitals were intended to be used with lowercase only. Therefore, be sparing in the use of all capital settings in Lucida Blackletter. The effect is striking, but takes some getting used to, because the all-capital Blackletter word- patterns unfamiliar to most readers. Lucida Blackletter is tightly fitted by the designers, so letterspacing should not be tightened at text sizes, though the spacing can be made tighter for large, display sizes.

Lucida Fax

Lucida Fax is a family of slab-serif fonts designed for telefaxing, dot-matrix printing, screen displays, and other situations where fonts must be rendered and reproduced at low resolutions or small sizes. Closely related to Lucida Bright, Lucida Fax has a large x-height, clear letter shapes, and open counters, but is more rugged, with heavier hairlines, thicker and shorter slab-shaped serifs, and greater space between letters. As its name implies, Lucida Fax is ideal for documents that will be telefaxed, from simple memos to complex newsletters.

Sturdiness and open spacing also make Lucida Fax a good choice for texts that are composed in small sizes and reproduced by printing methods that tend to degrade image quality, as in newspapers, packaging and labeling. At large sizes, Lucida Fax can be used for display and even signage, when a sturdy, slab-serif font is called for.

Lucida Fax can also be used for educational printing and publishing. Like traditional schoolbook fonts, Lucida Fax has the simplicity, regularity, and clarity that important to younger readers. Its letter forms are unambiguous, its spacing open, and its detailing plain. Complementary Fonts. Lucida Sans, also famous as good for faxing, is the ideal sans-serif companion to Lucida Fax.

Complementary Lucida fonts. Lucida Handwriting offers a casual and charming contrast to the formality of Lucida Fax, but also has enough ruggedness to remain readable when telefaxed or rendered at low resolutions and small sizes. For fax transmissions directly from the computer, Lucida Handwriting adds a personal touch for salutations and signatures.

Lucida Typewriter

Lucida Typewriter is a slab-serif monospaced font closely related to Lucida Fax. It provides good legibility at small sizes and low resolutions, like other Lucida designs. Sturdier, darker, and crisper in cut and detail than the Courier typewriter design, Lucida Typewriter has a set width of 10 pitch (= 10 characters per inch) when set at a size of 10 point, comparable to the pitch of Courier at 12 point. Lucida Typewriter is a popular choice for composing program code in technical manuals and programming textbooks, where a seriffed design is desired.

Lucida Typewriter Bold has the same pitch as the normal weight, giving a very strong, dark letter image for emphasis.

Complementary Lucida fonts. A specially interesting use of Lucida Typewriter for program code, with Lucida Sans for explanatory text, is found in the Plan 9 Programmer's Manuals from AT&T Bell Laboratories. The contrasting widths and textures keep the two kinds of text distinct, but harmonious.

Lucida New Math

The Lucida New Math fonts include the mathematical signs and symbols most used in mathematical, scientific, and technical composition. In particular, the Lucida New Math fonts contain the math characters that are standard in the TeX math composition software, which, in its various forms, is one of the most popular mathematical composition package used worldwide. In addition to the standard TeX character sets, Lucida New Math fonts include many more characters compatible with the sets specified in the ISO and Unicode math character standards, as well as the troff math composition software.

Complementary Lucida fonts. Lucida Bright is often used with Lucida New Math fonts, for example in the book Noncommutative Geometry by Alain Connes, Academic Press, 1994. Lucida Calligraphy can be used for mathematical script characters, and Lucida Blackletter for mathematical blackletter/fraktur characters.

Lucida New Math fonts can also be used with other text fonts, provided that a little care is used to choose a text font of visually equivalent weight, and that the point size of the Lucida New Math fonts is adjusted to provide visually equivalent size.

Some mathematical books typeset with Lucida:

Copyright 1992, 1997 Charles Bigelow & Kris Holmes.

$Date: 2023/09/22 16:21:07 $;
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