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How to Choose the Best Font Combinations: The Ultimate Guide

Last time we covered some of the basic principles when pairing fonts and gave some existing fan favourites. Now, we’re going to be breaking down how you can implement some fundamental font pairing rules and choose your own unique font pairing. If you’re short on time and would like to pick a pre-existing font pairing you can check out a list of our top 15 favourite font combinations that will undoubtedly complement your whatever creative design venture you’re currently working on.

Whether you’re working on a project, designing a poster, formatting a novel or working on a brand identity, it is important to understand which fonts to pair together in a way that is visually and aesthetically pleasing. That’s where we come in! Sometimes pre-existing font pairings don’t quite fit your vision and it can be beneficial to create your own.

In this article we’re going to be looking at some of the key techniques that you can use to effectively mix and match different fonts as a way to enhance your designs.

The Basics of Combining Fonts

Let’s start at the beginning. Generally speaking, fonts are split into two major categories – body fonts and display fonts. Display fonts are usually used for headings, anything decorative or intended to be eye catching. In contrast, body fonts are mean to be readable, simple and therefore less bold. It is up to you as a creative to distinguish which text is best suited for which font type. 

Before we dive into the specifics let’s take a look at the 4 main rules of font pairing:

Aim for Harmony Not Conflict

When deciding between which fonts to pair, it is important to take into consideration whether they create harmony or conflict. Conflicting fonts are often those that are too complex, bold or decorative together. In this case, fonts will seem to complete for the viewers’ attention. So, stay away from that.

fonts in harmony
Two fonts in harmony, complementing each other

Instead, pair two fonts that create a sense of harmony. Make sure to look for fonts that complement each other without being too similar, the goal is to create a sense of visual diversity!

When in Doubt, Stick to One Typeface Family

Fonts tend to go together well when they both come from the same typeface family. By choosing two harmonious fonts that belong to the same typeface family is almost a sure-fire way to ensure that you won’t go wrong!

font harmony using one typeface family
Font harmony using one typeface family

Within each font there are options of different variations, such as bold, light, heavy, roman and condensed to name a few. A well-known example of this is Calibri (Body) and Calibri Light. This way, you have a range of stylistic options when putting together your font pairing.

The Rule of Opposites

It might be worth remembering the classic line ‘opposites attract’ because in the case of pairing fonts, they really do! Like colours and patterns, typefaces can create a conflict when paired together if they are too similar. When done in the correct way, two completely contrasting typefaces can create a great balance.

Fonts, rule of opposites
Fonts, rule of opposites

Know Who’s in Charge

Knowing which font will be your main font and which will be your secondary font is very important. Ideally, the typeface intended for your title should be the one that is the most eye-catching and stands out. Your secondary font should be different in some way, whether it be in weight, style or colour.

Font in charge
A logo example using a serif typeface for the company name and a sans-serif for the slogan

Choosing the right font pairings can mean the difference between a wildly successful design project and a boring, meaningless one. Now that we’ve covered the basics, lets dive into some more tips and tricks you can use when pairing fonts for your design project. To help you make the best decision for your particular creative project, we’ve put together a handy guide to font pairing that will save you time and produce excellent results!


Combine a ‘Serif’ with a ‘Sans Serif’

First, it’s important to know what the difference is between these two typefaces. A serif font is a typeface that has a small line attached to the end of a stroke. In contrast, sans serif does not have any stroke embellishments. A well-known example of a serif typeface is Times New Roman. An example of a well-known sans serif typeface is Calibri or Ariel.

Difference between serif and sans-serif
Difference between serif and sans-serif

Pairing a serif with a sans serif is likely to create an effective font pairing because in general, according to one of the main rules we mentioned earlier – the more contrast the better. The difference in structure between the two fonts works in a way that emphasises both texts in their own unique way.

Combine a serif and a sans-serif to add contrast to your design
Combine a serif and a sans-serif to add contrast to your design

It is also important however to remember that although contrast is good, discord is not. You should be able to tell the difference just by looking at the two fonts next to each other – trust your gut on this one!

When possible, avoid similar classifications

Although pairing fonts from the same family can at time be effective, it’s not likely to create too big of an impact. So in general, try and avoiding choosing two fonts from the same category when possible. For example, 2 scripts or slabs. For context, scripts are typefaces that link one letter with the next. In contrast, slabs are a type of serif that have thick, block-like projections at the end of strokes.

pairing fonts from the same family
Try and avoiding choosing two fonts from the same category when possible

As I’m sure you can imagine, pairing two slabs or two scripts is likely to  be overwhelming, confusing, and relatively ineffective. Not having enough contrast tends to immediately create a visual conflict.

Pair two fonts with complementary moods

Although this is more of a subjective tip, and relative to your design taste – it’s important to make note of it nonetheless. When pairing fonts try and choose fonts that look good together.

You should have a feeling or just know what comes off as playful, silly, professional or simply ineffective. Trust your intuition. If you’re putting together a design project for children, you’re likely already aware of the playful, light-hearted type of mood you’re going for, and can match it to particular fonts.

Font moods
Pair fonts with complementary moods

The same is true for other types of projects like corporate events, wedding invites, a brand identity presentation or a business proposal to name a few. When looking at the two fonts you are considering, make sure to check whether they give you the same feeling. If they do – you’re on the right track!

Three is Key

When putting together any project, it’s important to stick to a maximum of 3 fonts. By limiting the number of fonts you use you’ll be sure to avoid any kind of clutter in your design. Limiting your font use ensures that you create a cohesive, balanced design. If you’re working on a particular project that you feel really needs more than 3 fonts, first consider formatting the existing fonts you have by making them bold, italicized or underlined. This should be your first step before adding a fourth font into your design. Formatting often has a significant impact on how the font reads, so check those out and see what works best for you!

When selecting your 3 main fonts, ask yourself – what do these fonts add to my design? Are they benefitting the overall effectiveness of your work? If you have positive answers to these questions its likely you’re on the right track.

Try out a decorative heading with a traditional text body

One of the most successfully font pairing ‘types’ is to use a decorative font for your heading and a more simple, traditional font for the body of your text. This is usually aimed towards projects that are more on the creative, fun or light-hearted side of design – so keep that in mind.

A decorative font (usually a script typeface) for your heading will give off a laid-back, light hearted feeling. In contrast, a simple font for the text body will relay a more professional, minimalist approach. This is usually used in the case that your text includes information that is important and should therefore be relatively easy for viewers to read.

Make sure to try out different formatting options too to see what best suits your designs aesthetic or purpose. As a last tip – using decorative fonts for titles is most effective for shorter headlines rather than lengthy ones.

Font Resources

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