Designers and marketeers turning their attentions to Asia find that accommodating translated text within artwork is one of the first technical hurdles they face. The complexities and incompatibilities pertaining to Asian scripts are overcome through use of software and processes which differ from those involved in single-byte language typesetting. The following is a brief overview of the process of typesetting Asian languages, and some pointers as to how common problems may be solved.

Double-Byte Characters

Chinese, Japanese and Korean scripts are complex in comparison with Western character sets. Whereas the roman alphabet and most other modern scripts possess a relatively small number of characters, there are many thousand character options in Chinese, Japanese and Korean. It is for this reason that they are constructed electronically as double-byte characters, as opposed to the single-byte characters which form most other scripts.

Some applications still do not suppport double-byte characters. Several techniques may be used to produce a piece of Asian language artwork that can be viewed and printed in these applications. One effective method is to turn text into a graphic format, such as outlined EPS files, which are then positioned in an English file and printed in the usual manner. Alternatively, if an East Asian version of the application exists which does support double-byte characters, the original file may be opened in the East Asian version, the translation typeset, and a publication-ready PDF printed with the Asian fonts embedded. With these methods, a company’s materials may be shared by its global offices without having to overcome technical disparities.

(Combined) Fonts

Where all versions of the application support double-byte characters, typesetting may be carried out in the English-language version of the software. However, two further obstacles remain. The first is the challenge of fonts. English-language Operating Systems are bundled with very few professional Chinese, Japanese or Korean fonts in multiple weights suitable for typesetting. These can be expensive and it can be time-consuming to find a good match to the English font. Furthermore, the gylphs for the roman alphabet and numbers in Chinese, Japanese and Korean fonts are rarely attractively designed, so the best results when typesetting these languages are achieved through the the use of combined fonts.

Normally available only in the East Asian versions of typsetting applications, combined fonts enable the Chinese, Japanese or Korean text to be set using the Asian language font, while roman letters and numbers are set using the font used in the original language version.

Line Breaks

The second obstacle is the capacity of software to determine where line breaks should occur in Asian languages, which rarely matches the ability of a human carrying out the task of creating the most balanced and aesthetic flow of text manually. This is particularly true of Japanese, whose line breaking rules are very complex.

The latter two points also apply to South East Asian languages such as Thai and Khmer although, as with roman scripts, they comprise a more limited set of characters and thus are single-byte languages. The same line break requirements often remain and, as when typesetting any language, the best way of ensuring quality work is by employing DTP operators with extensive experience of flowing the text of these languages naturally.

For more information on Asian language DTP & typesetting, please visit our dedicated page.