Choosing typefaces and font pairs for book design.
Choosing typefaces and font pairs correctly is the basis of effective design for books of any kind. Type combinations for book design is a subject of great interest to book designers and self-publishing authors. Always select typefaces for a professional look, to complement the style or theme of the book.
A brief introduction to using type
Fonts have different extensions and are most commonly .OTF or .TTF or PostScript fonts. Do not use any other fonts types.
- Open Type Fonts (.OTF) are in widely use as cross-platform fonts. It is easier to share files across operating systems. If given a choice, select .OTF.
- TrueType Font and Post Script are also font extensions.
There are so many type combinations and possibilities. We are limiting the discussion to just provide basic user information.
A typeface is a family of fonts that may pair. Pair typeface families with great care. There are typeface and font combinations that you may already own, or can download for free. If you subscribe to Adobe to use InDesign, you have access to all the Adobe Fonts for as long as you subscribe.What if you do not have Adobe ® Fonts ®?
Google ® Fonts ® and Font Squirrel ® are also sources for free fonts. MyFonts ® is a good place to buy fonts or go directly to designer and foundry websites. There are always new typefaces on the market. Be wary of using free or cheap, one-off typefaces for body text, but they might work for headlines. The body text typeface is the real workhorse, so use a classic typeface for body text, but not one that is overused or is already on the computer when you buy it.
I often polish books for clients
Recently, I ran into a problem with an adorable, yet obscure font by an unknown designer. I noticed that the uppercase “P” next to a lowercase “a” had too much space between the letters. The kerning was set to Metrics. I changed it to Optical and expanded the tracking to +10 to match the width of the word when it was in Metrics. I corrected all the headlines. It would have been easier if the self-publisher had used a Paragraph Style. The change could have been made globally or in one document, and then you would synchronize it with the rest of the book.
Metric kerning is the default to use, but if letter spacing looks off, switch to Optical kerning. There is debate about Metric versus Optical, but this works for me.
If you are not familiar with the classic typefaces suitable for book text, use Adobe Fonts or invest in a classic typeface family. The standard font styles to choose for each typeface are Regular, Italic, Bold, and Bold Italic.
Pairing fonts for book design
A superfamily comprises typefaces that can be grouped together because they share the same basic style. Examples are Helvetica and Helvetica Narrow. Typefaces that have both serif and sans serif fonts, like Mr Eaves and Mrs Eaves also form a superfamily.
SAME TYPEFACE, DIFFERENT FONTS
One way to pair is to use fonts from the same typeface family for both body copy and headlines. Most often body text would be 10- or 11-point. The largest headlines are quite often in the Bold font and have significantly more contrast compared to the text. Design subheads with hierarchy in mind.
Additionally, the same size typeface may be used throughout. However, adjust uppercase and letterspacing (kerning) for headlines. Linespacing or the leading between lines can also be adjusted for minimalist style.
COMBINE A SANS SERIF WITH A SERIF TYPEFACE
This is the most popular way to pair fonts. The body text can be a serif typeface with a sans serif headline, or the other way around. The styles should be compatible, having a similar x-height and using contrast.
Large and small type
Use contrast for headlines and body text. Notice the high and low contrast of the letter “B” in the example on the following page. A bolder headline conveys contrast. Make sure that the weight is strong enough to give the headline the contrast it needs next to the body text.
Font color and its background color
Contrast may be the font color and the background on which it appears. Adding color can provide the contrast you need, so that the color of the font does not disappear into the background of and image or similar background color.
Consider contrast with different typefaces. For instance, a nice script font for headlines can pair with a sans serif font for body text. The combination works especially well for cookbook recipe pages.
The x-height is the distance from the baseline to the top of a lowercase letter that has no ascenders or descenders: c, e, m, n, o, r, s, u, v, w, x, z.
ESTABLISH THE HIERARCHY WITH FONT WEIGHTS AND SIZE
Headlines are quite often larger than body text and that is a way to establish hierarchy. Also make sure that the weight is strong enough to give the headline the contrast it needs next to the body text.
MATCH THE MOOD
Do the typefaces play well together? Read typeface descriptions when possible. If one typeface is described as “techy” and the other as “vintage,” it probably is not a good idea to combine them as pairs.
TWO SERIFS OR TWO SANS SERIF TYPEFACES DO NOT MIX
Using two different typefaces from different families for headline and text is most often a mistake. For instance, do not use the serif typeface Palatino with Garamond, or another serif type. The same holds true for two different sans serif typefaces from different families.
TYPEFACES OF THE SAME CLASSIFICATION ARE A NO-GO
An example is combining a slab serif heading with another slab serif typeface for text. However, you could use the slab serif typeface, Rockwell Bold, in a headline, with Rockwell Regular for the body text.
Typefaces and paper stock
Consider the paper before making font selections. We use coated and uncoated paper. Our Uncoated paper is fairly smooth, but if the book is printing elsewhere, they may use a rougher stock with a greater absorption than our Woodfree Uncoated. Ask the provider for a paper sample.
A WORD OF CAUTION ABOUT SOME POD UNCOATED STOCK
A complaint about uncoated stock from a POD or low-cost printer is often the rough feel. However, our uncoated stock’s smooth finish is nice to touch.
Paper effecting typefaces
The lesson here is if printing on poor quality uncoated stock using a large, heavy headline font, the ink could bleed so that the type looks slightly fuzzy. This is not desirable.
Neue Aachen Pro Bold, is a lovely font, but does not look good in the following example. The actual “Wrong” example style is from in a book from my personal library.
Star Print Brokers’ uncoated stock is not rough, unlike most cheap stock. Book Design: Simple & Professional is printing on coated stock.
The “Wrong” example is on a rough, uncoated stock. The leading and kerning are too tight, with (minus) -30 tracking, accentuating the issue. Letters should not touch. An exception is if letters touching is part of a style which could be the case in a logo. However, letters that are so close together look more like a mistake and avoid it in book text or headlines.