How to Pair Fonts
If you’re a newbie designer, you might think pairing some fonts isn’t essential to delivering a high-quality design, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Creating stunning typeface combinations is an admirable skill which will play a vital role and increase the overall value of the designs you’ll deliver.
This article will teach you how to pair fonts and explain basics, principles, and examples, so keep reading!
What is a font pair?
A font pair is a set of two matching fonts you will use in your design. Establishing a font pair will set the foundation of all materials connected to this design, such as logos, website content, social media visuals, e-books, and more.
When you learn how to pair fonts that complement each other, you’ll increase readability, achieve clean aesthetics, balance the content, and highlight the contrast in your design. High-quality font pairings in UX/UI design mean users will have a seamless experience interacting with the product and bolster their mission to achieve a specific goal.
Before diving into principles and examples, let’s establish the four most popular so-called families of fonts: Serif, Sans-serif, Script, and Decorative. Let’s go over their essential characteristics before we dive into how to pair fonts.
“Serif” is a term that describes small strokes you can find on each letter. Serif fonts consist of thick and thin strokes that create easy-to-read content that looks traditional at the same time. That’s why they’re ideal for newspapers or printed books. When it comes to design, you’ll find that serif fonts usually go hand-in-hand with their opposites – sans serif fonts. So, if you find yourself doubting which way to go, combining these two types of fonts is a good practice.
Sans-serif fonts, you’ve guessed it right, are fonts without serifs (strokes) attached to each letter. These minimal fonts contain clean and semi-rounded details. You’ll find these fonts in countless website designs, blogs, and e-books because they simultaneously look simple, clean, and modern.
If you can envision at least one font resembling handwriting, you’re probably thinking about a script font! To an untrained eye, script fonts can look the same as decorative fonts, but if you want to know how to pair fonts, you must know how to spot the difference. Script fonts have more fluid strokes and are less even than decorative fonts.
Designers usually use script fonts for birthday cards, wedding invitations, and short headlines. You can combine them nicely with serif and sans-serif fonts that usually fulfil a supporting duty.
Most decorative fonts are cursive, and they usually flaunt more detail than other font types. That’s why designers choose decorative fonts to create branding (such as logos or brand messages). Decorative fonts serve as the focal point of a textual design, where serif and sans-serif fonts accompany them as supporting text.
Branding and style
When choosing a font style representing a specific brand, you’ll need to consider multiple factors. What works in one industry will look absurd in the other, so you’ll need to learn how to pair fonts that will fit the business.
Before finding that perfect font, you’ll need to list particular adjectives that describe your business. That way, you’ll have a more precise direction where you want to go with your fonts.
Suppose you want to design branding for a medical corporation. In that case, you’ll have to forget decorative, curly, flashy and dramatic fonts and opt for minimal, clean, tidy and almost sterile variants.
On the other hand, if you’re designing a digital product for kids, such as videogames and other interactive products, you’ll have some more space for creativity, accompanied by large and clear fonts that might include tech-y or futuristic notes.
Once you list the adjectives that fit your business and its future font, it’s time to brainstorm. When choosing a typeface for your design, you must avoid two mistakes – choosing a font that doesn’t match your brand, or choosing a font that matches it too much, and yes, that exists.
The key to choosing the perfect font is finding the ideal middle ground that will subtly represent your brand’s feeling. To know how to pair fonts, you must learn how to set the initial tone.
For example, if you’re designing a website for Egyptian-inspired jewellery, you must avoid Papyrus font – and yes, that is an order. Moreover, you’ll need to avoid technical and futuristic fonts.
What makes a good or bad font
Typography will always convey your message, but if you make an early mistake, it can do it in the wrong way. And yes – bad fonts also mean weird and illegible characters, but that’s not where the story ends. A bad font has no purpose and communicates lousy with those who interact with it.
For example, Comic Sans is not a deficient font on its own. Still, when used on serious websites or other digital products, it communicates dealing with an outdated and unpolished business that doesn’t care about its image and won’t pay much attention to its users.
Let’s just say it’s better to keep it for funny birthday cards and… well, we can’t think of other occasions. 😅
On the other hand, using Helvetica or Times New Roman when you want to express playfulness, coziness, or adventure is also wrong. To know how to pair fonts, you’ll have to learn to recognize what you want them to say about your business and product.
Legibility indicates how you can identify typeface’s glyphs as characters and words, while it also shows how to distinguish the characters from one another. If you want to know how to pair fonts successfully, you shouldn’t confuse legibility with readability, even though legibility highly affects readability.
For example, sans-serif fonts boast the highest legibility.
Additionally, serif fonts are still very legible even though they contain more detail than serifs. That’s because our eyes have already become accustomed to their appearance. After all, we see it in books, newspapers, and similar digital products. You can easily pair serif fonts with other serif fonts or sans-serif fonts, which is one of the safest combinations when you want to deliver clean, minimal, and modern design.
The purpose of a font in your design is to enhance it and convey its message correctly. Fonts used for a logo should look aesthetically pleasing and encourage the target audience to develop an emotional connection. So, if the audience can’t read or recognize the text, they won’t bother to understand it, especially if they’re unfamiliar with your product or business.
It’s that simple! That’s why you must know how to pair fonts to ensure maximum legibility on desktop, mobile, and print (when applicable).
When to use more than one font family
If you’re new to design and the world of typography, it’s a good practice to start by opting for fonts from the same family or even a single typeface. Most of the time, fonts from the same typeface will complement each other and provide a harmonical combination, so choosing one typeface will ensure a cohesive and clean design. With experience and eye training, you’ll learn how to pair fonts from different families to achieve the same successful effect.
Many typefaces offer a wider range of variations you can use for different purposes. Some typefaces include italics, bold, and condensed or extended options. Such variations will enable creativity, but try not to play too much with all of the variants.
But, sometimes, you’ll encounter situations where choosing more than one font family is a good and recommended practice.
For example, if you want to convey a mood of a lifestyle portal, a wedding photography page or a travel blog, you can choose one decorative or script font and complement it with a sans-serif font. That way, you’ll share your product’s adequate “personality” while maintaining a clean and modern look. Designers that know how to pair fonts keep in mind that Decorative and Script fonts should always exist in the forms of headlines and similar focus points and never as the body of the text.
One of the critical reasons for the success of pairing Sans-serif and Serif fonts is the contrast they create. But, you can also achieve contrast in other ways, such as size, style, weight, spacing, and even color.
They don’t say opposites attract without reason, so, for example, if you combine a massive, bold font with a thin and tall font, they will nicely complement each other. This difference will create a distinction between these fonts and allow them to exist as individual pieces of information. You’ll also achieve hierarchy.
Once you know how to pair fonts, you’ll gain immunity to the trap of taking this principle with frivolity. Just because the fonts are different doesn’t mean they will automatically complement each other and provide harmony. Typefaces that share some qualities or have similar proportions, such as the exact height of lowercase letters, are more likely to look pleasant, even if they are different in appearance.
When you want to combine two completely distinct fonts but make sure they will create a successful pairing, make sure they share some of the following attributes:
- X-height and glyph width: X-height is the height between the bottom and top of lower case letters, like “x” or “a”, and glyph width shows how wide the characters
- Weight: Some fonts have thick lines, so we call them heavyweight, and others with thin lines are lightweight fonts
- The shape of characters: If you want to identify the characters’ bodies, look at “o” or “a” in five different fonts. You’ll find they don’t have the exact dimensions. Some will look more round and some more oval. You can also take a look at the parts that reach up (ascenders) and down (descenders) in a “d” or a “p”, for example or the shoulder of the letter “n”
- The direction of the axis: Draw an imaginary line through each letter and pay attention to their angles. Distinct typefaces will have diverse tips in their axes, showing how well the fonts will work together
Examples of successful font pairing
Now that you learned what to consider before deciding how to pair fonts, it’s time to look at some of the most successful font pairs.
We hope this extensive article on how to pair fonts will help you on your way to achieving harmonious combinations and picture-perfect design every single time!
If you want to master typography while being guided by industry professionals, join our Ultimate UI Typography Masterclass! This video masterclass covers everything – from typography basics to choosing suitable typefaces and how to format the text to ensure brilliant user interface designs.
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We wish you a happy font pairing! 🥳
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