Top Tips for Successful Japanese Desktop Publishing

February 10, 2014

Japanese is one of the most requested Asian languages for translation. Though many companies contact their preferred language provider for the Japanese translation, they often attempt to complete the desktop publishing (formatting) by their internal marketing or design teams, usually as a cost-savings measure. Often these teams do not speak Japanese, nor do they fully understand the typesetting requirements of the language. In the end, the client spends more time and money trying to get the Japanese right. In this blog, I talk about some of the formatting challenges in Japanese and provide a few tips to ensure a successful Japanese desktop publishing project.

Japanese-dtpPlan Ahead

  • When planning a project in Japanese, it is important to have the right resources for the job, including a team of experienced desktop publishers (artists) who are knowledgeable in the language and the software.
  • When translating from English into Japanese, the text will contract instead of expand unlike some European languages. It is important to keep this in mind when you are designing your document.
  • It is important to consider the fonts that you are using in the design. Does the layout contain unique, stylized English fonts? You may not get the same affect with a Japanese font. It is recommended that you review the available Japanese fonts and choose suitable fonts for the project. Make sure that they are properly installed on your system.

After Translation

  • Carefully review the overall layout of the Japanese document for improper line breaks, widows or orphans. (In typesettingwidows and orphans are words or text strings at the beginning or end of a paragraph, which are left dangling at the top or bottom of a column, separated from the rest of the paragraph. Source:

    • Line breaks are particularly challenging in Japanese as some of the characters cannot appear in the beginning of the line. These include:

      1. The following is an example of incorrect placement of the long dash.
        It is incorrect to put long dashes at the beginning of lines as circled below.

        The correct way is to move the long dash to the end of the previous line. Alternatively, you can bring down a character from the previous line to make the long dash appear as the second character in that line.

      2. The following are examples of using smaller hiragana or katakana characters.
        It is incorrect to put these smaller characters like at the beginning of the lines.



        You can adjust the kerning to move these characters to the previous line, or add soft returns to move the characters down from the previous line. Samples of correct usage follow.



    • Like Chinese and other Asian languages, widows and orphans are not permitted in Japanese layouts. Please see the sample below. When this happens, you can adjust the kerning or the size of the text box to correct the issue.
p2.7 Changes to >> p2.8
  • For English and European languages, you can simply press B or type Ctrl + B to apply the bold style to text. However for Japanese, it doesn't give you a real bold effect if you apply the same technique. It actually makes the selected characters appear twice with a slight shift, just like making a same color shadow behind it. Therefore it is suggested that you use a Japanese font with a heavier weight to achieve the real bold effect.
  • It is common practice for an artist to use the same type size as the original English text in the localized Japanese version. The Japanese characters however tend to be bigger than the English even in the same type size. There is not a tremendous difference in the body copy, but for larger headings or titles, the difference can be considerable. You may want to go ahead and use a smaller type size in this case for the Japanese.

You may also find our previous blog on multilingual fonts useful: How to Choose the Right Fonts for Multilingual Documents.

GPI's Multilingual Desktop Publishing Services

Globalization Partners International provides many services including document translation and website translation both of which involve multilingual desktop publishing services. This list below highlights some of the more common applications we use for documentation localization projects:

You may also find some of our resources on Japanese translation and desktop publishing useful:

Please contact GPI at or at 866-272-5874 with your specific questions about desktop publishing. A complimentary Translation Quote for your project is also available upon request.

Document Translation
DTP, Japanese Translation, Document Translation

Insights Into EPiServer 7.5 WCMSThe Six Deadly Sins of Translation


  • Pauline BellOn Jul 15, Pauline Bell said:
    Dear Nicholas,
    I am trying to publish a book of photos and Japanese Haiku which has English and Japanese text in. I have a bit of a problem knowing which text to use as it looks like they can be enormously expensive. Could you possibly advice me what the situation is if I am going to publish a book and would wish to buy a font. I see they are different prices but don't know which catogary I would fall into.
    I need one that is like Japanese handwriting...and wonder if you might know a free one, (or one that isn't too expensive)..I do not speak Japanese and the text will mostly be on top of photos so will be in an Image format.
    I would be very grateful for any advice, thanks so much. At present the text is in ASKaiSho-Bd regular which I can access on my Windows7PC.
    Any help you can throw my way will be so gratefully received, thankyou.
    Pauline Bell
  • Nicolas CarcanoOn Jul 16, Nicolas Carcano said:
    Thanks for your comment. You are right, most of the professional Japanese fonts are expensive. I recommend you search in Google using “Free handwriting Japanese fonts” and you will find several websites from independent designers whereby you can find and download free fonts for your book. Best of luck!