In my previous articles on the principles of page design, I’ve focused on odd numbers and creating a focal point. Now, it’s time to turn your attention to journaling font selection and text design. Next to the photos, journaling is one of the most important features on a scrapbooking layout and that’s why selecting just the right journaling font and laying out the journaling on your page is so important. This article covers everything you need to know about choosing and using journaling fonts. (This does not cover title/display fonts, though. I’ll write about that topic another time.)
Have you ever read or tried to read a paragraph of text and found the words to be unreadable, distracting, or just not right somehow? Most likely, the reason this happened was because it was in the wrong font. When you understand some of the basics of journaling (or text) fonts, you can make sure that your journaling shares the story you want and doesn’t distract or frustrate your reader.
Serif, Sans Serif, Script, and Handwritten
Text or journaling fonts come in four general categories: serif, sans-serif, script, and handwritten, and fonts from all four categories can be used for scrapbook-page journaling.
Serif: Serif fonts have little hooks or decorative lines on the letters. These small details help the eye recognize letters and are great for adding a traditional, easy-to-read feel to your journaling. Popular serif fonts are Garamond, Times New Roman, Bodoni, and Clarendon.
Sans Serif: Sans-serif fonts are “sans” or without serifs. Characters are smooth and basic, and provide a sleek, modern feel. Examples of sans serif fonts are Futura, Century Gothic, Gill Sans, Myriad, and Helvetica.
Script: Script fonts have letters that join together. They lend an elegant touch to journaling, but be careful: some script fonts can be hard to read in large amounts! Some good script fonts for journaling include: Black Jack, Coneria Script, Learning Curve, and Adine Kirnberg Script.
Handwritten: There has been an explosion of handwritten fonts available in the past few years. These fonts are based on actual handwriting and range from old-style (Jane Austen) to graffitti (Most Wasted!), everyday (DJB LIZ), and more. Handwritten fonts can be great for scrapbook journaling; however, make sure the one you select is legible when used for large amounts of text. (If you’re not sure, try creating a dummy paragraph of nonsense text and putting it in the font you want to use.) Handwritten fonts can really enhance the emotion on your page because of the wide array of options available. From sweet and cute to masculine and bold, you can find a handmade font to meet your needs. For an even more personal touch to your page, have your own handwriting made into a font. No matter the font you select, though, above all else make sure it is readable!
Choosing the Right Text Font
With so many fonts out there to choose from, how do you select just the right journaling font for your layout? Here are a few things to consider:
Match the theme/emotion of your page. Writing about the playful personality of your toddler? Select a font with a playful feel. Heritage pages might call for a typewritten font and a layout about your son’s football team might require a bold sans-serif font for a masculine feel. If you’re journaling about something from past decades, why not select a font from that same time period to add authenticity?
If the font you want to use comes in all caps, has lots of fancy details or distinctive letters, it may work best for your title. Select something more subdued and easy-to-read for your journaling.
Text Design Tips
Now that you’ve selected the perfect journaling font, it’s time to increase its effectiveness at sharing your story through design. Here are a few journaling design tips:
Stay away from all caps. You probably know that when you send an email in all caps, it comes across to your reader that you’re yelling. The same thing goes for journaling. In addition, when you use all capital letters in a paragraph of text, it is harder to read. Our eyes are trained to read most efficiently when upper and lower-case letters are used together. Save all caps for titles.
Choose the right color. The perfect font can be rendered illegible simply by putting it in the wrong color. If the background hue and the color of your text are too similar, serifs and other font characteristics will disappear, making reading harder. Try to use a lot of contrast with the background when selecting journaling-font colors: black on light backgrounds, light colors on dark backgrounds. The best way to test this is to print out your page and see how your journaling font looks. Sometimes white text on a black background looks great on the screen, but in print the serifs, dots, and ends of letters get lost.
Limit special text effects and shadowing. Sure, it’s fun to play with text styles and shadows in Photoshop, but usually these extras detract from the message of your text. And, at smaller font sizes, text effects and shadows can create legibility problems as well. Sometimes, you may need to add a very thin stroke to your journaling to make it stand out, but for nearly all text applications, save the special effects and shadowing for titles.
Proofread. Proofread. Proofread! As an editor, I’m highly aware of the necessity for making sure my journaling is checked for spelling and grammar. Double and triple check your text before you finalize your layout! It’s exasperating to discover an error in your journaling when you get your printed pages in the mail. Here are some great ways to proofread your journaling. Give them a try: You’ll be surprised at how many mistakes you’ll catch!
- Use spell check.
- Read your words out loud.
- Have someone else look over your journaling and give you suggestions for improvements. (I often do this and even I make mistakes!)
- Copy and paste your text into a word-processing program and use the grammar-check function to highlight errors.
I like to write my journaling, edit it, and then let it sit overnight. The next day, I’ll reread it and fine-tune my writing. Mistakes I failed to notice the day before are easily apparent in my second and third editing sessions. Remember, it’s okay to have some grammatically incorrect usage in direct quotations from someone or to recreate a certain feel, but in general, make sure you’re doing your best writing when you journal; after all, this is for posterity!
Margins and text-box placement matter. Be careful when arranging your text boxes so that they don’t stick out too much or detract from your page design. Try to link your journaling and title together by placing them near each other or by using photos and/or elements to lead the eye from one to another. If your journaling looks like an afterthought, it loses some credibility, so include the design of your journaling space in your overall page design.
Align it right. The alignment (center, right, left, justify) of your journaling is nearly as important as your font selection. Play around with different text-alignment settings and ask yourself these questions:
- Does my alignment choice make sense? (Have I center-aligned a paragraph that would make more sense if it were left-aligned or justified?)
- Does my alignment choice detract from the meaning of my journaling or page design?
- Does my alignment choice affect the legibility of my text?
- Does my alignment choice make sense? Too often, scrappers default to center alignment, which detracts from their journaling because readers are not used to reading large amounts of text with two uneven margins.
Choose the right font size. Journaling in a font size that is too large or too small may be hard to read. Generally, most printed text is done in sizes ranging from 10-18 points and you should try to stick around this guideline if you’re having your pages printed. For other applications, such as for electronic media, you may need to adjust the size of your journaling text to ensure legibility. Test your chosen font if you’re not sure: type up your journaling and print it out to check if the font size you’ve selected is right.
Learn about leading and kerning. Leading (the distance between lines of text) and kerning (the distance between letters) affect journaling legibility a great deal. When either one of these settings is too small, words seem crowded together and it takes longer for the reader to process the characters. Learn how to adjust these important settings (and others, too!) in your software so you can use them to your advantage when designing your journaling.
- Using the Character Panel in Photoshop
- Using the Type Tool in Photoshop Elements
- Working with Text in Paint Shop Pro
Play with initial caps. An initial capital letter at the beginning of your journaling paragraph adds a nice decorative touch to your page and helps your text stand out. Play with different positions and fonts for your initial caps–and, as a bonus, when using decorative letters for your initial cap, you can use display (title) fonts!
Don’t forget to use italics and bold! Add interest to your journaling by using italics and/or bold to highlight important concepts or words. These two ways of distinguishing words will add visual interest to your journaling and add acceptable variety to your block of text.
Selecting the right journaling font and designing your text may seem like a small part of the layout-design process, but when done correctly, these important elements of page design will enhance your story, share the emotion behind your photos and make your scrapbook page that much better!
Not sure which journaling fonts to use? Looking for some great text font options? My next post will be full of great journaling fonts to try. Watch for it and be prepared to share your favorites, too!
Do you have great journaling font tips and design ideas? Share them in this thread in the forum!