Master the Art of Font Pairing

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Master the Art of Font Pairing

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Understanding Fonts and Typefaces 2.1 Difference between Font and Typeface 2.2 Typefaces and Fonts 2.3 Serif and Sans-Serif Typefaces 2.4 Script and Display Typefaces 2.5 Emotions and Fonts
  3. Pairing Fonts Like a Pro 3.1 The Concept of Contrast 3.2 Opposites Attract: Choosing Contrasting Fonts 3.3 Tall and Short Font Pairing 3.4 Sticking to a Type Family 3.5 Working with Type Super Families 3.6 Creating Impact with Different Weights and Widths
  4. How Many Fonts Should You Use in One Design? 4.1 The Rule of Thumb 4.2 Primary and Secondary Typefaces 4.3 When to Use a Tertiary Typeface
  5. Canva's Font Pairing Tool
  6. Practicing Type Hierarchy
  7. Conclusion
  8. Additional Resources


In this tutorial, we will explore the art of choosing and pairing fonts like a pro. Fonts play a crucial role in design, as they can evoke specific emotions and create visual impact. Understanding the differences between typefaces and fonts is essential in making informed choices. By mastering the art of font pairing, you can create harmonious and visually appealing designs. We will also introduce Canva's font pairing tool, which can assist you in finding the perfect combination of fonts for your projects. So let's dive in and become font experts!

Understanding Fonts and Typefaces

Before we delve into font pairing, it's crucial to understand the basics. Many people use the terms "font" and "typeface" interchangeably, but they have distinct meanings. A typeface refers to a set of characters, including letters, numerals, and punctuations, designed by a designer. On the other hand, fonts are specific variations of a typeface, such as its weight or style. For example, "Crimson Pro" is a typeface, while "Crimson Pro Bold" is a font.

To further categorize typefaces, we have serif and sans-serif typefaces. Serif typefaces have small tails at the ends of the letters and are commonly used in printed media, such as newspapers and magazines. Sans-serif typefaces, on the other hand, lack these tails and are easier to read on screens, making them popular for web design.

Additionally, there are script typefaces, which are ornate and creative, making them ideal for highlighting words or breaking up text blocks. Display typefaces are expressive and attention-grabbing, often used for titles and short snippets of text.

Fonts, just like humans, can evoke emotions. The visual characteristics of fonts can make the viewer feel a certain way. For example, a creepy-looking font can make you feel uneasy, while a cheerful and elegant font can make you feel happy and cherished. Understanding the emotional impact of fonts is crucial when choosing the right font for your designs. Sparking the wrong emotion can drive your audience away.

Pairing Fonts Like a Pro

Pairing fonts is all about creating a harmonious balance that enhances your design. Just like making a salad, each font has a role to play. The general rule of thumb when pairing fonts is that opposites attract. By combining fonts that capture contrasting styles or characteristics, you can create visual interest and balance.

For example, the expressive and decorative font "Nexus Script" pairs well with the neutral font "Avenir" because one font is expressive while the other is more neutral. Another approach is to combine tall and short fonts for contrast, creating a visually appealing composition.

Another effective way to pair fonts is by sticking to a type family. Mixing a bold and light font from the same type family can produce an elegant and cohesive design. Similarly, type super families, which include both serif and sans-serif versions, offer a wide range of pairing possibilities. Classic typefaces like "Noto" are designed to work well together, making them a safe choice for clean and professional designs.

Using fonts with different weights and widths is another way to create impact and contrast in your designs. Play around with bold and thin variations of fonts to emphasize important elements and create a dynamic visual hierarchy.

How Many Fonts Should You Use in One Design?

While font pairing allows for creativity, it's important not to go overboard. The general rule of thumb is to use no more than three typefaces in one design. In most cases, two well-paired fonts are enough to convey your message effectively.

When choosing fonts, assign a primary and secondary typeface. Your primary typeface should be bolder or more decorative and might be larger in size compared to the rest of the text. The secondary typeface should be simpler and smaller, complementing the primary typeface.

If you find the need to use a third typeface, ensure it serves a specific purpose, such as image descriptors or other small print elements. This approach helps create visual hierarchy, emphasizing certain elements while subordinating others.

Canva's Font Pairing Tool

If you ever find yourself struggling to choose fonts for your design, Canva has a handy tool to assist you. Simply navigate to the toolbar on the left, click on "Styles," and go to "Font Sets." Here, you'll find different pre-selected font pairings that you can use for any design project. If none of the available options suit your taste, you can always choose your own typefaces. Remember to maintain a clear hierarchy by selecting a primary, secondary, and, if necessary, tertiary typeface.

Practicing Type Hierarchy

In the world of design, creating a clear hierarchy is essential. Typography plays a crucial role in establishing this hierarchy and making your content easier to digest for readers. By choosing the right fonts and applying proper sizing, spacing, and formatting, you can guide your audience through your design and evoke the desired emotions.

For example, let's create a travel magazine article. Magazines and newspapers often rely heavily on type hierarchy due to the extensive text and various text-dependent elements. In our example, we can use a bold and thick font like "Hammers" for headings to capture attention. For subheadings, a thinner and more elegant font like "Playfair Display Italic" can emphasize the content. Finally, for the body copy, a classic and readable font like "Playfair Display" can ensure smooth reading.

The stark contrast between the bold heading font and the thin subheading font, along with the difference in font sizes, establishes a clear hierarchy. The travel magazine article becomes visually appealing and easier to navigate.


Choosing and pairing fonts is an art form that requires purposeful decisions and a keen eye for design. Understanding the nuances of fonts and their impact on emotions is crucial in creating compelling designs. Font pairing involves finding harmonious combinations that create contrasts and visual intrigue. Remember to keep the number of fonts in check, establish a clear hierarchy, and consider using tools like Canva's font pairing tool to assist you. By mastering the art of font pairing, you can enhance the impact and effectiveness of your designs.

Additional Resources

For further exploration of typography and design principles, be sure to check out Canva's Design School homepage. There, you'll find comprehensive courses, videos, and valuable resources like the "Learn and Play" books and cheat sheets. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced designer, these resources will help you refine your skills and create stunning designs on any device.


  • Understanding the difference between typefaces and fonts
  • Exploring the emotional impact of fonts
  • Pairing fonts to create contrast and visual intrigue
  • Sticking to a type family for cohesive designs
  • Using different weights and widths for impact
  • The rule of thumb for the number of fonts in one design
  • Canva's font pairing tool
  • Establishing clear type hierarchy in design
  • Creating visually appealing travel magazine articles
  • Enhancing the impact and effectiveness of designs


Q: Can I use more than three typefaces in one design? A: It is generally recommended to use no more than three typefaces in one design to maintain visual consistency and hierarchy. Using too many typefaces can lead to a cluttered and confusing design.

Q: How do I choose the right emotion-evoking fonts for my design? A: Consider the message and tone of your design. Think about the emotions you want to evoke in your audience. Are you aiming for elegance and sophistication or playfulness and excitement? Experiment with different fonts and choose ones that align with the desired emotions.

Q: Can I mix serif and sans-serif typefaces in one design? A: Yes, mixing serif and sans-serif typefaces can create an interesting and balanced composition. The key is to ensure that the pairing enhances the overall design and doesn't create visual chaos.

Q: Should I always use Canva's font pairing tool? A: While Canva's font pairing tool is a helpful resource, you can always choose your own typefaces based on your design requirements and the emotions you want to evoke. The tool is merely a starting point to inspire and guide your font choices.

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