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Obviously there is no single number for that, as we have fonts with large x-heights and fonts with small x-heights. But there seems to be a typical range within most widely used fonts fall. For example, I would be very surprised to see a font which has a size 5 times its x-height, or a font with point size only 1.1 times its x-height, although I can imagine a few representatives exist.

If we exclude outliers, what would be the approximate numeric range of the font size to x-height?

  • Do you have a practical application for this information or is it simply out of curiosity? I think it's an interesting question and I might try and do some calculations later but I don't think there's much practical use for it. – Cai Jul 6 '16 at 13:36
  • The practical use is that I wanted to define a minimum safe height for a box in LaTeX. ex is a LaTeX unit, while getting the current font size requires jumping through hoops and has weird side effects in some environments. But even if I end up using some other method, I am still curious to know it. – rumtscho Jul 6 '16 at 14:06
  • Well you could always measure "typical" fonts to get an approximate numeric range. =) Also I dont understand how the x-height would help you with a safe height for a box. – tim human Jul 6 '16 at 15:00
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Ok, here's some x-height ratios for a lot of different fonts, separated into categories. You can check the popular fonts you have in your mind (since this statistics vary depending the scope of use).

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Hey Folks

A good rough starting point for x-height ratio is about .5

But it can vary significantly. Times Roman has an x-height ratio of about .45 and Roboto Condensed is .53

As for practical application, it's fundamentally important to senior UX or Information Designers, as it lets you determine the actual physical height of the lower case "x" — a critical measurement for usability.

Fluent reading text size for people with normal vision ranges from a low of about .2 degrees of visual angle (VA) to a high of 2 degrees. This translates to a range of 4 pts (1.4mm) to 40 pts (14mm) at standard viewing distance of 40 cm.

These numbers hold roughly true regardless of the medium — screen or print — with some variation based on reading stressors and audience group.

So minimum x-height text size for body text would be 1.4mm, but you'd be safer for most audiences with 2.5mm. As viewing distance increases, ideal VA remains constant but of course physical height needs to increase.

If you want to measure x-height ratio exactly, choose your typeface at 100 pts in your graphics app, type a lower case "x", and measure the height of the letter "x" in points with the app's measuring tool (you can use any measurement unit as long as they're the same for both text size and x-height size.

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