Oblique type

An example text written three times in Garamond font, each time with a different style. From top to bottom: Roman, italic and oblique.

Oblique type is a form of type that slants slightly to the right, used for the same purposes as italic type. Unlike italic type, however, it does not use different glyph shapes; it uses the same glyphs as roman type, except slanted. Oblique and italic type are technical terms to distinguish between the two ways of creating slanted font styles; oblique designs may be labelled italic by companies selling fonts or by computer programs. Oblique designs may also be called slanted or sloped roman styles.

Italic designs are not just the slanted version of the regular (roman) style; they are influenced by handwriting, with a single-story a and an f that descends below the line of text. Some may even link up, like cursive (joined-up) handwriting. In addition, italic styles are normally narrower than roman type, while oblique styles are not.

Few typefaces have both oblique and italic designs, as this is generally a fundamental design choice about how the font should look. A font designer normally decides to design their font with one or the other. Almost all modern serif fonts have italic designs, some versions of Bookman Old Style being a notable exception.[1] In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a number of French and German type foundries such as Genzsch & Heyse offered serif typefaces with oblique rather than italic designs, but these designs (such as Genzsch Antiqua) have mostly disappeared.[2][3] Stanley Morison of Monotype made a late attempt to promote this style in 1925 by commissioning the typeface Perpetua from Eric Gill with a sloped roman rather than an italic, but Monotype's management vetoed this in favour of a true italic.[4][5]

Many sans-serif typefaces use oblique designs instead of italic ones. This is especially true with grotesque designs like Helvetica and geometric ones like Futura.[6] Humanist sans-serif typefaces, however, often use true italic styles since they are more influenced by serif fonts. Notable humanist sans-serif typefaces include Gill Sans, Goudy Sans, FF Meta and FF Scala Sans; all have italic designs.[7] Adrian Frutiger and other prominent designers have defended obliques as more appropriate for the aesthetic of sans-serif fonts. As many sans-serif fonts were intended for use on headings and posters, especially early ones, some were not designed with italics at all because these were considered unnecessary.

A simply slanted (L) and corrected (R) example of oblique type.

Oblique fonts, as supplied by a font designer, may be simply slanted, but this is very often not the case: many have slight corrections made to them to give curves more consistent widths, so they retain the proportions of counters and the thick-and-thin quality of strokes from the regular design.[8]

Some computer programs handling text may simply generate an oblique form by slanting the normal font when they find no italic or oblique style installed.[9] It may not be clear to the user where the oblique form comes from (whether it is a correctly installed oblique font or an automatically-slanted design, which may look worse) unless they check their installed fonts.


  1. Simonson, Mark. "Bookmania". Retrieved 23 September 2014.
  2. "Typophile discussion". Typophile. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  3. Devroye, Luc. "Friedrich Bauer". Type Design Information. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  4. http://www.fonts.com/FindFonts/HiddenGems/Perpetua.htm Monotype Imaging: Perpetua
  5. Lo Celso, Alejandro. "Serial Type Families" (PDF).
  6. Majoor, Martin. "My Type-Design Philosophy". Retrieved 23 September 2014.
  7. "Goudy Sans". Linotype.com. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  8. Simonson, Mark. "Fake vs. True Italics". Retrieved 23 September 2014.
  9. "Fonts". W3.org. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
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