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We are creating a product which has an small embedded OLED display (64 x 48 pixels). We would love to support Chinese in this product and wonder what is that smallest resolution that would be needed to support Chinese writing?

I assume simplified Chinese would give the best result?

Currently in our product, which supports English only, our smallest font size is 5 x 7. I'm pretty sure Chinese symbols will need more resolution.

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  • It seems for recognizable Chinese characters, the resolution should be no lower than 7*7. I'm using my phone so I can't go check, you may download the fonts mentioned in this page.
    – Stan
    Dec 2, 2015 at 10:11
  • I think 16 * 16 is needed as least. hefuliang.cai.swufe.edu.cn/EXAMPLE/PROG0069.htm
    – user4072
    Dec 2, 2015 at 10:15
  • @Stan - I don't believe 7x7 is correct as counting the lines in some of those symbols its more... around 12.
    – TheGrovesy
    Dec 2, 2015 at 10:30
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    I just did a search for 'nintendo gameboy chinese symbols' and found this interesting link: link. It suggests that 16x16 is normal but it can be achieved using 11x11 or 12x12. @songyuanyao - I have just seen your reply. Unfortunately my company has blocked that weblink! but it looks like I am close to an answer. I will check out that link at home. Thanks for the help.
    – TheGrovesy
    Dec 2, 2015 at 10:36
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    @TheGrovesy there are a few actual fonts with 8x8 pixels in the link of my first comment, and I did see some samples before. I describe them as "recognizable", because it may be the limit to native speakers (with context). For 12x12, that can render a character rather clearly.
    – Stan
    Dec 2, 2015 at 12:00

5 Answers 5

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8x8: Lowest necessary resolution for Chinese characters

As far as I know, the recognizable lowest resolution for Chinese characters, is about 8x8 pixels. The following paragraphs are rendered by the Special SimSun font's smallest 8x8 bitmap glyphs (Note: "Before Revision" is rendered by the Windows Vista's default simsun.ttc; "After Revision" shows how Special Simsun improves the quality). I believe native speakers are able to read these 8x8 resolution characters within the context, though a few are difficult to be recognized individually.

Special SimSun

"The Special SimSun font is revised based on simsun.ttc and mingliu.ttc contained in Windows Vista: First, it replaces ugly bitmap glyphs of Windows Vista's simsun.ttc with those of Windows XP's, and adds a few other bitmap glyphs; Second, it completes the bitmap glyphs in CJK EXT A (6852 characters), and supports the GB18030 character set (27533 characters) – especially, some low-resolution bitmap glyphs are included so that characters can be rendered in the bitmap way under 6pt–21pt for 96dpi; Finally, all bitmap glyphs are revised one by one, so the rendering quality is improved." — By the author of this font

It would be remiss of me not to mention the 7x7 resolution font: 超宋体 (Super Song) made by 夏夏@bbs.themex.net. However, this font is simplified Chinese only, and we can imagine it will be even more difficult to read than 8x8 resolution characters, so my conclusion for OP's question is "about 8x8".

12x12 would be moderate

The following paragraphs are rendered by the 方正像素12 font with its 12x12 resolution glyphs. Almost every character can be recognized without context. Of course, compared with the 16x16 resolution, it has to lose strokes even for many simplified characters; however, yes, native speakers may feel relaxed to read them now.

方正像素12

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  • Hey @Stan, do you happen to know where we could find the Special SimSun font? Also, thank you for this great writeup — it's still useful after three years!
    – rramphal
    Oct 19, 2019 at 16:16
  • @rramphal try this link
    – Stan
    Jul 1, 2020 at 6:56
  • .@Stan thank you so much for taking the time to upload it! Unfortunately, when I loaded it, it loaded as Sim Sun regular. Do you mind double-checking? 🙏🏾
    – rramphal
    Jul 2, 2020 at 7:18
  • @rramphal SimSun-special.ttf SHA1 = 079ac3d82f5bad960296ead8ae714b347ff3ea85. It seemed the font maker didn't fill up all the properties carefully: PostScript name missing, Full name corrupt ®™°•?; Family OK SimSun, but Style regular (notice it's not Regular as the original SimSun). And finally the font's Unique name is 特制宋体. You may check the details by using a proper font viewer, e.g. Font Book on macOS.
    – Stan
    Jul 2, 2020 at 9:07
  • Is there a URI that works in 2021 for the typeface that works for 8x8?
    – Snowy
    Jul 27, 2021 at 15:15
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Stan's answers are great, but assume NATIVE speakers. As a newbie, and assuming GRAYSCALE (I personally find it hard to read anything lower than 16x16)... If you are using an OLED display that is only capable of monochrome, I think newbies will need MUCH higher (at least 24x24).

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Fonts designed with 7×7 characters

Note that in some font names and bitmap strike sizes below, "8 pixels" refers to 7 pixels character size plus 1 pixel spacing between characters, whereas the highest-voted answer above refers to a larger character size of 8 pixels.

The following fonts have 7×7 Chinese characters:

Comparison of 观致8px, BoutiqueBitmap7x7, 美咲ゴシック (one of the variants of 美咲フォント), and Chill-Bitmap: enter image description here

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If you are working on commercial applications, the smallest size character for simplified or traditional Chinese bitmap font is 11x12 (W x H) pixels. Anything smaller than that will give you problems and result in customer complaint. On the other hand, if you are doing something non-commercial in nature, you can try smaller sizes of bitmap fonts at your own risk. To get info on high quality bitmap fonts for commercial applications, go to http://www.bitmapfonts.com

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There are 2 fonts that support Chinese.

First is the closed-source font: Dinkie Bitmap (丁卯点阵体). It has a set of ~7300 characters and support multi language.
The second is open-source: Chill Bitmap (寒蝉点阵体). It has ~13600 chars, but I don't know there are many chars stolen from Dinkie or not.

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    But that is not at all what the question is asking about.
    – tripleee
    Apr 20, 2022 at 8:33

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