Whenever we’re presented with thousands of choices it’s always difficult to make up our mind. In design perhaps the most challenging decisions we constantly face are the ones about selecting the right colour and typeface combinations for our projects.

How do you decide which typefaces can be mixed together without clashing with each other? How many types can we use in one design? Which typefaces are right for the task? Which types can be combined to create a harmonious feel? Which faces are contrasting enough to create a visual interest? What kinds of contrast can be achieved with mixing different faces? Which typefaces should never be mixed with each other? Are there any rules to follow for choosing and using typefaces? Is there such a thing as a safe type combination?

I’ve tried answering these questions in my guest post over at LGR Webmaster Blog: 8 Bits On Combining Typefaces. I don’t even dare to claim that I found all the right answers. Typography is one area of design that I’ll be forever learning about. It fascinates, puzzles and challenges me whenever I start tackling it in my design projects.

While doing some research for that article I came across a real gem – a PDF cheat sheet on Mixing Typefaces. It’s been created by a type designer and lecturer Alessandro Segalini. Typefaces are presented in a 22 by 22 square matrix like table, where each type is cross-referenced with another type horizontally and vertically. The number at the intersection indicates the degree of compatibility.
Number 1 – Combine at will
Number 2 – Handle with caution
Number 3 – Should be avoided


How do you choose the right typeface combination for your projects? What do you find the most challenging when working with types?

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7 Insightful Bits in response to “Mixing Typefaces Cheat Sheet”

  1. Notice Comic Sans isn’t anywhere on the list up there :)

  2. I’m so afraid of errors, that I rather avoid any combinations and use only the most common typefaces (I don’t know what happens if a reader does not have a particular font installed – I suppose the page won’t display correctly).

  3. Thanks for this Vivien – a really useful find. I don’t think type is my strong point, it’s mostly guess work with me. In the past I’ve just trusted my eye, and luckily a few combinations I’ve used are 1s on the cheat-sheet.

    I’ll be adding the link to my bookmarks.

  4. Vivien

    I hope you’re not too disappointed about Comic Sans not making the list, Ronald? :-)

    Simonne, when looking for a typeface to use for the body text of your webpage, you should always go with Web Safe types that everyone has installed on their computers (Times, Helvetica, Verdana, Arial, Georgia, Courier, Trebuschet, and a few others). The types I was talking about in these articles are for the print and graphic images for websites only.

    You’re welcome, Aaron. Glad you found this cheat sheet useful. I sure did :-)

  5. Hey, that’s a great resource! Thank you for sharing.

    I generally use a list I found of “Classic” typefaces/fonts/pretty letter designs. I really wish I could find the website I got the list from (I wrote it down on paper instead of bookmarking it). It is a list of serif and sans serif fonts including many of the ones listed in that matrix PDF. I’m partial to serif fonts myself, and am always using Garamond, Caslon, Aldine (from the Adobe Type Collection, it reminds me of letterpress forms) and Jenson for body copy. Sabon was listed as one very commonly found in books. Optima is a really nice Sans Serif with style.

    For the title or display fonts, I usually try to pick one that matches the feel I want for the piece. This is the difficult part for me. There are so many that could work, which is the “right” one? I’m forever going back to my A Typographic Workbook. There are so many useful chapters in it and one of them is called Matching Type with a Message. There are also suggested projects or exercises at the end of every chapter that will help you understand the concepts and chapter objectives even better. Needless to say, I really love this book!

    Oh, one other thing about the book, it has about 75 pages (the last chapter) dedicated to all different styles of fonts. It lists the name, a sample of the font at different combos of point sizes, tracking and leading and it gives a short history of it (if available).

  6. Vivien

    Lauren, thanks for the book recommendation. I’m looking for a good book on Typography. I’ve got “The Non-Designer’s Design Book”, but I’d like to have another one. Looks like A Typographic Workbook might be the one.

    If someone has any other recommendations, I’d love to hear about them.

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  1. Best of July 2007 | Best of the Month

    [...] How To Mix Fonts: Typeface Cheat Sheet This PDF cheat sheet on Mixing Typefaces can help you decide on which combination of typefaces to use. In this sheet, there are 22 typefaces that are cross-referenced with each other, and each combination is given a number to indicate their degree of incompatibility. Besides: 80 Beautiful Typefaces For Professional Design [via InspirationBit]. [...]

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Hi, I'm Vivien. Thanks for visiting my Inspiration Bit. I often find myself scouring the internet looking for either answers to many questions I have or websites that inspire me, sites that I can learn from. On what topics you might ask — any topics that interest me, anything from web design to typography and art, from blogging to entrepreneurship, from programming to open source.
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When I'm not blogging, I design web sites, teach, play with my daughter and try to balance family, work, friends and a somewhat active social life on