6 Common Font Categories

Categorizing fonts can be simple when you know what characteristics to look for.  Here are six common font categories and some characteristics of each:

Serif

  • A serif font will have a small line attached to the end of the letter stroke
  • These fonts have thin/thin transition strokes
  • These fonts are usually very easy to read
  • Common Uses for Serif fonts: Used most often in printed materials because of the readability. The human eye can recognize the shape faster with serifs.
  • Example Font: Times Roman

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Sans Serif

  • Sans serif fonts are composed of simple lines and have little or no thick/thin transition strokes at all
  • These fonts have no serifs
  • Common Uses for Sans Serif fonts: Used most often in web materials. The lower resolution of computer screens make it difficult to see serifs. So, a sans serif font will display cleaner. Sans Serif fonts are often used in headings and captions in printed materials.
  • Example font: Helvetica

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Oldstyle

  • An oldstyle font will have serifs (a small line attached to the end of a stroke)
  • The serifs are slanted on lowercase letters
  • These fonts tend to have diagonal stress on curves and medium thick/thin transitions
  • This type of font tends to be easy to read
  • Example Font: Bookman Old Style

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Modern

  • A modern fonts will have serifs that are thin
  • The serifs are flat on lowercase letters
  • These fonts tend to have vertical stress on curves
  • The thin/thick transitions are dramatic – moving quickly from very thin to very thick
  • Modern typeface was meant to replace the outdated look of the Oldstyle fonts
  • Example Font: Bodoni

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Script

  • A script font appears to be hand written
  • These fonts are usually used to add style
  • Character strokes may connect one letter to the next
  • Example font: Bradley Hand

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Decorative

  • Decorative fonts are rarely used for blocks of text
  • These fonts often include symbols or flairs that convey specific information or emotions
  • Example font: Outlaw

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