The Art of Mixing Fonts: A Guide For Crafting Pros
Fonts are kind of magical. Look, not all of us were born clasping a nib-pen, able to whisk around ink like some kind of calligraphic genius. Some of us go to write some lovely lettering on our latest chalk art, only to end up with third-grader cursive.
Fonts are an amazing art form. There’s a font out there that can convey any emotion you can think of. Rounded fonts are friendlier, sharp edges are more serious; a serif font is easy to read and has a classic look, while sans-serifs look clean and modern. There are fonts that mimic casual handwriting, elegant calligraphy, and yes—even third-grader cursive.
The best thing about the world of fonts is how useful they are. Fonts can make even a simple crafting project look professional and beautifully lettered. Fonts can be typeset on a computer to print and trace, used as inspiration while writing by hand, or even cut out on a vinyl plotter.
In order to make fonts work for your crafts, it’s important to understand how different fonts work together to create a visual flow. To really get a handle on mixing fonts, let’s talk about some basic typography principles.
Before we go all mad scientist on these typefaces, let’s lay down some ground rules.
- Go Easy On The Variety —In general, it’s best to stick with only two or three contrasting fonts. Don’t go too crazy with it. The more fonts you bring into the mix, the more difficult it will be for your viewer to understand the underlying feeling of your work.
- Mix Display or Script Fonts with Simple Counter-Parts — To create visual contrast, script fonts or large display fonts (novelty fonts or headline fonts) should be paired with a simple serif or sans-serif font.
- Pick A Text Focus Point —When you pick out your fonts, choose which part of your text will be the focal point and determine your font usage around that word or phrase.
Fonts and Crafts
So, understanding typography is all well and good, but how can you incorporate this into your artwork? There are some simple ways to create cool crafts using online fonts.
For example, let’s say you’d like to add a custom phrase to ceramic pottery. One way to do this is to lay out your text on a computer, then print it out. Use a pencil to color graphite over the backside of the paper, then trace the text onto the pottery firmly to transfer it to the surface. You can then use the pencil lines to paint in your fonts.
Another idea is to create a custom t-shirt. You can use a vinyl plotter to cut out the text you create on a computer, then paste that vinyl onto a stretched piece of mesh. Finally, feed screen printing ink through the stencil onto a shirt.
If you’re unsure of how to incorporate your sweet font combo into your artwork, take the first step by printing out your typeset letters in several different sizes. Then, cut the words out and place them over your project of choice. You’re looking to see if the size and shape fit your project well before committing. From there, it depends on what your project is made from. If the surface is rough and takes graphite well, like paper or acrylic paint, then the pencil transfer method is the way to go. If the surface is slick, doesn’t take pencil, or is difficult to draw on, there’s another method you can try. Trace the lettering onto a piece of tracing paper. Then, trace it again onto your project by going over the lines you just drew with an inky permanent marker. Finally, remove the tracing paper and perfect the lettering by hand.
If you’re creating baked goods like cookies coated in royal icing, you can also use this method with food coloring markers to create a stencil on each cookie’s surface.
Fonts can make your homemade product look professional, polished, and make hand-lettering easier. Most of us haven’t spent a lot of time developing a calligraphy style. Fonts can help you bridge the gap and create beautiful calligraphy logo design, outstanding typography posters, or elaborate business presentation that properly emphasis and enhance the words you choose more easily.
To get those creative juices flowing, let’s explore some awesome font mixes for your next project.
Bold and Beautiful
Bold, geometric fonts pair wonderfully with handwritten fonts. The strong lines of the geometric font contrast with the delicate, thin lines of handwriting. A large, dark font is perfect for bold ideas and the handwriting is a gentle or feminine conclusion.
Henerale Bold is a geometric Sans Serif font that provides a balanced contrast to the skinny and cool Oh Twenty font. In the bold and beautiful combo, Oh Twenty is the more eye-catching of the two, as its interesting shapes draw the eye in and rounded scripts add beauty to the craft.
Maode is a geometric font with bold letter shape choices. Its appearance is somewhat futuristic, with a bit of an unnerving level of individuality to some of the lettering. Hajar Bleh is a handwriting font with a textured brush look to it. Try layering Maode in bold and place Hajar Bleh just slightly below, with some of the ascenders gently overlapping, it will look just perfect!
Proxisol is a geometric font with a calm regularity to it. Its bold lines and solid weight give a sense of stability and strength. Ladybug, however, is the handwriting of a stressed-out graphic designer. These contrasting fonts serve as the perfect foil for one another—one represents safe tranquility, while the other exudes worry. This font combination would really sing on a project that represents emotional contrast.
RETRO MEETS REALITY
Retro fonts are really in vogue. They bring a sense of fun, nostalgia, and whimsy to any project they grace. When you mix them with a minimalist font, a retro design suddenly feels modern again. Sleek lines of minimalist fonts gracefully bring the soft curves of the past into modern-day.
Retro mixed with modern minimalist, though currently trendy, is a timeless look. This contrasting font combo is perfect for creating wall art for your work or home, hand-lettering cards, or even apparel.
Letterline has a whimsical, happy feel to it that a lot of retro fonts bring to the table. Its descenders swoosh and loop into elegant curves that reminds the viewer of smiles and grace. Ageo, on the other hand, is minimalist, clean, and simple. If you looked up “modern font” in the dictionary, Ageo would be waving back at you.
This type of contrast is best with the handwriting font used largely and prominently, followed by the contrasting minimalist font used in smaller letters below. These two font types don’t stack together easily, but they create a timeless contrast perfect for any cheerful or optimistic verbiage.
Valencia isn’t like a lot of retro fonts out there. Instead of rounded edges, its sharp corners invoke an almost noir-like imagery. BD Colonius is a modern minimalist font that stepped right out of the Great Gatsby, with a heavy art deco influence.
Together, these fonts play off each other well by holding similar themes while still contrasting. Valencia is perfect for bold headlines or old Hollywood film noir-themed projects with BD Colonius placed beautifully below it. To further enhance the effect, increase the kerning on BD Colonius. It will really make the contrast pop.
Yolanda is a super fun font that harkens back to the flashy aesthetic of the 1980s. Combine it with a favorite modern-day font, Treyton, which is a clean and simple minimalist font devoid of any flashiness. This will allow your retro-chic Yolanda messaging to shine bright like a roller-rink disco ball under the flashing colored lights.
This font combination would do well when creating projects in the 1980s, vaporwave, or campy science fiction aesthetic.
SOMETHING LOOPY, SOMETHING LIGHT
Loopy, flowing cursive pairs beautifully with thin strokes and sharp corners of a light sans-serif font. This combination is classic and looks amazing on applications like handmade wedding invitations. The cursive font conveys a sense of warmth, while the light, skinny strokes of light sans-serif lettering draws attention to important information in a classic way.
Try using loopy and light font combinations on hand-drawn greeting cards, invitations, graduation announcements, or on any project you want to have an air of whimsical elegance. For an extra boost, trace the cursive font in foil or metallic inks.
Love Heart is the perfect font for a celebration. It is a calligraphic font with striking swashes. When paired with the modern thin sans serif, Bookrack, Love Heart gives a unique minimal design vibe. A perfect duo for the modern designs.
The contrasting shapes of these two typefaces are a stellar duo to grace your handcrafted cards, guestbooks, and party favors for a graduation or wedding.
Tynabella is a loopy font that feels a little mysterious or sexy. It’d be perfect as the main font on witchy Halloween crafts or any project you want to have a femme fatale sort of appeal. Parsnipity is a light font that contrasts with it nicely, giving the entire piece an air of mysterious elegance.
The flat top of Sahar when written in caps lets Amelina easily rest upon its top. Sahar has a classic, feminine appeal and is easy to read. Amelina is a fun font, with chunky lines that run through its loops like a rollercoaster. This font combination would work best for projects that celebrate the ladies in your life—like gifts for a fun-loving ladyboss or partner-in-crime.
Grungy, textured fonts with imperfected edges and distorted bodies are especially striking when paired with a well-contrasted font. The downside to using these types of fonts in handmade crafts is the trouble that comes with replicating them. These types of fonts work best for applications where you can print them—for example, in papercrafting, decoupaging, or even screen printing.
When used properly, the result gives a striking spookiness and feels rebellious—sometimes even a bit punk rock. Other grunge fonts go beyond the rebellious and hit notes of spookiness, which are perfect for Halloween.
Brewok is a distorted sans serif font that looks like it was pulled right off the cover of an underground grunge band’s latest LP. Paired with Pharosi which features thick, marker-like lines that were written with an unsteady hand, this pairing would be perfect for a project that makes a strong social statement.
LL Rubber Grotesque is a grungy, distorted bold font with crosses instead of rounded counters. This font is striking and even a little disconcerting. Combined with the signature-style of Stayreed, these two fonts would work best in works that focus on rock music, alt culture, or spooky artwork.
Last Words …
There’s a lot of time, energy and skill that goes into every craft you create. Whether you’re painting, printmaking, or even practicing calligraphy, fonts have a place on the crafter’s table. The best way to figure out how to add stunning font contrasts to your artwork is to just experiment and learn through our amazing craft community. Try printing out some of these font’s letter sheets and practice writing with them, drawing them, or transferring them to your artwork. You just might unlock a whole new world of calligraphic genius—even if your cursive skills aren’t so hot.
Thank you Ayesha Ambreen for writing this inspiring article. See more of Ayesha Ambreen here.