In this article, we take a look at the basic terms italic vs. oblique to find their true meaning and differences.
If you’ve used fonts, you have most likely heard the terms italic and oblique interchangeably. In this article, we’ll clear up the definitions and find the differences between oblique vs. italic.
If you’re looking to learn more essential terms about the world of typography and design, be sure to check out The Ultimate Guide to Basic Typography. And follow along with us over on the Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:
Italic fonts were first used in 1500 in Venice, when Aldus Manutius wanted to replicate the style of handwritten manuscripts from that era. Later, in the 1700s, italic styles were used to emphasize certain parts of a book because of their contrasting shape compared to the Roman style. In the past, italic fonts looked more like calligraphy and later evolved to what we know today.
Italic fonts are angled characters with different characteristics from their matching regular fonts. The italic style is a complementary design to regular fonts that often have a different width and a more elegant and calligraphic look. Italic fonts for serifs have specific characters that can be anatomically completely different. Italic fonts for sans serifs look more similar to the regular fonts. Italic styles have specific characters different from their regular counterparts, like the single-story “a” and “g” and the tail detail on the “f”.
In the late 19th Century, oblique styles were created by type foundries to emphasize display text. Many of these foundries started to include oblique fonts with regular styles. Many designers have argued that oblique sans serifs don’t stand out as much as serif italics do.
Most sans serif fonts include oblique styles, the only exception being humanist sans serifs—like the name, these fonts are based on the human style of writing. Therefore, a true italic is necessary.
Oblique style fonts are slightly slanted versions of the regular styles. In this example, you can see the different weights from top to bottom, with the regular style on the left and the oblique style on the right. The characters from left to right don’t change much—the only difference is the angle. Most oblique fonts are sans serifs, but not all sans serifs have obliques—some include italics.
Some design apps have the ability to create obliques, also known as fake italics. While oblique styles included in fonts have been reworked slightly to find balance and harmony, it’s common practice to slant characters in Adobe software when a font doesn’t include an oblique style.
Italic vs. Oblique Difference
The main italic/oblique difference is the character shape. Italics are more calligraphic—some characters like the “f” shown here have an old-style feel that is very different from the regular style. The “f” in the oblique style on the right side of this image is practically the same as its regular style. This oblique text is simply slanted; anatomically there isn’t much difference.
It’s safe to say that italic fonts, like most serifs, are elegant and include specific shapes that make them look classic. Almost all if not all serifs have italic styles, and while not all sans serif fonts have oblique styles, some can be italics as well. You’ll notice this in certain characters like the single-story “a” and “g”, or other characters like “l” or “f”. If these characters are modified, you can tell they’re italics.
Unlimited Italic and Oblique Fonts From Envato Elements
When you need awesome italic fonts or oblique text fonts, Envato Elements should be your go-to resource. Elements offers thousands of premium mockups, graphic elements, logos, photos, fonts, and much more. And you can download as many of these digital assets as you like, as often as you like, for one low monthly fee.
Shigatsu (OTF, TTF, WOFF)
Shigatsu is a beautiful italic font and the perfect example for this italic vs. oblique article. This luxury font includes characters like the “a” that change anatomically when going from regular to a true italic. The “a” is not the typical double-story “a” (like this text you’re reading). Instead, it has a calligraphic feel.
Lucky Beauty (OTF, TTF, WOFF)
Another great example of a true calligraphic italic that shows the italic/oblique differences is Lucky Beauty. Oblique text will have the same type of double-story “a” slanted, while italic fonts will use a single-story “a”. In the image above, you can see the “a” in “beauty” and the one in “crafted” are different. The “l” and the “k” also have extra curves that extend to emphasize the calligraphic look.
Oliviar Italic (OTF)
Oliviar Italic is the perfect example of the oblique vs. italic dilemma. This minimalist sans serif uses the double-story “a” as an oblique, also known as fake italics in the design world. You’ll also notice that most sans serif oblique styles don’t have a calligraphic feel.
Leo Sans Oblique (OTF, TTF, WOFF)
Leo Sans Oblique is a modern, geometric sans serif font. This oblique style typeface follows the rules of oblique fonts in which the characters are slightly slanted and none of their forms are really changed. Many designers use the oblique technique in design software when a particular font doesn’t include an oblique version. This technique is simply selecting the text and slanting it slightly with the text tool.
Quatera (OTF, TTF, WOFF)
Quatera is a beautiful italic font style. All of the characters in this font are true italics, the typical characters that need to be looked at besides the “a” are the “g”, “k”, “l”, “v”, and “w”. You’ll notice that they are true italics if these characters are very different from their regular version.
In this article, you learned the italic/oblique difference. These two words are often used interchangeably, and sometimes oblique is also known as fake italic because it’s so easy to create. With this article, now you have a clearer idea of the oblique vs. italic dilemma. Do you have a favorite italic font?