Get the Font Out: 20 Tips & Tricks For Using Fonts Better

  1. Know the lingo; a typeface (aka font-family) is a group of individual fonts. Fonts are made up of a group of characters (aka character-set).
  2. Aim for one typeface that can cover all your needs. Headlines, sub-headlines, body copy, italics, bold, quotes, mono-spaced.
  3. It's common to use two fonts, one for headlines and the other for body copy, etc..
  4. It's generally bad practice to use more than two typefaces.
  5. Check the whole character set to make sure it has everything you need. UPPERCASE, lowercase, numbers, and accents.
  6. Don't paint yourself into a corner. This project may only require UPPERCASE but your next revision or project may require a more complete character-set.
  7. Serif fonts are the easiest to read in printed designs. The science here is deep.
  8. Extra tall (condensed), script, and similar fonts can be hard to read. They're more decorative/ornamental and should be used sparingly.
  9. Comic-sans, Papyrus, Brush Script, Courier, Arial, Times New Roman are all last resorts. They're the UGG boots of fonts.
  10. Keep it simple and don't over think it.
  11. Free fonts are free for a reason. They're generally not great but can get the job done. There are a few places to find good, free fonts like Lost Type and Google Web Fonts.
  12. Need to find a free version of an expensive font? Check out this list on Typewolf.
  13. Pairing a headline font with a body font is a skill. Check out this article by Canva.
  14. Know your audience. For instance a newsletter for the historical society probably has an older readership. I would find a very legible font and give it a larger size like 13pt or 14pt and larger line spacing (aka leading).
  15. Know your environment. The font/copy on a billboard will need to function a lot differently than in a scientific paper, business card, or take-away menu. Ask yourself "how will this be used".
  16. The eye gets tired following a line of text all the way across a sheet and it's harder to find the beginning of the next line. Break it up into columns.
  17. Grids make typography (the practice of laying out font in a design) so much easier. Here are a couple resources on grids. Thinking with Type, Design Shack, and Designers Insights.
  18. Use Lorem Ipsum to fill in areas of text and then play with different fonts and sizes. Here's a Lorem Ipsum generator.
  19. Turn off hyphenation. It's usually in the paragraph section of the program.
  20. Use kerning to control rags, orphans, and widows. It will make the design much cleaner.
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