By Jennifer Farley

Two Teeny Tiny Fonts

By Jennifer Farley

Subpixel rendering is a method used to increase the apparent resolution of LCD displays. Each pixel on an LCD screen is made up of individual red, green and blue subpixels. Subpixel rendering allows for improved character shapes and spacing and almost completely eliminates the “jaggies” seen in bitmapped images. Why do I mention this?

Well, over on Typophile, there’s an interesting blog post by Miha showcasing a new miniscule font he has created. It’s called The Bee’s Knees, has an x-height of 3 pixels and was designed with favicons in mind. Below you can see the font at actual size, it’s not scaled down.


If you look very closely at these tiny fonts you can see color variations. Below you can see the font enlarged by 1600% and can see the colours of each pixel.


The amazing thing about this font is that it is actually legible at 3 pixels high.

Another Tiny Font

In the midst of the discussion on the Typophile blog post (and there are some very long and convoluted discussions going on there), it emerged that there was another subpixel font already on the scene. It was designed by Ken Perlin and you can see it at actual size below. That’s the first five hundred words of the American Declaration of Independence in that little box.


Why did he make this font?

“My goal was to have something that is clearly readable, yet can fit an entire page of text onto a QVGA (320×240) screen (eg: an Apple IPod or T-Mobile SideKick). In contrast, I’ve noticed that Microsoft’s smallest screen fonts are unreadable, whereas their smallest readable screen fonts are way bigger than necessary. “

At the time of writing, neither font is available for download but I think they’re interesting to look at and I imagine that Miha will eventually make his tiny three pixel high font available when he’s finished experimenting.

What do you think of these fonts?  When they become available for download should they come with a free pair of jam-jar glasses? Is there a serious application for these fonts or are they simply a curiosity?

  • Ryvon Designs

    Well, I’m not sure of immediately, or for these two specifically, but mini-fonts may be something we need to watch in regards to mobile technology. I can see a benefit in that regard, perhaps not SOO tiny like these are, but much smaller than the current standard. Or, to continue in the idea of curiosities, the second one could be great for hidden messages in pointelature art :)

    Thanks for pointing these out!


  • I it works for a bottle of aspirin, why not for your mobile? I think a legible, 3px font will very useful. I like it.

  • Valéry

    They would be great to displauy legal warnings nearby a comment form…

  • dave gilbertson

    love the thought behind these fonts. will be interesting to see where this thinking is put to practical use.

    can’t say i would like to read the whole declaration of independence in either of these fonts, but it would be great for annotation, copyright or other less critical text found on web or mobile sites.

  • I like these small fonts, but in my experience, I’d rather see some fonts that looked perfectly smooth when large. Many times I am forced to do the common blur and levels adjustment in photoshop to get a smooth look. Maybe this is just some limitation of photoshop, or of fonts?

  • @skunkbad photoshop does a fine job making type look smooth, it’s in the quality of the font.
    If the font is good it’s easy to get smooth looking type, which may involve trying different anti alias settings from the Type options toolbar.

  • randywehrs

    Wow, impressive craftsmanship! Definitely many good uses, but the one that scares me is that the fine print is now even finer… I hope it is to be used only for good!

  • Sam

    I think a small font like this would be amazing for design, maybe not so pratical for legible text!

  • Ty

    10 years ago I would have loved to use the 3-pixel font, and I preferred web pages with smaller text. But now (in my 30s, so I’m not too old…yet) it’s too difficult to read the small stuff and I have a new appreciation for larger font sizes. So I think the small text has its uses, but I’m sure the younger designers will be tempted to use it too much.

    And concerning microscopic text on aspirin and other medication packaging, you’re messing with someone’s health when they can’t read how many pills to take–especially the older generation who tend to take more medications. I hate trying to figure out how many pills to take, or how often to take them. Is that every 3 hours, or every 8? It probably makes a difference.

  • ichi

    My name is Bee, so I feel a special affinity toward the Bee’s Knees. Let me know when my namesake is available for download. :)

  • I suppose if you want a font that most people won’t be able to read, go for it and accessibility and usability be damned. Otherwise, I really can’t see the point of these other than as an academic exercise.

  • Jon84

    Very nice. I was actually thinking about small fonts the other day, and then today I see this article. Nice timing.

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