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Tips and Tricks: Pairing Fonts

February 13, 2014

Pairing Fonts

Sometimes, whether for emphasis or more practical reasons, it’s necessary to use more than one font on the front of a greeting card design. Paring fonts can add interest and help perk up a design. Before you begin choosing which fonts you want to use, here are a few tips you’ll want to keep in mind.

#1 Rule of Thumb: Use no more than three different fonts. Sticking to two will almost always get you where you want to go. There are occasional exceptions to this rule. If you’re going to break the rules, be careful and be smart—do it in a pleasing way that makes sense with the overall composition and intention of your design. Below, you’ll find examples.

The artist (Sandra Rose Designs) has used a more formal script font for emphasis and paired it with a much plainer font for the majority of the text, making the card easier to read and adding interest to the overall design.

As you see, this one’s an example of an exception to the #1 Rule of Thumb, but it works because while presented as a whole, each section is separated and could stand on its own, and the font parings don’t jar each other.

Think Contrast and Complement, Not Conflict: Font parings need to look good together or the effect you’re aiming font isn’t going to happen. You want the fonts to be contrasting enough to provide interest without causing conflict or disharmony. Think of the text as another design element. You can also try mixing serif/sans serif fonts. Think cursive with print, fat with skinny, and big with small. Here’s another example of contrast and complement.

In this card by Penny Cork, we have a playful and sweet script font paired with a much plainer serif font for contrast and ease of reading. The text as a whole works well with the overall tone of the card and the occasion/recipient.

It’s Not Always About Two Different Fonts: By using fonts in the same family and choosing different weights, styles or sizes, you can also create visual interest on a card—like using italic for one line or word in a larger size and the rest of the text in a smaller regular style of the same font. Or ALL CAPS and bold paired with italic or regular. See the example below.

The same font is used, but emphasis is given on certain words by using different sizes and weights.

Consider the Kerning: Choose fonts that have similar kerning—that is, the space between the letters. You can manually adjust kerning if necessary. Always keep in mind that “good enough” isn’t good enough. The human eye can detect slight differences, which can turn a great composition into an unsaleable waste of time. Example given below.

There’s no hugekerning disparity in the fonts chosen by Simply Put by Robin, but although each font is different from the rest, as a whole the design works.

Here are some resources that may assist you in your search for fonts that pair well together.

Pinterest Font Combos
Even if the fonts you see paired in these examples aren’t available for commercial use, with a little digging you can usually find an acceptable equivalent.

Dash of Inspiration: Typography – Font Combinations
Doreen explains the Submission Guidelines and gives excellent examples of what’s acceptable and what isn’t. A must read!

Best Practices of Combining Typefaces
While not aimed at greeting cards, it’s still a valuable crash course in the how-to of combining fonts that gives an understanding of the basics.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 13, 2014 7:06 pm

    This is truly a wonderful post. Leading ( line spacing ) is also another element that can make or break a design. If the type hangs together as a unit, the copy will look way more professional. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t understand that working with fonts is an art unto itself and was lost when designers working in PS felt whatever the computer spit out on default settings looked good. More often that’s not the case. Choice of font, leading, and kerning most definitely make or break a design.

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