How To Choose The Best Fonts for Print Jobs

How To Choose The Best Fonts for Print Jobs

The fonts you choose can create a powerful first impression. Whatever your project- leaflet, business card or letterhead, there’s an art to picking font combinations that will make your printed designs stand out and help give your message impact.

Fonts are typically split into two types; serif and sans-serif. In Drew Eric Whitman’s book, Cashvertising he showed that certain fonts are naturally easier to read. 12% of readers were able to successfully understand a sans serif paragraph compared to 67% for serif paragraphs.

These differences can be exploited to produce print design with the most visual impact.

(Featured image by Derek Bowers)

More than Just a Great Body

Whatever you’re printing you’ll have a message you want to impart; be it your contact details, your company’s mission statement or your carefully designed fan-mail to Justin Bieber.

Don’t be tempted by a statement font for your body text, as this can make the most important points indecipherable. Also it’s best to avoid script or handwriting fonts as most seem to have taken doctor’s handwriting as their model, as so are difficult to read.

Serif fonts are designed with additions and flourishes that mean they are easier to read. The letters tend to flow together, so that the eye is drawn across the text. If in doubt, go with the crowd. Garamond is very popular with designers and is used for a wide-range of purposes, while Bookman is thought to be a good alternative. What’s key is to choose fonts that blend in, as an extreme choice will distract from the content. Avoid mono-spaced fonts as they draw attention to individual letters rather than words.

There are no hard and fast rules but the guidance is there for a reason; because it works. Serif fonts are thought to be more serious whereas sans serif fonts lend a more informal tone. Ultimately you need to make sure body text is readable. Express your extravagant side by choosing overstated fonts for headlines, logos and graphics.

The Art of a Good Title

Titles and headings are used to give order to a layout. Whether you’re a tabloid scanner or a broadsheet reader headlines are used to grab your attention and draw you in. For business or homemade birthday cards, the ultimate goal is to spark interest and guide the eye around the page.

Sans-serif fonts, as the name suggests, are without the serif trimmings. Readability is still important but there is often more freedom to use more decorative choices. However the tone of the design needs to be considered.

The feel of Comic Sans isn’t suitable for a letterhead but may be appropriate for a personal photobook. Whatever you choose be consistent. This is important to give a cohesive professional feel, rather just a collection of your favorite fonts.

To make your headlines stand out against your body text the take home message is contrast. This can be achieved using the distinction between serif and sans-serif. To make the most of fonts you need to realize that it’s not just about one font, but how they work together to form an impressive layout.

Can you see what I see?

It can be counter-intuitive to choose fonts for printing from a screen. Make sure your screen is showing what your printer will produce, using the brightness and contrast adjustments.

To be sure, once you have a short list of font combinations, print out headings and text to get a proper idea of its visual impact and suitability. To make sure they give the impression you are looking for show them to family and friends. They should give you an accurate opinion of contrast, size and readability.

For The Love of Fonts

Once you realize the power of the right font combination to elevate your projects, you may find time disappears as you ‘um and ah’ over different fonts. When you find an effective font or a great combination, save it. Write it down until you have a reference list that will save you time and headaches. BonFx have started you off with 19 font combination suggestions

The days of low-quality fonts are gone, even for the most inexperienced desktop publisher.  The wonderful world of the web means that there are loads of professional quality fonts to download and add to your collection, many of which are free. Smashing Magazine have collated the 40 best free fonts here.

Embrace your new found passion for all things typeface. If you can’t get enough, see them given the respect of an art-form on I love typography.

Despite the advent of online content and e-readers, print designs are still out there. The font your select can have an incredible impact on your message, tone and audience, so choose carefully. There is no right and wrong answer but for a tip on not what to choose – the Top 5 Worst Fonts For Printing might be a good first port of call.

Have you got any ideas on how to choose the best fonts? Share your comments below.

Elise Lévêque is a social media fanatic who likes to share. Although she spends a lot of her time online she’s still attached to her desktop printer and the possibilities it holds. She blogs for Cartridge Shop

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(4) responses

Tim Morrison

June 12, 2013

Hi Elise,

Nice article and thanks for the links, especially the font combinations. It would seem that I am one of those people that find it hard to make a decision when it comes to choose something from all those fonts out there. Where does the time go? :o)

Tim

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elise

June 18, 2013

Hi Tim, it was my pleasure! It’s always hard to make the decision, just try to find the relevant one which will suit your message and audience xx.

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Danny

June 26, 2013

Great article, and I also love working on font combinations. Thanks for the links.

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H. A. Zia

November 27, 2016

Excellent, helpful guidance on print typography. Thank you!

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