Illustrator: Working with Composite Font for Japanese

March 8, 2016 Nicolas Carcano

Illustrator has an excellent feature for working with Japanese text that many users may not be aware of: Composite Font.

When creating composite fonts you can mix characters from Japanese and Roman fonts and use them as one composite font, but they must be based on Japanese fonts. Composite fonts are displayed at the beginning of the font list.

Working with Composite Font

First you must be sure you have this option available in the Type menu. If you don't see the command, go the Preferences menu:

Preferences > Type

gpi-composite fonts-1

Select "Show East Asian Options"

In this tab you can also control how to show the font names that can be displayed (in English or in the native language) by selecting or deselecting "Show Font Names in English" checkbox.

After that a new menu should be available in the main menu:

Type > Composite Fonts

gpi-composite fonts-2

Categories of Characters in Japanese Composite Fonts

Kanji: The base font of the composite font. The size and baseline for other characters are set according to the sizes and baselines specified here.

Kana: The font used for hiragana and katakana characters.

Punctuation: The font used for punctuation.

Symbols: The font used for symbols.

Roman: The font used for half-width roman characters.

Numbers: The font used for half-width numbers. This is usually a roman font.

gpi-composite fonts-3


View a sample of the composite font:

To view a sample of the composite font, click Show Sample. You can change the sample in the following ways:

  • Click the buttons on the right side of the sample to show or hide lines indicating the ICF Box, Embox, Baseline, Cap Height, Max Ascent/Descent, Max Ascender, and x-height.
  • Choose a magnification level from the Zoom pop-up menu.
  • Click Save to save the settings for the composite font, and then click OK.


I hope this tool will help you with your Japanese files. Unfortunately, with this option you cannot create fonts that include Chinese or Korean, also you can't use Chinese or Korean-based composite fonts copied from another application. Hopefully in the near future Adobe Illustrator will include them in the Composite Font tool.

GPI's Multilingual Desktop Publishing Services

Globalization Partners International provides many services with   document translation and   website translation that involve multilingual desktop publishing services. This list below highlights some of the more common products used in such projects:

You may also find some of our previous blogs on desktop publishing useful:

Please feel free to contact GPI at with any questions about our language and technology services.  Also let us know if you have any interesting blog topics you would like us to cover in our future blogs.  You may request a complimentary Translation Quote for your projects as well.

[Instructions and lists abstracted from Adobe Application Manuals. Adobe, the Adobe logo, Acrobat, Captivate, FrameMaker, Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, and RoboHelp are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated in the United States and/or other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. © Adobe Systems Incorporated.]

About the Author

Nicolas Carcano

Desktop Publishing Specialist. A native speaker of Spanish, Nicolás has expert skills on both Mac and PC platforms with many DTP applications including Adobe Tech Comm Suite, specifically structured and unstructured FrameMaker, InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop and others. He also has advanced skills in Microsoft Office products like PowerPoint and Word, as well as Quark.

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