Choosing the right font pairings is an essential part of good graphic design. Whether you’re designing a website, artistic documents or simply exploring typography you’ll want to make sure you choose fonts that don’t clash with each other. It’s important to remember “contrast not conflict”.
We’ve decided to give you a helping hand by rounding up some of our favourite font pairings into one handy list. First and foremost, we’ll be starting out with some handy tips about what to look for if you opt to make your own font pairings. Once you scroll past that, you’ll find our our favourite examples of the perfect font pairings. For further font inspiration, we have a round up of the best free fonts available now as well as a guide to the best places to download them.
Font pairings: Top tips
01. Use font superfamilies
The guaranteed way to choose great font pairs is to choose fonts that reside in the same typeface family. There are plenty of ‘super-family’ fonts to choose from out there on the internet which means when it comes to choosing your font pairings, you already have a cohesive set of fonts that should work well together. Its common knowledge that a good super-family will have both a Serif and a Sans Serif version of the typeface.
02. Pair contrasting typefaces
Contrasting fonts can be hard to find as you’re effectively searching for two fonts that are totally different but also complement each other rather than causing conflict. If typefaces are too similar, it’s likely that they’ll conflict. You don’t often find that similar serifs or similar sans serifs look particularly nice next to each other. To achieve the perfect contrast, you’ll often want to pair a serif font with a sans serif font.
It’s also important that you establish a clear hierarchy. This could be as simple as adjusting the weight, the size or the colour of the same typeface, but when the typefaces vary, careful font pairing is crucial. For example, if you have a really unique display face full of personality, you’ll need something more neutral to do the hard work and create a balance.
03. Pair type sub-categories
‘Serif’ and ‘sans serif’ are very broad classifications, and each can be split into several sub-categories. Generally speaking, Old Style serifs such as Bembo, Caslon and Garamond will combine well with Humanist sans serifs like Gill Sans and Lucida Grande.
Transitional serifs have a stronger contrast between thick and thin strokes (examples include Bookman, Mrs. Eaves, Perpetua and Times). These pair with geometric sans serifs like Avant Garde, Avenir, Century Gothic, Eurostile, Futura and Univers.
Finally, modern serifs tend to have a very dramatic contrast between thick and thin for a more pronounced, stylised effect, as well as a larger x-height. This third sub-category includes Bodoni, Didot, New Century Schoolbook and Walbaum. Again, geometric sans serifs marry best with these.
If you need to brush up on your typography knowledge, take a look at our typography tutorials. Meanwhile, read on for our choice of the best font pairings.
The best font pairings: 36 perfect examples
01. Calvert and Acumin
Named after its creator Margaret Calvert, Calvert is a punchy slab serif from Monotype. It comes in six styles: Calvert Pro and Standard, each with Light, Regular and Bold variants. For an ideal font pairing, try sans-serif Acumin. This typeface comprises a massive 90 different fonts (See our explanation of font vs typeface if you’re not sure about the difference between the two). Designed by Robert Slimbach as part of the Adobe Originals initiative, this font requires an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription (opens in new tab) for access.
02. Montserrat and Courier New
Google Font Montserrat was designed specifically for online use, while Courier New is a classic typewriter font (see our guide to the best typewriter fonts for more of those). Considering their very different purposes, you might not think this would make the best font pairing, but actually, they work perfectly together. Montserrat’s light, modern sans-serif letterforms offset Courier New’s heavier, retro vibe really well.
03. Skolar Latin and Proxima Nova
The type foundry Rosetta describes Skolar as “a typeface for complex typography”. To back that up, Skolar boasts a vast character set, and comes in Latin, Cyrillic, Greek, Devangari and Gujarati scripts. The typeface itself sports low contrast, a relatively large x-height and robust serifs, which allow it to retain legibility even at small sizes. Our perfect font pairing for Skolar is the popular web font Proxima Nova, which was designed by Mark Simonson. This mixed modern proportions with a geometric appearance.
04. Alegreya Sans SC and Source Sans Pro
Designed by Juan Pablo del Peral for Huerta Tipográfica, Alegreya is a superfamily that includes sans and serif sister families alongside this small caps version. The family has a slightly calligraphic edge and is designed to be suitable for long blocks of text. However, the small caps variant is most suited to headers. We suggest pairing it with Source Sans Pro, Adobe’s first open-source typeface family, designed by Paul D. Hunt.
05. Pacifico and Quicksand
For a delightful font pairing with an unintentionally tropical theme, try Pacifico and Quicksand. Pacifico is a delightfully free and flamboyant brush font that’s great for use in headings, while Quicksand is a sans-serif with rounded terminals and some quirky touches, including that distinctive descender on the uppercase ‘Q’. Quicksand was actually also designed as a display typeface, but it offers enough clarity to work well at small sizes, too.
06. Julius Sans One and Archive Narrow
If you’re looking for a smart, professional look, this is a great font pairing to try. Julius Sans One is an all caps font that only comes in one weight, but, with its fine stroke and broader baseline, it’s a top choice for a display font. The more geometric Archivo Narrow is a perfect match and works equally well in print and digital.
07. Playfair Display and Raleway
The display font Playfair draws inspiration from the period in the 18th century when quills were starting to be replaced by pointed steel pens. This, alongside printing developments, led to high-contrast letterforms with delicate hairlines becoming popular. The elegant sans serif Raleway offers a perfect font pairing.
08. Oswald and Lato
Launched in 2011, Oswald is a reworking of the ‘Alternate Gothic’ sans-serif type style. It makes a great pairing with Lato (‘summer’ in Polish), which is a warm yet stable sans serif. Both are available in a range of weights and variants, giving this font pairing a lot of versatility.
09. Super Grotesk and Minion Pro
The ever-popular serifed Minion Pro works perfectly as a headline font when coupled with the nimble sans-serif Super Grotesk for body copy. Together, these fonts serve to create an effortless sense of modern elegance.
10. Libre Franklin and Libre Baskerville
These two libre typefaces make a great font pairing if you’re looking for a more traditional feel. Both Libre Baskerville and Libre Franklin have been optimised for use on screen. The first is nice and readable, so ideal for use as body text, while the latter is better suited to headlines. With nine weight options, this is another versatile combination.
11. Freight Sans and Freight Text
Working within superfamilies makes it a lot easier to find harmonious font pairings. GarageFonts’ Freight is a great example. It’s available in a large range of weights and styles, including Sans, Text, Display and Micro versions – giving you a versatile typographic toolkit to work with.
12. Kaufmann and NeutraDemi
If you’re after something more unexpected, how about this duo? The flowing stylings of Kaufmann add a touch of handwritten flair to this odd couple, and offset the straight and angular sans-serifed NeutraDemi perfectly. This font pairing might not be the most obvious match, but that doesn’t stop them playing off one another beautifully.
13. Brandon Grotesque and Minion Pro
The reliable Minion Pro appears a few times in this list thanks to its versatility. This time, it’s playing second fiddle to the bold and attention-grabbing Brandon Grotesque. It’s a classic serif and sans-serif font pairing, with both typefaces remaining crisp and easy to scan in any page layout.
14. Josefin Slab and Patrick Hand
When creating Josefin Slab, designer Santiago Orozco was aiming for something between Kabel and Memphis, but with modern details. The final typeface has distinctive, typewriter-style details, and it’s great for using in headlines. Combine it with body copy in Patrick Hand for a font pairing packed with character. The latter, based on the designer’s own handwriting, has a neat, friendly vibe.
15. Helvetica Neue and Garamond
Combining the ubiquitous Neo-Grotesque sans serif Helvetica Neue for headlines with the classic Old Style serif Garamond for text is a famously harmonious font pairing. Mix up different weights and sizes from these two neutral families to create clear hierarchy in your designs.
16. Caslon and Myriad
Another classic font pairing, this time between an 18th century Old Style serif and a late-20th century Humanist sans serif. Myriad was famously used in Apple’s corporate communication before it switched to San Francisco. It’s also used in the Rolls Royce logo.
17. Nova Mono and Lato
Nova Mono is only available in one style, but it’s a style that’s great for making a statement. Pair it with versatile sans serif Lato to stop things getting too crazy. Lato designer Łukasz Dziedzic wanted something that was nice and clear at small sizes (we’d suggest using it that way in this font pairing), but that revealed some stylised effects when used larger.
18. Fontin and Fontin Sans
Time for another superfamily, this time from Dutch foundry exljbris (opens in new tab). Fontin has been designed specifically for use at small sizes. It features loose spacing and a tall x-height. Fontin Sans is the ideal partner.
19. Minion and Poppl-Laudatio
These two typefaces both have lots of personality, but they bond perfectly. An Old Style serif typeface, Minion was designed in 1990 but inspired by late Renaissance-era type. Meanwhile, although it’s technically a sans-serif, Poppl-Laudatio’s subtle flared details give it a quirky edge.
20. Liberation Serif and Liberation Sans
The Liberation superfamily was intended as an open-source substitute for many commonly used Windows fonts, such as Arial, Times New Roman and Courier New. The Serif and Sans versions make a smart font pairing, but there are other variations to play around with, too, including Sans Narrow and Mono.
21. Trade Gothic Bold and Sabon
This pairing is particularly effective when Trade Gothic is used in its Bold weight for headlines, to set off Jan Tschichold’s classic Old Style serif face for text. Both typefaces are highly readable, with a tall x-height, and combine well together to give a pleasing effect.
22. Gilroy and Jura
This pair of sans serifs works well to create a trendy, industrial look. Gilroy’s geometric style in ExtraBold weight is ideal for headers, while Jura Light ofsets it nicely with its wiry, structured shape. The combination is good for adding a strong, technical feel to creative projects.
23. Orpheus Pro and Twentieth Century
How about looking back at the 1920s with this typeface from designer Sol Hess for Monotype? Twentieth Century has an eye-catching Art Deco vibe (it’s subtle here, but the glamour is amped up in the Twentieth Century Std Poster MT variant). For the perfect type pairing, try Orpheus Pro from Canada Type. This typeface was planned as a new version of Walter Tiemann’s Orpheus and its italic companion font Euphorion, but ended up as something much more elaborate – if you’re using it for display purposes, there are plenty of extensions, alternates, swashes, and ligatures to explore.
24. Playfair Display and Source Sans Pro
Dedicated display typeface Playfair Display boasts high-contrast for some old-fashioned charm. Meanwhile, Source Sans Pro is a modern sans-serif designed specifically for use in user interfaces. Together, they make a perfect pairing of old and new, with the understated Source Sans Pro letting Playfair Display really shine.
25. Scala and Scala Sans
FontFont’s Scala superfamily began with a serif version in 1990 and followed that in 92 with a sans serif companion. With small caps, various ligatures and old-style figures, this family offers huge versatility and is widely used in publishing.
26. Bebas Neue and Montserrat Light
Clean, condensed letterforms make Bebas Neue an excellent choice for headlines. It’s free to download and open source – so you can edit it to your own particular needs through the GitHub repo (opens in new tab) if you have the desire and skills to do so. Montserrat offers a nice contrast, especially the Light version.
27. Rockwell Bold and Bembo
Designed in the 1930s, Rockwell is one of the classic slab serifs. It has a big personality and strong attention-grabbing potential when used bold. The much more conservative serif Bembo is neutral but versatile, making for a perfect contrasting font pairing.
28. Myriad Black and Minion
Myriad and Minion crop up in other font pairings in this list, but this combination is definitely worth considering too. The shouty, ultra-bold Black version of the former and the text weight of the latter can lend a clear hierarchy to designs.
29. Souvenir and Futura Bold
Mixing two strong typographic personalities rarely works because they end up fighting for attention. However, this is an exception. Souvenir is softer and more playful than many of its Old Style serif counterparts, while Futura Bold is quirky without being too dominant.
30. Dax Bold and Caslon
One of the most versatile Old Style serifs, Caslon has also appeared elsewhere on this list. Its neutrality plays off against the informal, modern Dax Bold, enabling the latter to deliver its strong personality. Dax Bold is a great choice for a headline, and the understated Caslon won’t compete for attention.
31. Roboto and Montserrat
These two simple sans-serif typefaces offer a clean, modern font pairing. Roboto combines geometric forms with friendly, open curves, designed to facilitate a natural reading rhythm. Montserrat – named after designer Julieta Ulanovsky’s neighbourhood in Buenos Aires – has various options in its family, giving you plenty to play around with.
32. Antique Olive Bold and Chaparral
Initially designed as an alternative to Helvetica and Univers, Antique Olive has a very tall x-height with short ascenders and descenders. This makes it highly distinctive in display form. Chaparral has a modern feel but is a much more neutral slab serif. The two together work in perfect harmony.
33. Aviano and Aviano Sans
Only available in all-caps varieties, Aviano has sharp, edgy serifs that give it a distinctive personality. Its sans-serif variant is smoother. Combine the two tilting typefaces together to established clear hierarchy in your designs.
34. TheSerif and TheSans
The rather straightforward naming strategy within the LucasFonts’ Thesis typeface superfamily makes the foundry’s intentions very clear. These two variants complement each other perfectly, and each comes with its own sub-varieties.
35. Renault Light and Apex-New
This is a perfect font pairing for formal or corporate use. Both Renault and Apex-New have a very similar ratio of x-height to body height for an effortless partnership between contemporary sans serif and authoritative serif.
36. Calluna and Calluna Sans
An exljbris creation, Calluna was born out of an experiment with adding slab serifs to Museo, giving designer Jos Buivenga the idea of ‘serifs with direction’. The result is a highly distinctive text face that later spawned a sans-serif companion.