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While not everyone would agree with this statement, reading on screen is generally considered harder than reading on paper. Of course, there are so many variables-- the quality of the ambient light, the presence of other distractions, the type of material being presented--that it's a hard thing to generalize about. But all else being equal, a backlit screen with type rendered as pixels is harder to read than a clean piece of paper crisply printed with ink. So how does this impacts type properties like point size, leading, and line-length? Generally speaking, we want our type, particularly our body copy, to be bigger on screen than in print.
While body copy for print might be set in anything from 8 to 11 points, for screen we want a range of between 12 to 16 points. In the example I have here, I'm viewing my document at 100%, of course that's going to be the most reliable view size for evaluating how successful things are going to be in print. And on the left I have a typical body point size and leading ratio, 10 point type, 12 point leading.
And on the right I have increased the point size to 14 and the leading to 20. With leading, which is often referred to as line height on screen, rather than a range of plus 1 to plus 3 points for the body text, we want a range of between about 140% to 150%. Some designers recommend even more. Here is an interesting article where there are also argues for type proportions based on the golden section or golden rectangle which is an aspect ratio of 1:1.6, yielding a leading value of 160%.
While body or continuous reading text for screen benefits from increased size, headings and subheadings don't necessarily need to be increased in the same ratio. For Line Lengths, when speaking about creating print typography, I have recommended a character count of between 40 to 60 characters per line. Now that's going to depend not least on your own personal preferences, but also on the nature of the text and the other typographic formatting that you have applied. Are you using justified text or left-aligned text? But for the screen we want longer line lengths, somewhere in the region of 60 to 80 characters.
As well as that screen being of lower resolution, inherently more fuzzy than our paper, we need to bear in mind that the viewing distance of a screen is typically further away than that of a book. Factoring in this viewing distance 14 to 16 point type on screen, equates to about 10 point in print. If you are a print designer, working on screen, it may be a hard transition for you to increase the size of your body copy to such large sizes, sizes that seem uncomfortably large in print.
But believe me, they will benefit from the increased point size and the increased leading.
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