I am trying to understand the concept of contours as it relates to True Type Fonts (TTF). It isn't very well described, so I wanted to take the following drawing as an example.

enter image description here

Specifically I'm wondering about "compound contours", which they say:

In relatively simple glyphs like the letter c shown in FIGURE 4, the sequence of points defining the glyph combine to form a closed shape termed a contour. In more complex glyphs like the letter B shown in FIGURE 5 below, sequences of points define three distinct closed shapes, each being a contour.


Often it is convenient to combine some of the glyphs in a font to produce new glyphs. This is commonly done to produce accented characters in cases where the font includes both the base character and the accent character. TrueType allows for these combinations through the mechanism of compound glyphs.


Compound glyphs consist of a base glyph and a second glyph that is added to produce a new glyph. The new glyph combines the two components to create the new compound form. If desired, glyphs can be created using more than two components.

So it sounds like a glyph is a set of contours. This is also helpful.

But basically I would like to know roughly how this glyph above, with (potentially) deeply nested/recursive sub-contours (if the drawing had more detail), orders the contours, and how a small snippet of the "contour data" might look in a TTF font.

  • Could you clarify how the example drawing relates to the use of compound glyphs? Compound glyphs are formed by assembling other glyphs (simple or compound), for example, combining A and ´ to make Á. The advantage being that the components can be re-used in other glyphs, for example A + ~ to make Ã, E + ´ to make É, etc. It's not obvious from your drawing alone how this would be done for your case. – djangodude Jan 13 '19 at 21:14

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