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The Fundamental Guide On Using Fonts

Chelsey Devauld January 24, 2018

There is no question, I love typography. I was curious because I had never checked, my Font Library has 690 font files to choose from. Some say addiction, I say love.

When I began my journey to becoming a professional graphic designer, I knew that I didn’t know a lot of things. My thirst for learning lead me to some pretty awesome online educational courses. One was actually taught by someone who I had been following for some time and had an enormous amount of respect for, Alma Loveland. Can you imagine getting real feedback and emails back and forth with one of your favourite influencers in your industry? It was awesome, to say the least.  I highly recommend using atly to learn everything from photography to cake decorating to interior decorating. Heck, they even have a course there on Copyright Law.

Now, you came for The Fundamental Guide On Using Fonts, and that is what you shall have.

I am going to go through these rules step by step and at the bottom will be a lovely printout that you can keep at your desk!


#1. Do not stretch a typeface.  Ever.

I completely understand why you would think this is a good idea and nobody would be able to tell, but believe me, you can tell. It is noticeable and does not look professional. If you need a typeface to fit a certain space, please find one that will. Do not stretch it.

#2. Do not use All Caps for Script typefaces.

Script, calligraphy, hand-written, and some typefaces labelled as Display, all fall under this rule. It just doesn’t look good. I realize you may need to emphasize text in a sentence at times but understand that it will look so much better and clearer if you choose to do this another way. Calligraphy typefaces were created in a certain way so each letter flows to the next in a beautiful way. Using all caps will break this awesome flow and will completely undermine the design and emphasis that you had intended.

#3. Up to Two Different Typefaces, MAXIMUM Three

There was a wall art trend that started a while ago now that everyone was going nuts for. They were sayings, quotes, rules, etc… that were displayed in homes. And some were gorgeous! And some were a little crazy on the typefaces. Each line, it seemed to whoever was in the designer’s chair, needed to have a different font. There are very few instances where it’s ok to use that many different typefaces.

Now some fonts come with families. For example, if you look at Merriweather on Google Fonts, you will see that you can get it as a lovely family that includes Light, Light Italic, Regular, Bold, and Black with Italic options for each. So when considering the number of typefaces to use in a design, you can count one family as one.

Remember, the eye loves looking at consistency. So please choose two, three if absolutely necessary typefaces when considering your design.

#4. Use contrasting typefaces, not two that are similar.

You know what I absolutely love about Google fonts as well? When you click on a certain font, it will provide you with popular pairings and let you see possibilities right away. Check out the video below to see my example of pairing Roboto Slab!

Contrast is good! Go ahead and try pairing a serif with a sans serif font. I have found that by pairing fonts with similar heights and width is a good place to start. I will get more into pairing fonts on another day and more in-depth. Stay tuned!

#5. Kerning, it’s a thing…

Kerning is the amount of space between your letters, and it can make things look awkward at times. Font files do not automatically display with the best optical display. So, the letters often look a little… off and the flow is just not there. Kerning is completely what your eye perceives as a good flow, and will help your eye “like” what it sees. Also, don’t be confused with “spacing” as opposed to kerning. Kerning is a different concept than just spacing. For a more in depth guide to kerning alone, Janie Kliever has written a great guide over at Canva. (Which is interesting because you cannot adjust kerning with Canva, only spacing.)

Here is an example of no kerning and with kerning:

Can you see the difference?
Pay attention to the areas I highlighted in blue?
Which one does your eye like better?

So here is some good news and some bad news.
The good news is: there are some programs that will automatically help you with kerning with a click of a button!
The bad news is: a lot of popular and free programs do not help with this.

Here is a list of programs that help and don’t help:

Programs without Kerning Support

  • Canva
  • Google Docs
  • PicMonkey
  • Stencil

Programs with Kerning Support

  • Microsoft Office (Format> Font> Advanced)
  • All Adobe Creative Suite Programs (Illustrator, Photoshop, Indesign, etc..)
  • Inkscape
  • Vectr
  • LibreOffice

This is only a short list. Feel free to comment below if you know of a popular document or graphics program that I have missed!

Also, don’t forget to download or Pin this easy visual guide!



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