Choosing complementary fonts

- August 18th: Choosing Complementary Fonts -

What are complementary fonts?

Choosing fonts that go well together can be a daunting task, but it's essential to a great design. With hundreds of thousands (millions?) of fonts to choose from, there is a lot to consider! Today I hope to ease those worries and share some simple tips on how to choose complementary fonts.

"Contrast" is about finding completely different, but still complementary fonts. Most commonly, this involves pairing a serif with a sans serif. Typefaces will usually conflict if they're too similar, for example two slightly different serifs or sans serifs generally won't pair nicely.

All rules aside, one of the easiest ways to pair fonts is to establish a clear hierarchy. If you use a font packed with personality, pair it with something much more simple to help ground it. You can also play around with using the same font over and over but varying the styles (bold, italic) and the tracking (distance between each letter). And if you consider yourself to 'have a good eye', you'll most likely be able to go on a gut feeling for most fonts. Always ask yourself, do they look pleasing to the eye?

How many fonts should I use?

There's really no golden rule on how many fonts are acceptable to use, but I would suggest sticking to 2 or 3 that work very well together. Too many fonts can make a project (or website) look overwhelming and very 'messy'. Keeping them streamlined and complementary will make them look much more cohesive.

Should I buy the font?

There are so many options when it comes to fonts, many of them are free while others cost. I would say that the decision to purchase or not all depends on the project. If you need something for a quick blog post or social share, grab something for free. If it's for a big project like a website, portfolio or collection of products I would suggest purchasing.

A note on quality:

In my experience, the quality of purchased fonts are always better. The kerning and tracking are usually more professional looking and the font comes with more options overall (like numbers and symbols whereas many free fonts only come with the alphabet's letters). Plus, once you start looking at fonts for purchase, you'll notice that there are SO MANY beautiful options to choose from!

Favorite Font Sites:

Here are a few of my favorite websites to browse for fonts. Be sure to share you own favorites with us over on Facebook!

Creative Market

My Fonts

Font Squirrel (Free) (Free)

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