When paired well, typefaces and artwork can be powerful allies, each supporting the other and making for a more striking design. When paired poorly, a typeface can clash with or even cheapen the look of an amazing drawing. But how can you figure out what typeface is best suited to your artwork? Don’t panic: You don’t need a degree in graphic design to make informed choices about pairing your art with type. Here is a brief introduction in how to choose typefaces to match your drawings, and a guide to easily pairing your art with the best ones.
Illustrations via CakeSpy
Why would you want to pair your artwork with typefaces?
There are a myriad of reasons why you would want to pair your artwork with type. Perhaps it’s to pair illustrations with text for a dummy of a picture book, to write a greeting for a card featuring your artwork or to create a submission to send to a publisher. No matter what the reason, finding typefaces that work well with your artwork will serve you well as an artist.
Types of type
Here’s a very a simple guide to some of the typefaces you might choose to use with your artwork.
Hand lettering or handwritten typeIf you’re creating speaking bubbles in a cartoon or creating a whimsical piece of artwork as the title for, say, a blog post about types of tacos, handwritten lettering is an appropriate and natural choice. If you find that you’re using handwriting in your art quite a bit, you can even create a typeface right from your handwriting. That means you can type out words that show up in your own personal script on illustrations or on other pieces of art.
Decorative typestyles feature stylized, showy letters. They’re fun for headings, short captions, or signs. However, what is eye grabbing on a sign isn’t as soothing for reading a paragraph, so use decorative or display typestyles sparingly.
Body text typefaces
Look at the typestyle this post (yes, the one you’re reading right now) employs for the text. It’s a pleasant typestyle, but not especially noticeable. That’s exactly what you want in a body text typestyle: something that won’t distract the eye from images, and keeps the eye flowing from word to word. Body text can be combined with more decorative typestyles for a pleasing effect. In the example above, you can see how a decorative typeface is used to emphasize a title, but it is supported by more readable body text.
Serif or sans?
Serifs are the slight projections on the ends of some letters. Typefaces such as Arial or Futura are devoid of these lines. Serif typestyles are often used for books or longer chunks of text because the serifs are said to draw the eye from letter to letter. When pairing with your artwork, there is no right or wrong decision when it comes to serifs: simply choose what feels best to you.
Choosing the right typeface for your art
What is your art style?
Is your artwork whimsical and fantastical? Or straight-lined and architectural? Or photo-realistic? Different art begs for different styles of type. While you could get away with a more whimsical typeface for a children’s book, pairing a photographic piece of art with a typeface like comic sans will send a mixed message, and not in a good way. Looking at your style of art can begin to help you narrow down appropriate type choices.
What typefaces do you like?
Look around at typefaces you like. Check out the internet, posters, advertisements and books (sometimes books will even mention the typeface employed in the text). Observe what sorts of typefaces are paired with the work of some of your favorite artists. Chances are, you’ll start to notice trends in the typefaces you’re drawn to, which can help you choose the right ones for you.
Test out a number of typefaces
Test out a single piece of art with a number of typefaces that appeal to you, and place them side by side. Don’t be above crowd sourcing. Sometimes, posting these on twitter or Facebook and asking friends’ advice is not only helpful in seeing which the majority prefers, but you can also have a chance to promote and show off your work.