Variable fonts preview

How to see a variable font in action without creating a makeup and CSS layout

September 27, 2023

Nowadays, variable fonts are no longer new and represent a really popular format. It is supported by Adobe and Figma graphic editor software, and designers actively use such fonts in adaptive layout. Since a variable font weighs considerably less than an entire type family, it is faster to browse, and seeing that such fonts have an infinite amount of styles between masters, transitioning from one state into another looks smoother. (We have already explained in detail how variable fonts work).

It is not really convenient to preview a variable font with a software designed for static images — it is way better to explore the capabilities of such typefaces in animation. However, it takes quite some time and effort to create a composition in After Effects or write a Python script using DrawBot. That is why designers came up with specialised variable font testing tools: they not only allow to test a font, but can also help present it, for example, by embedding it into an animation or generative graphics.

Font Gauntlet and TypeTrials

Font Gauntlet and TypeTrials are projects by ABC Dinamo and PangramPangram foundries. You can animate your own typeface or preview how variable fonts from foundry stores work. This can help you choose a font you need if you’re not yet sure whether it fits your project or not.

Feature sets of those tools are quite similar: both enable to customise text and background colour, adjust alignment, manage line and letter spacing. Both Font Gauntlet and TypeTrials allow opening several fonts at a time (with an individual tab for each of them).

Both tools can be used to record a video file of switching between two states, animating a number of interpolation axes at the same time. A Font Gauntlet video can come with sound, while a TypeTrials video will be tailored for a post or story on Instagram.

Dusseldot Variable in Font Gauntlet

Both Font Gauntlet and TypeTrials suggest capturing one of the in-between styles — by copying CSS values (Font Gauntlet also offers saving it as a separate static font file).

You can test a font on your own text, a pangram, a random English language Wikipedia entry (or just on its text or title). TypeTrials also offers to view a variable font in an animated specimen or a character set usually used for checking kerning.

Flicker Variable in TypeTrials

Typo de Beau Regard

This tool by Jean Böhm is similar to Font Gauntlet and TypeTrials — it can be used to change line and letter spacing, adjust colours and record videos, too, but there’s no option of managing several fonts at once. Unlike ABC Dinamo and PangramPangram projects, TDBR enables the following choice: you can use kerning embedded into a font, opt for automatic kerning, or preview a font without any kerning at all.

Plus, this app interface features some kind of design space (called an art board) which enables managing several variable axes simultaneously and arranging animation keys.

Maregraphe Variable in TBDR


When in 2016 the Axis-Praxis website by Laurence Penney arrived, it was the only existing variable font tester. Even though today not all the site sections are available and there’s no option of recording video files, Axis-Praxis is still a handy tool. Various files do not open in neighbouring tabs, but in next blocks with a previously well-considered hierarchy of text styles. So, you can use Axis-Praxis to test font pairings or even make up a landing page preview.

5 Roslindale Display Condensed Variable in Axis-Praxis


A beta version of Vartype by Space type is a less flexible tool. It enables choosing a range within variable axes and changing size, and that’s it. It can be your best choice if a font you test is meant to work in titles or generative graphics, as Vartype automatically embeds the font into a number of preconceived kinetic compositions, engaging one or several variable axes at a time.

Fit in Vartype


Samsa is a more complicated tool. It does not allow testing a font on long texts, but in addition to variable axes, it also shows the font metrics as well as the coordinates of points in a design space and technical axes. The result can be exported as a video file, yet MP4 export is available only in Firefox and SVG animation won’t let you deal with more than just one variable axis.

This tool is mainly designed for authors of typefaces, who might find it convenient to preview both user and technical parameters in a tester. However, web designers might also benefit from its sidebar menu allowing to preview all the font glyphs — not least because there’s no such option in Figma.

Factor A in Samsa

P. S. Authors of all the tools mentioned here insist that you respect all copyrights and only upload the fonts you’ve got a license for, or open source files (just as we do insist). No information is being stored — neither your data, nor the fonts you upload.

Mentioned fonts