They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes you need a thousand and one! Typography is the art of presenting your words in a way that’s aesthetically pleasing, but legible. It’s useful for any kind of project; whether you’re creating custom wall art featuring your favourite quote, making a custom mug for a friend, or adding text to a photo book. Much like photography, successful typography is a combination of technical understanding and artistic flair. If you’ve never given it a go before, now is the perfect time to try! Follow our top ten typography tips, and make your words gorgeous.
Our Ten Best Typography Tips
1. Select a Font with the Right Personality
The best way to get started in typography is to consider the nature of your project, and choose a font that fits accordingly. There are a wide range of eye-catching typefaces out there that ooze personality, these are usually called display fonts. They’re not intended for large bodies of text, but are instead better suited for short headings, artwork and titles. These types of fonts usually convey a distinct personality. Parisienne, for example, has an elegant look suitable for wedding stationary and menu headings; Clicker Script, by contrast, is feminine and informal, perhaps appropriate for a teenager’s birthday party invitation; while Magneto is distinctly retro, recalling a lettering style popular in the 1940s and 50s.
However if you’re aiming for a professional finish, there are a few fonts you might like to avoid, too. Nothing says “school bake sale flyer” like Comic Sans. Similarly Papyrus, Brush Script and even Bradley Hand have undergone more than their fair share of overuse and misuse over the years. Even if you combine them artfully with a suitable secondary font, your work is likely to recall decades of home-printed monstrosities straight out of Microsoft Word.
Easy Typography Tip: avoid display fonts that look overly familiar. If you feel like you’ve seen it a thousand times, your audience probably have too. Fortunately the CEWE Design Software has a huge range of fonts ready installed, and can also use any other typefaces you already have on your computer too. So you’ll have plenty to choose from!
2. Create a Visual Hierarchy
Take inspiration from newspapers; headlines, sub-headings and body copy. Your most important information should be sitting pretty in your biggest, boldest font, to really catch the eye. Sub-headings are great for your secondary information, the content you’d like to convey to a skim-read. The body copy is for all your detailed further information, so it should be in an easily legible typeface.
3. Use Consistent Formatting
Whether you’re creating a photo book, a wedding announcement or a party invitation, once you establish your visual hierarchy it’s important to stick to it. Choose a size, weight (bold, light, italics etc.) for each font, and stick to it in every instance that font is used. Sometimes it might be tempting to make a font slightly larger when you’ve got more empty space around it, but this will make your work look inconsistent and untidy.
Easy Typography Tip: Don’t go too small. Bodies of printed text should rarely be less than 10-12 points, as this is widely considered the smallest comfortable reading size.
4. No More than Two or Three Fonts Per Project
One of the trickiest aspects of typography is learning how to combine multiple different fonts. The best rule of thumb is to keep it simple; use no more than two or three fonts per project. Adding more fonts will make your work look scattered and confusing. Most of the time you’ll only require two, but if you really feel your project requires a third font, such as sub-headings for your photo book with text, try using a larger version of your body copy font. Limiting yourself to less fonts will keep your work cohesive.
Easy Typography Tip: Pair a display font with a text typeface such as Helvetica or Times New Roman. Text typefaces are great for long bodies of copy, but also for creating contrast with your display font. For example, if you’re using typography to create a custom mug, try mixing an elaborate script font with simple block text to create a visually appealing design that’s full of character.
5. Contrast is Key
When combining one font with another, contrast really is the key. It’s a great way to create a balanced design that’s easy on the eyes. Using two display fonts together can easily look overwhelming and messy, so offset it with something simple.
This is also important when it comes to keeping your work legible. For example if you’re going to create your own menu cards, an extroverted script font is great for titles, and a cursive font is fine for subheadings, but it would be unpleasant to try to read in any larger blocks of text in either of these fonts. Keep the larger bodies of text, such as menu choices, simple and easy to read. This also holds true for things like custom wedding invitations, where important information telephone numbers and addresses need to be kept clearly legible.
6. Learn How to Combine Simple Text Typefaces
Mixing highly stylised text with simple typefaces is the easiest way to combine fonts. However, sometimes you might need to forego the display fonts altogether and stick to a combination clear, legible text typefaces. This is great for work that requires a professional tone, such as business cards. But you still need to be sure to never combine fonts that are too similar. Georgia and Times New Roman are great fonts by themselves, but put together, they’re so similar that they clash. Without contrast, mixing fonts looks like an unintentional mistake, rather than a deliberate design choice.
Easy Typography Tip: If you’d like to combine simple text typefaces, use varying sizes to ensure the fonts don’t look too similar. Experiment with different weights (bold, light etc.) as well as font sizes to be sure your fonts don’t clash.
Another way to ensure your simple fonts have enough contrast is to select one with serifs, and one that is sans serif. Serifs are the small lines attached to the end of the strokes on letters. Serifs are generally associated with print publications such as newspapers, as they’re often thought to guide the eye along long bodies of text and improve reading speed. While sans-serif fonts are generally used more for online text and more modern forms of communication. This makes serif fonts great for projects with a more formal feel, while sans serif fonts have a more relaxed vibe.
7. Consider Colour
To keep your text legible, you need strong colour contrast. Black or dark grey on a white or off-white background is generally considered easiest to read, and is the best choice for large bodies of text. While a pale colour such as peach, for example, would be nearly illegible on white. But that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with colour, especially if you’re creating graphics for wall art or gifts; black on a yellow background is perfectly legible, cream on red, or navy on peach etc. As long as there’s strong contrast, your words should remain clear.
8. Give Your Words Some Space
Negative space is one of the most powerful (and underrated!) design tools out there, and this applies to typography too. Putting some space around your text makes it much easier to read. It gives the reader’s eyes room to rest, draws attention to your text, and is overall more visually appealing. This applies not only to leaving some space around your text blocks, but also between lines. Creating a little extra vertical spacing can make a world of difference to your design, especially if you’re using a cursive display font.
CEWE Design Software Tip: If you’re creating short typographic quote in our design software, try writing each line in a separate text box. That way you can move each line freely to achieve your perfect desired amount of vertical spacing.
9. Choose the Correct Alignment
The alignment of your text makes a massive impact on the overall look and feel of your project. Usually, headlines will be centre aligned, and large bodies of text should be left aligned for legibility, as in English we read from left to right. This is a good rule of thumb if you’re using large bodies of text, but if you’re creating gifts like custom cushions or mugs, you can be more experimental. Typographic quotes look great centre aligned, right aligned or even a mixture.
10. Design Around the Shape of Your Product
Last but not least, always keep the finished product in mind. Your design may be stunning, and your typography may be perfect, but it needs to work on the product you’re ordering. If you’re creating a photo book, mind the gutter; if your text is too close to the seam between the pages, it will be difficult to read. (Alternatively, if you’d like the freedom to design along every inch of the page, our range of photographic paper types come with Layflat binding, which eliminates this problem!)
Similarly, if you want to design a personalised photo cushion, you should keep your typographic design fairly central and not too close to the edge, to prevent the detail being lost around the sides.
As with any art form, practice makes perfect. The more you experiment with typography, the better you’ll get at it, and you’ll eventually develop your own unique style. But for now, we hope our typography tips have inspired you to give it a try.