How to Choose a Font for Print
Selecting the right font can often be a difficult task given the huge variety of options available, but more difficult still is picking a font for print. Not only must the font be consistent with your existing branding, but it also needs to remain clear in your specific application and print format. We've put together 5 top tips for how to choose a font to help you make your decision.
1: Size Matters
Ultimately one of the most important factors to consider is the size of the final printed text, whether it’s the tiniest details on a product label, or a giant printed banner.
If the text is very small, it is essential to use a font which is has clear and distinct shapes and few decorative elements. Be on the look out for fonts which have a large amount of space between characters (‘kerning’) to further aid legibility. We recommend fonts such as Helvetica or Open Sans. These are both ‘sans serif’ fonts, ones which lack the extra flicks and details seen in others such as Times New Roman. This helps prevent text looking as if it is merging together when printed at small sizes.
2: How vital is the text?
Printed text can range from the trivial to the life saving, so it’s therefore important to consider how important it is for people to quickly and easily understand what is being communicated.
Health and safety information, such as warnings, are normally in fonts such as Helvetica or Arial. While this choice may not be the most creative, their clear and bold design ensures that the text is easy to read, and their bold and black variants help signify their importance.
In contrast, fun labels such as school reward stickers would be nowhere near as exciting or engaging with a plain font! There’s hundreds of fun script, paintbrush-style and decorative fonts available online - just check before downloading whether you need to get a license for their use in print. If you’ve got an Adobe subscription, then you can access all Adobe Fonts for free!
3: Location, Location, Location
It’s all very well using a decorative font for a large format print, but what if it’s actually being read from a considerable distance, or even off-angle? If so, it’s probably best to consider a more restrained font. Luckily, there’s still scope to pick a font which has some personality, such as Futura or Baskerville.
Similar considerations need to be made if you anticipate the lighting being poor, in which case a font which is overly stylised or contains lots of thin strokes is likely to be difficult to read.
4: Match your branding
One of the most important considerations is how the text integrates into your existing branding. If you have internal brand guidelines, these should state in which cases each font can be used and normally account for size and legibility requirements.
If you don’t have a set of guidelines for your brand, it’s best to consider what fonts you have been using already, and if any that are used in your logo can be used. For example, if your shop sign uses a modern sans serif font, continue using something similar rather than introducing something which clashes. If you’re in doubt, essentials such as Arial or Univers (or Caslon or Palatino if you're looking for serif fonts) are typically safe options to go with.
5: Print and Production
A common issue is a font choice which doesn’t work well with a print process. This is really important to consider for any form of printed materials, not just labels. For example, Times New Roman was specifically developed to ensure optimal print quality for production of The Times Newspaper in the 1930s.
Typically, serif fonts that have even shapes and strong lines print best across most processes, whereas calligraphy styles are best suited to high quality digital printing. We're happy to discuss the best options for each of our different production methods and how you can achieve a great label design.
Our Top Fonts
There’s a reason designers despair at the use of the infamous Comic Sans - there’s thousands of alternative fonts which are nearly always more suitable! If you’re stuck for ideas, here’s a list of some popular favourites that are flexible for a wide variety of uses (all available at Adobe Fonts):