Choosing A Clean Font
This is a compilation/distillation of training and discussions over the years about what would look good as a title/subtitle font. While this was written with video in mind, it also applies to screen presentations, print, and signs.
The main idea is to have text that is quickly and easily readable. Other fonts may be frilly and pretty, but that doesn't make them easily readable. Below is the list with reasonings that generally meets those requirements.
- No serifs. These tend to get "blobby" when small. Same goes for jagged edges.
- No all caps font. THIS LOOKS LIKE SCREAMING!
- Text not stretched out too much. This can be ok, but tends to waste a lot of usable space.
- Text not compressed too much. This is good for space in larger fonts, but can be hard to read with smallers.
- Characters not too spaced out. This tends to blur the line between character and space. It also "l o o k s l i k e t h i s" and gets annoying quickly.
- Characters not too squished. Characters running together are hard to read.
- If monospace, font that has consistent character spacing (near/far problem). Defined: m/m, m/w's look smashed together while n/t's look like they have a space between them.
- Characters not drawn too thin. Some fonts will have parts of the character doing down to 1 pixel width. This makes part of the character almost vanish.
- Characters not drawn too thick. This is fine for bold text, but not so much regular text. It can also make the text look too spaced out.
- Characters don't go from thick to thin to thick. Characters should be consistent so that the eye doesn't strain reading every other one.
- Characters not too tall or wide. These usually don't resize very well and can smash or waste space.
- Frilly and "overly pretty" fonts can be fine for effect, but they are difficult to read for large amounts of text.
- Looks good with outline turned on. In titles and subtitling, outline is almost 100% necessary to separate the text from the background. Some outlines are too thin and are useless, some are too thick and look like play-dough smashed behind it.
- Can scale down to VCD resolution cleanly (320x240, 480x352). The sign of a good font is being able to be small or large and still be clean and readable.
General Character Qualities
- Space is really a space. Not too big but not so small that words ram together.
- a/e doesn't fall in on itself and turn to a blob.
- No confusion: f/t, a/e/o, 0/O (zero and "oh"), H/K, u/v, v/y, U/V, D/O/Q, I/l/1 (capital-i, lowercase-L, one).
- 'g' doesn't have the funny bottom and is clean.
- 'k' and 'x' are clean and distinguishable.
- 'k' and 'x' are not "curved".
- 'k' has no loops on the top that turn to blobs.
- No "double-v's" on the 'w' character.
- 'q' and 'Q' are readable and not overly squiggly.
- g/q/y goes all the way down but isn't sinking.
- 'i' doesn't get lost next to another character.
- 'z' doesn't look like a reversed 's'.
- 'z' diagonal bar is clean and straight.