Font Pairing Like a Pro

Font Pairing Like a Pro
November 29, 2016 Tanya Friedland

Have you ever looked at a poster and thought, “Oh font yes!” only to try to replicate its beauty and find yourself disappointed? Pairing fonts can be a delicate art, but in this guide we’ll rip back the curtain and show you what you need to know to create designs flowing with textuality.

Know your font types

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There are many different types of fonts, but in PicMonkey we have five main types: Serif, Sans Serif, Handwriting, Script, and Display. PicMonkey also has a wide selection of themed fonts, but we’re gonna stick with these for now, since they’re the most basic.

  • Serif. A serif is like a teeny hat, mitten, or boot that adorns fonts like Georgia and Cardo. They give your text a distinguished look and are tres classique since they’ve been around since before Times Old Roman. (No, seriously. Ancient Rome.) Because of their storied past, people tend to perceive them as being trustworthy or lending validity to your words.
  • Sans Serif. Like their name implies, Sans Serif fonts are fonts without serifs. This gives them an overall clean, modern look. Sans serifs like Arial and Verdana are often used on minimalist designs and are believed to be more legible on a screen.
  • Handwriting. Handwriting fonts can look vastly different from font to font since they’re intended to mimic someone’s writing. None of the handwriting fonts on are cursive, but some of them are bold and loud, like Edo, and others are more reserved and subtle, like Sue Ellen Francisco. Each of these fonts is more casual and approachable than a serif or a sans serif and might also feel more trustworthy. These fonts are good for craft projects and cards.
  • Script. PicMonkey’s Script fonts also come with a lot of variety. Some of them, like Bilbo Swash Caps are more calligraphic and others, like La Belle Aurora, look more like someone’s handwritten script. These are elegant fonts for special occasions like wedding or shower invitations.
  • Display. Display fonts are our quirky attention-grabbers. Spanning lots of different styles and feelings, they make great headlines and are just generally good at emphasizing your point. They’d be hard to read in a body text, but they’re great for catching someone’s eye. A font like Backspacer almost looks like art in and of itself.

Choose a font with feeling

When you choose your fonts, keep in mind the feeling that you want your audience to have when they read your poster/advertisement/flyer/invitation/etc.

Did you know that fonts have feels too? Each font has a unique personality and you wanna make sure that your readers are picking up on the vibe that you’re putting down. When you look at fonts, ask yourself how they make you feel. Then ask yourself if that’s how you want your audience to feel.

Imagine reading an important business document in a display font like Budmo Jiggler. It would rapidly become hard to read and people are less likely to take what you’re saying seriously because it doesn’t seem like you take yourself seriously. In that situation, it would be better to stick with a Serif font.

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The font on the left feels like it’s having an identity crisis. On the right, the pairing is as serene as the wide open field behind it.

And remember, don’t go nuts with too many fonts; stick to two or three tops. Think about it this way; you might love your polka-dotted rain jacket, neon knee-highs, and ’coon skin hat, but if you throw them on all together you’re gonna look like a hot mess because they’re all competing for attention. Think complementary, not competing.

Find a balanced contrast

Font pairing is all about striking the right balance between attractive opposites. Our design templates are chock full of sexy font pairings, and below we’ll break down which fonts we’ve paired and a few different ways of pairing them.

Big and small

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Woodland Glide uses two serif fonts, Ferrum and Droid Serif. Neither font is particularly busy, so they’re not competing for your attention like pairing two display fonts might be. Because they’re somewhat similar the contrast is drawn by using the uppercase Ferrum font (“Class & Glass” in the second example) and making it several sizes bigger than the Droid Serif text.

Notice how this also creates a hierarchy. The title of the piece grabs your eye so you know to read it first. The subheader is clearly demarcated as secondary information.

Modern and playful

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Moonglow uses League Gothic and Blackjack, a sans serif and a script font respectively. League Gothic is clean and modern while Blackjack lends a fun, stylish feeling. In the example on the right, “Summer” and “Blues” are actually styled differently. “Summer” is all lowercase and “Blues” is uppercase. “Blues” is also a larger font size. However, you probably read them together as one unit because they are the same style and color, and together they take up one solid block of space.

The header contrasts starkly with the subhead text because it’s smaller, a darker color, and a different font.

Thick and thin

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Nicely shows that serif fonts can have personality too. It uses Chunk Five, a heavy serif font and Lato, a light sans serif font. The contrast between heavy and light and big and small is clearly at play here.

Note the difference between how Chunk Five looks on Nicely and how it looks on the doggie park card. Keeping it all lowercase as opposed to uppercase gives the font a more friendly, approachable feel. The uppercase treatment makes it seem bolder and more impressive.

Uppercase and lowercase

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Here’s an example of two fonts that could just as easily be your focal point. Lumberjack uses Montserrat and Thirsty Script and in that example, Montserrat is clearly front and center since “Seasoned Firewood” is quite a bit larger than everything else on that Facebook banner. However, on the Parkside banner below Thirsty Script takes center stage.

Both fonts are weighted similarly (when they’re the same size, they’re both equally thick) and so you can create a contrast by making one larger and the other smaller, playing with what’s uppercase or lowercase, or changing the color, like the example on the right.

Here are a couple more delicious font pairings to delight your eyes:

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Tanya Friedland
Tanya is a copywriter at PicMonkey, a company that has greatly improved her life by allowing her to Zombify her friends and Santa-ify her enemies. A native Seattleite, she dreams of one day being a contestant on The Price Is Right.