If fonts were shoes, my closet would be overflowing with them. I love fonts. There are TONS available for download and a lot of them are free.
Most font websites sort fonts into general classifications for easy viewing. There are serif (Times, Garamond), sans-serif (Helvetica, Ariel), script (Brush, Snell Roundhand) and speciality. The speciality or decorative category covers a myriad of typefaces, including grunge, foreign, techno, futuristic, retro, gothic, horror, vintage — way too many to list here.
Searching for that perfect font
Each font has its own unique personality. Fonts convey moods and evoke emotions. You want to find a font that suits the genre and tone of your story. Fonts dripping with blood aren’t a wise choice for a romance novel, nor is a delicate script appropriate for an action-packed thriller.
Font moods in general
- Serif fonts – trust, confidence, tradition, formal
- Modern serif fonts – glamour, luxury, sophistication
- San-serif modern – clean, uncluttered, straight-forward
- Scripts – stylishness, elegance, feminine
- Handwritten scripts – creativity, personal feel, affection
- Grunge fonts – edgy, unpredictable, mysterious
Rounded fonts – friendly, fun, sociable
- Italics – motion, change
- Bold or black display fonts – dominate, in-your-face, authoritative
- Bold or black italics – urgency, action
Trends in fonts
Every industry has its trends. In the early 1980s, Busarama Bold font was very popular. Recently Gotham and Lydian are trending. It’s important to note that much like fashion, trends come and go. (Lydian was created back in the 1930s.)
It’s fine to use a trendy font, but it is not a hard and fast rule. Choose a font that suits your genre and story.
Tips for searching font sites
Many font websites have a text window where you can type in your title and other cover text. This is a useful tool to see if you like how your text looks in a specific font before you download and install it on your computer.
Check to see if the font has all the characters you need for your cover text. Many don’t include both upper and lower case, numbers or punctuation marks. Some fonts have uneven kerning (the spacing between certain letters is not consistent).
Fonts marked “trial or for personal use only” may not embed when you export your final cover file to pdf format. Some may default to something unexpected when exported. Always check your final pdf and make sure all of the fonts survived the pdf process.
The rule when mixing fonts is to pair a serif font with either a san-serif or a script. The two fonts should be different enough for contrast, but share a similar trait like stroke thickness.
If you mix two sans-serif fonts, like Helvetica and Futura for example, you will see the lower case “a” is different in each. The fonts are also spaced differently. Helvetica is more compact. This may seem like a small detail but it looks unprofessional to mix them.
Very decorative or unusual fonts should be used sparingly. They look best in a larger point size for a title. The subtitle, author name and other cover text should be in a plainer font so the text doesn’t clash or take away from the impact of the title font. One specialty font is enough for a book cover.
An average 6×9 cover image area is a relatively small design space. Two to three fonts is enough.
Font families are handy if you have subtitles, volume numbers or a review quote. You can vary the look of the text and stay within the same font so it looks visually cohesive. A font family includes several styles of the same font—italic, bold, black, condensed, etc.
Incorporating text with images
Don’t be afraid to cover parts of your cover image with text. The text should compliment the cover image. It is an integral part of the overall cover design. If you squeeze the text into small areas to avoid covering up parts of the image, the end result will look awkward and unprofessional.
Contrast is key
Keep a high contrast between the text color and the background cover image. You may need to use different colors or shades of color depending where the text falls on the image. The more complex the background image, the higher the contrast needs to be so it stands out.
With so many font choices, it’s easy to get carried away. The most important thing is — you want your title and author name to be easily read. Choose fonts that are legible. Ideally, the title and author name should be readable on thumbnail size covers.