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Mixing Fonts in a Project

Mixing Fonts in a Project main article image
Posted on June 17, 2021 by Fernanda Rafagnin

Hello everyone! Welcome to another blog post, and this time we’re going to talk about fonts.

Have you ever had a great idea of something to write on a t-shirt, a sticker, or any other craft, but weren’t satisfied with how the fonts went together? Have you ever spent hours looking for the perfect fonts, just to be frustrated with the result and decided on buying someone else’s design? Unfortunately I don’t have an easy recipe for you, but I can give you some insights that should help you create pieces that you’re really proud of, without wasting too much time.

The first and most important thing I can say to you is this: do not mix too many fonts. Three is more than enough, and most projects work perfectly well with two. Using too many fonts will distract the reader and nothing will be emphasized. It can be seen as a mess and not professional enough. Here, like in many cases, less is really more.

types of fonts

This is such a broad subject, that I could go on and on about it. Typography is a really interesting subject to study, and there are lots of great authors on the subject. Right now, we’ll focus on basic things that will help you choose the right font combination for your project. Here is some information you need to know about font styles and how they might be perceived in your project.

Serif fonts (the ones with the thin bits on their ends) are usually associated with elegance, romance and history. They can be considered delicate, mature, formal and classy.

Sans serif fonts (the ones with nothing on their ends) are seen as more contemporary and confident. They have a cleaner look, and can be considered more neutral, casual and approachable.

Slab serif fonts (the ones with the thicker, square serif) are considered more modern than serif fonts, but not as contemporary as sans serif. They can be associated with boldness and adventure.

Script fonts (the ones that look handwritten) are the most used on craft designs. They can be elegant, nostalgic and romantic. They also look approachable, because they are more human and artsy.

And then there are the decorative fonts, that are all different from one another and very specific. They are fun and playful, and can work out really well in specific projects as long as you choose them carefully and don’t overuse them.

How to start on your design

The first thing you want to do is choose what you want to write, obviously. After that, decide which words or sentences you want to put emphasis on. Read it out loud. Hear what you want to focus on. And then, think about what is the feeling you want to convey with this specific design. Do you want it to be funny? Playful? Maybe it needs to be more serious or professional. After you decide that, it will be easier to choose your fonts.

How to make a word stand out?

When you’re creating a design, there are lots of ways to make something stand out. You can use size, weight (that’s the thickness of the font), styles, colors, there are many ways to use contrast to make something pop on your design. But the key is just that: contrast.

We mainly think of contrast as opposing colors, but one of my favorite ways to contrast is to use different weights. A bold font and a thin one can work out great together, as long as they send similar messages.

Try not to use fonts that are too similar, or everything will look the same, but also try not to choose fonts that are too different. You want them to have contrasting looks, but not contrasting ideas. Luckily, there are enough fonts out there to make many nice looking pairings on all kinds of projects.

Another important thing is: do not distort fonts. If you want them to look bigger, change the font size, but when you make them wider or taller without mantaining the ratio, the font loses its form and becomes something totally different, many times making it harder to read, and it looks very unprofessional. If you need to fill your space better, there are lots of tall and wide fonts that can be chosen without having to stretch them.

Let’s analize some font choices.

examples of fonts on yellow background

As we can see here, on the left we have three fonts that clearly don’t look together. The first one is a serif font, and italic, which has a more classy vibe and isn’t the best choice for a comedy quote like this. The second font is also italic, and although it’s thicker than the first one, it doesn’t stand out as much as it should. The third font is rounded and sans serif, which makes it neutral, but it should be smaller, because the name shouldn’t stand out more than the phrase.

On the right, you will see only two fonts being used, one of them is used twice, but in a smaller size so the text will be in evidence and not the name. The second line is the one I chose to stand out, so I put it in a bolder and uppercase font. The choice of a rounded, sans serif font is because it’s fun and casual, good for a television quote. The script font makes it more personal, as if you were listening to the character. It’s very human. Since none of the fonts have serifs and are rounded, it gives them a similar feel, while mantaining the contrast.

examples of fonts on green background

Here you can see four different fonts that have nothing to do with one another. The first one is a very neutral font, without embellishments, but it’s too big compared to the rest of the text, and it’s not the part that needed to be emphasized. The second font is a little bolder but still doesn’t stand out too much from the first one because of the size. Those two could work together in another context, but then the third one is added, which is a font full of swirls, which is playful and romantic, and brings a feeling that doesn’t match the text. Then we have the last one, handwritten, which could work with the first font as well, but here it just adds to the mess.

On the right, you can see again two fonts being used, but this time the handwritten font is paired with a slab serif one, which is used in two ways: one in all caps, and other in lowercase. The slab serif font brings a seriousness to the text while the handwritten one gives a feeling of humanity and approach.

The upcase and lowercase combo is a great way to make the fonts look a little bit different and still mantain a pattern, like using the same font family, for example arial and arial black.

examples of fonts on purple background

On this last image, we will see on the left two script fonts, one in uppercase and one in lowercase. They have the same weight and look pretty much the same. Nothing stands out, even the parts in all caps, even being different fonts. Also, as you can see, script fonts are not to be used in all caps, it makes the font hard to read. Always make sure your text is readable, specially if you’re designing a t-shirt or a piece of decor. Your design has to be easy on the eyes, no matter the distance you’re looking from.

For the piece on the right, I chose only one font. It’s round and sans serif, which is perfect for a young and fun piece like this. To emphasize the pieces I chose, I used uppercase and put them in separate lines, then resized them to fit the sides, which made them bolder and contrasting to the others. Sometimes you don’t need to combine different fonts, you just need to make the same font look different!

To finalize, a little tip

Not every white space needs to be filled. Let your text breathe, don’t just squeeze everything together. It’s easier on the eyes when there is a space between the lines and on the sides, so it becomes more harmonic and visually pleasing.

I hope my tips will help you make beautiful font choices on your designs!

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