The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Fonts for Your Creative Project

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Selecting fonts might seem like a trivial part of the graphic design process, but in reality it can make or break the visuals of a creative project.

You cannot communicate clearly through pictures. Text can provide context and other specific details. Here’s everything you need to consider when choosing fonts.

1. Focus on readability

The letter 'A' written multiple times on a black BG

There is no point in having text that no one can read. One of your main priorities (otherwise the top priority) when selecting a font should be readability. This is especially true for long blocks of text.

In addition to choosing a font that is simple and easy to read, you had better make sure your text can be read with minor adjustments. It might not look like it, but playing around with settings like font size, line spacing, and letter spacing can really make all the difference.

2. Learn basic typographical terms

Finding the perfect font can take a long time, but there is a way to prevent your search from continuing indefinitely. We recommend that you take a minute or two to familiarize yourself with common words associated with fonts, so that you can filter the results when looking for a certain style in particular.

Here are a few terms you’ll probably want to remember:

  • Font or character: the style in which the characters are written (typeface and typeface referred to different things in the days of printing, but are now used interchangeably)
  • Serif : a line attached to or extending from the ends of letters (e.g. Times New Roman, Cambria, Garamond, etc.)
  • Without wheelbase: the word “sans” means “without”, so these are sans serif letters (eg Arial, Verdana, Calibri, etc.)
  • Reference: the imaginary line on which the characters of a font rest
  • Cap line: the imaginary line where the tallest characters in a font reach

3. Have variance, but keep it under control

Multiple fonts on one page

Don’t write everything in the same font, it’s boring! Spice things up by using a few different font styles that complement each other or feature stylistic contrast. Try not to overdo it, however. It can be confusing to watch a graphic that uses too many different fonts.

Strive for visual consistency and balance. If at some point reading your text begins to sound like work (as your mind is processing how to interpret the next font), you need to reduce the number of fonts you use.

A good rule of thumb is to assign different fonts, sizes, and typographic emphasis (e.g. bold, italics, etc.) to different elements or purposes. Think about the most important information and make it the most important of all typography.

4. Consider special and alternative characters

Special characters in a font

Most fonts will have all 26 letters of the English alphabet, along with the common base 10 numbering system, so you probably won’t have to worry about this when looking for fonts to use in your creative project.

However, if you are using special characters like symbols or accented letters, you will want to check the characters in the font before downloading it. Paid fonts are more likely to have full sets, including anything you can type on most standard keyboards.

5. Match your fonts to your themes

A purple sticker with the brand text

When creating a graphic, it’s important to consider the style of each element and how all of the elements (fonts, colors, and patterns) fit together. It would be a bit awkward to use thick, blocky text on a delicate wedding invitation. Or a childish scribble on a corporate statement.

When selecting your fonts, choose those that match the overall theme or message of your project. Also think about your target audience and what they would like the most.

You can even consider creating your own custom fonts to really contribute to your project’s unique visual identity. This is especially true for brands, companies, and names trying to enter a particular market.

Related: The Best Sites to Create Your Own Custom Fonts

6. Have references

Search for images at the same energy

Take inspiration from other things that have similar typography to what you would like to have for your own project. You can create a mood board with the Same Energy visual search engine or use a site like Pinterest.

On the flip side, you can also search the web for creative projects that have typography that you definitely don’t want to have. The clearer your vision, the easier it is to avoid stress during the design process.

7. Read the font license (s)

You would be surprised how many people ignore this part of using fonts, even though it is arguably the most important. Just because you can download a font for free doesn’t mean you can use it for anything you want. Like pictures, brushes, and other digital art resources, each font comes with a license that details how it can be used.

There are many fonts available online for commercial use (for profit projects), but even more that can only be used for personal use. Reading font licenses can be a bit of a hassle, but it’s something you’ll want to do to avoid legal issues at some point.

Fortunately, most font websites allow you to filter search results by license type. If you are a Windows user, Microsoft has a Faq about distributing pre-downloaded fonts to your PC. Mac users, on the other hand, can search for a font’s information by viewing it in the Font Book.

Related: How to Add Fonts to Adobe Photoshop on Windows and Mac

Don’t underestimate the power of fonts

Fonts add value to text: not only do they help readers perceive information, but they can also arouse emotions and express feelings about your project. People are drawn to things that are visually appealing, which is why artists and designers spend so much time studying aesthetics.

You might have the most amazing project in the world, and yet if you can’t present it well, no one will care. Don’t trust your own judgment? There are a surprising number of online tools you can use to help you select fonts, such as Pair of fonts, FontSpark, and Better font search. Still, having a basic understanding of how to mix and match fonts is never a bad idea.


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