Pairing font is not rocket science, or know-how only distinguishable by designers. There are simple tips for us non-designers to follow to help us make amazing looking and aesthetically pleasing designs.
Whether you use Canva, Photoshop or InDesign free fonts can help do the trick and a paid font can help separate you from the rest.
For most of my clients, I either choose fonts for them, if they don’t have any, or I identify the best fonts for them that they have been using. Small companies and brands usually haven’t identified any specific brand identity.
There are a few things I look at when determining fonts for clients (and myself). I stay true to the brands feel, mood, and style. I know that all sounds subjective and it is. The design is subjective to whoever is looking at it. So you have to keep your customers in mind and your brand in mind. What is the message you want to convey with your brand to your customer?
I know you have probably heard over and over that you have to know your customer and that is because it is the #1 thing driving every step you take in your business. Get this right and you can knock it out of the park.
So here are my 5 non-designer’s tips to pairing fonts.
- Serif and Sans Serif
With feet or without? That is the question. Well sort of, but know there are usually two types of fonts. You might see fonts named Serif and those Sans and that is what it means. By “feet” I mean the small decorative flourishes at the ends of some of the strokes of the letters and symbols. The Font Times New Roman is a Serif font. Arial is a sans serif font without the flourishes. The font you are reading is sans-serif.
Some fonts have families of font that will include a serif and sans-serif version, these pair well if you use them correctly. But otherwise, I wouldn’t use serif and sans-serif together if they are not the same font family. It will create a conflicting contrast as we’ll learn below.
This is super important to your design. Usually, the different levels of a hierarchy of your fonts determine when a different font or weight is used.
For example, if you use Canva, in the font section of the elements are font groupings that Canva has paired for you. The pairings include a hierarchy including font size, height, weight, the spacing between letters or lines of a font. Paired with large text and smaller text together – sometimes 2-3 levels of hierarchy. Like in this image. There are three levels of Hierarchy and 2 different fonts used.
“Succulent Sundays” top of the hierarchy, it’s largest and bold and stands out most, and intended for you to read first.
“Weekend Sales” is next in the hierarchy, different font than Succulent Sundays, slightly smaller, and intended to read second
“Get 20% off on all plants this June at MLK Flowers” the same font as the Weekend Sale, but smaller and includes the details of the sale.
You can see how this rule can do two things 1) direct your audience to read what you want in the order you want and 2) helps create a pleasing visual to the eyes.
This is something I see people get wrong all the time in design. They try to tack on too many different fonts and position them in random spots all over the graphic. They do not stick to a simple hierarchy rule, creating chaos in the design.
- Font Families/Typeface
A typeface is the grouping of fonts. A font family.
A font is an individual size and weight of a font.
For example, Aileron Regular and Aileron Heavy and Aileron Thin are all fonts. Aileron regular, heavy and light are a typeface or a font family.
Don’t use more than 2-3 fonts in one design. I like to use 2 fonts together and one of my favorites combinations is a block non-serif font with a script font and then toss in the “light” or “thin” version of the block font for the 3rd font if I need another layer of hierarchy.
Use fonts that are in the same family to create appealing visuals. We talk about contrast below when you
Another fuzzy concept. But let’s start easy, do any of these resonate with the goals of your brand? Fun, fresh, professional, masculine, clean, crisp, light, simple, minimalist, fancy, rustic, retro, bold, impact, simple, straight forward, timeless, formal, glamor, high fashion, dominant, futuristic, influential, distinct, forward-thinking, modern, quirky, friendly, eccentric, fun, social, child-like, they, edgy, sophisticated, cool, casual, pretty, feminine, abstract, grungy, geometric, trendy, old-school, vintage, rustic.
How your design (or brand) “feels.” Fonts have personality. A tone, feel or spirit. They can convey how you want your customer to feel when they see your design. Don’t mix professional moods with eccentric or funny moods that contradict.
Feminine, rustic, light and clean. Is a great example of a Farmhouse Blogger.
Clean, Minimalist, Masculine might be great for Dollar Shave Club.
There are SO many moods and this list is just a sample. Pick a couple that go together or just one if you can. Then start searching for fonts that fit that description. Check out Pinterest and type in some of those moods and add “font” to the end of your search and see what you find!
Just as in color, we want to contrast our fonts. But you don’t want them to conflict. Again, super clear right? Ok, here are some ideas.
Font pairings that are very similar but just slightly different don’t have enough contrast to be pleasing to the eye, and this will create visual conflict in your design.
Fonts that are completely unrelated and in different families can also create conflict. It looks random and haphazard if you have a funny and playful font paired with a professional formal font.
Instead, use fonts in the same family. Fonts that share some similarity but have contrast in some way work well. Such as Montserrat Bold, Montserrat Light contrast but are the same family. Weight and size of the font can help create contrast as well.
As in my previous example of the block font with a script font, that is a great way to provide high contrast without conflict. Fonts should share the same mood and personality when you do this but it can be highly appealing to the eye.
My favorite thing to do when I am figuring out colors and fonts for my brand is to head over to Pinterest and look up brand boards, color palettes and font pairings that I like. It inspires me and helps me sift through specific colors related to the brand and styles and feels I like. Then I begin to create some mock-up ideas in Canva.
Once you figure out your pairings you should only need to do it once. It can act as your guide to all future designs. Consistent brand fonts and pairings in your designs create consistency and brand recognition.
Tying all the things together can sometimes feel overwhelming. Read this article, and then trust your gut. Google or search Pinterest for font pairings and pick once you like. When you place them on designs always remember, less is more.
Here are some of my Favorite Tools to help:
This is such a fun site. You can click the “Generate” button at the top until you find fonts you like. On the Left “lock” the fonts you like, click generate again and build a look you like.
Choose a font you like to get started and Canva will produce different combinations for you. Sometimes you only get a few pairing ideas from this tool.
You can choose colors and make your own palette or upload an image and autogenerate a palette and even adjust the palette.
Free Font Sites
Paid Font Sites
You can get some free downloads weekly if you sign up for their emails. This includes fonts and design elements. But you can purchase fonts and templates through this site. One of my favorites.
I can promise you once you start thinking about these 5 things in your designs, they will eventually become second nature to you. You will have trained your brain to see what looks great and works well. But until you feel the ease of it, check off the elements of your font pairing using this article.
Want more design tips for non-designers? You can join my Content Creation with Canva Facebook Group, where I share all my content creation tips for small business owners, bloggers, and entrepreneurs.