Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member
The trick to choosing two fonts to pair with one another is to choose fonts that have both concord and contrast. Concord means the fonts are in harmony with one another, they have some physical feature in common. Contrast means the fonts have physical features that are different from each other, they aren't too similar. If fonts are too similar it's almost like wearing two colors that don't quite match, it's disconcerting. They look like they should be the same and it's difficult to appreciate their differences. If the fonts have too much contrast, it's like wearing two colors that clash.
Physical features to consider when picking fonts are Structure. Do they have a similar bowl shape? Do they have a similar aperture? What about their stress, their x-height, do they feel Humanist, Transitional, Geometric? We also look at Serifs. Do they both have Serifs? If so, what kind of Serifs do they have? Are they both Sans Serif? We also look at line weight. Do they have a similar line weight or a different line weight? Are they heavy, light or in-between? Do they have pen-formed strokes with changes between thicks and thins or are the strokes uniform? Once you have a list of these elements to consider you can look at two fonts and ask yourself, where are they similar and where are they different.
Today, we have font families with both a Serif and a Sans Serif font. If you're just learning to pair fonts, working with a family like this can make it a bit easier. One family we've seen in this course is Meta. Meta Serif Web Pro and Meta Web Pro were designed to work together. If we focus in on two words in the headings, large for, we can see that the a's and the e's have similar structures. They have similar closed counters and similar apertures. We can see the relationship between the x-height and the height of the stem on the l is similar.
We can see that they have the same shaped g, similar bowls though the Serifs feel a tad rounder and similar fs. If we relax our eyes and look at the texture, we can see the Serif font on top has more texture and the Sans Serif font on the bottom looks more open and light because of its letter spacing. So for all the similarities, all the concord between the two fonts, there is also contrast. Another font we've looked at in this course that has both a Serif and a Sans Serif is Museo. Here we are looking at Museo Slab and Museo Sans.
Again, if we look at the words, large for, in the heading we can see the structural similarities. And again, if we relax our eyes we can see the slight difference in texture due to the Slab Serifs in the top font. Now if we look at PT Serif and PT Sans, there are a few less similarities. Again, if we look at the words, large for, we can immediately see the g is different. And if we look more closely, we can see the x-height in the Sans Serif version feels a little more generous compared to the height of the stem on the l.
Finally, we can see the ascender on the Sans Serif f feels a little shorter as well, so there's a slightly different ratio between ascender and x-height in the Sans Serif font. But the structures on the a and the e are similar as are the bowls. So when we relax our eyes and look at the texture of the text, the two feel like they belong together. But not all font families come with a pair you can just use. Let's see if we can find one for Crimson Text which is an Old style font we used earlier in the course. We can try and pair it with PT Serif, our transitional font, but they look way too similar.
We don't even have to look closely at the details in the fonts to know they look a lot alike. We could try pairing with the Museo Slab or Slab Serif font, they definitely don't look too similar. Museo Slab has a much heavier presence in the text. And when we look more closely at the letters, we can see there are differences all over the place. The size of the x-height compared to the stem of l, the shape of the g, the shape of the bowl in the o, even the shapes of the f and r. Crimson Text's f and r curl over more but I think there's too much going on here, too much texture and perhaps too many differences between the fonts.
They look too different to me. One feels old and traditional while the other feels strong and solid. I'll keep looking. We could try pairing it with Merriweather, our other Serif font, but I'm back to an earlier problem, they feel too similar. I find myself wondering, why would I bother to use two fonts here? Moving into the Sans Serifs, we could try pairing Crimson Text with the Museo Sans. It definitely doesn't have the problem with too much texture that it did when we tried pairing it with the Museo Slab but I still don't care for the old traditional Serif and the strong, solid Geometric Sans, so we'll keep looking.
We could try pairing it with Nimbus Sans, our transitional Sans Serif, but Nimbus feels a little stiff compared to the pen-formed humanist structure of Crimson Text. If we look closely at the letters, we can see that there are big differences in the a and e both in the closed counters and then the apertures, we can also see the gs are different so are the fs. And the feeling of the x-height compared to the stem on the l, it's not surprising they feel so different. Finally, we can try pairing Crimson Text with Open Sans which is our Humanist Sans Serif font.
This might make the most sense. The contrast between Serif and Sans Serif is there but they both have humanist structures. Looking closely at the letters, I'm not sure they're going to work as a pair but they have a good shot. I'm going to keep my eye on whether or not Open Sans starts feeling too bubbly compared to Crimson Text. Open Sans bowl on the a is quite generous, but both fonts have the open apertures in the double-decker g, so they might work. Also, I did want to see if any of our Handwriting Fonts could work with Crimson Text.
Myndraine obviously doesn't, their textures are way too different. Sanvito Pro could work, both fonts feel old and handwritten with pens. Ruluko is not an option, it's too light and open and tall to pair with Crimson Text. But looking at these Handwriting Fonts reminds me, we can use what we know about history to pair fonts. Calluna which is a Venetian font pairs up with Sanvito even better than Crimson Text did. This is not surprising since they both have characteristics found in books from the late 1400s in Venice.
It's too bad Calluna's crossbar doesn't hold up cross-browser because this would be a lovely font pair, maybe someday. And Ruluko feels so contemporary to me, so light and Humanist but vertical too. I thought it might pair well with Merriweather, I think it does. It's hard to tell here because Ruluko feels a little big here, but this might be a good pairing in the right circumstances, especially since Merriweather doesn't have an Italic. So back to Crimson Text and Open Sans, they might work. When looking for two fonts to pair together, it's a matter of balancing contrast and concord.
It's also a matter of looking closely at the letters but making sure you back up a bit and consider the overall texture. But here, I'm just using screenshots of the Web Font's specimen sheet, it's a quick comparison. We won't really know how they work together until we try them.
Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.Become a member
119 Video lessons · 47297 Viewers
117 Video lessons · 34249 Viewers
113 Video lessons · 80252 Viewers
116 Video lessons · 70176 Viewers