Picking the right font size for your photo book can be a hard thing to figure out. Generally, I select an 11 or 12 point font which is the standard default font size in your average word processing software like Microsoft Word. That’s just a starting point however – I typically favor a little smaller than standard text for my own photo books. It’s just a personal preference as I like to have the photos stand out more rather than draw too much attention to the text on a page. I also prefer to write a narrative at the beginning of a set of photos rather than caption each photo. I prefer a clean look, so while text can be important to give context to the photos, I tend to use it sparingly.
With that said however, I do break from my general guidelines depending on the type of book I’m designing. There are a number of factors that may affect your font choice in the end. Here are some considerations:
1) Who is your audience? If the audience is very young (or on the flip side, part of the senior set) you may want to opt for a larger than normal font. A simpler less elaborate font is probably best too, especially for kids who may not be able to read cursive or overly ornate letters. Here’s a sample below of a layout for a kids’ ABC book, as you can see the main letters take up a whole page in an 8 x 8 book (half of the full spread).
For the image of my 8 x 8 ABC book immediately above, the font size on the main letters is 100pt Century Gothic and the smaller text is 25pt Century Gothic. This layout was done in Fotofusion.
2) Change the font midstream? Changing the font can drastically change the readability of your text. If you change the font (and especially with software that allows you to change fonts globally across your whole book), go back and make sure it’s still readable;
3) What size is your book? The size of the book should also be considered when picking a font. Really small text in a large book like a 12 x 12 may get lost on the page. Similarly a 12pt font in an 8 x 8 book may look slightly large. Proportionality is important;
4) What kind of text is it? Fonts used for titles or for marking sections of a photo book are usually larger than the font used for the body of a paragraph or captions. I often go with 16 to 20pt font for titles, but that can depend greatly on the font style itself as well as the look that you’re going for.
Below I’m going for a fun retro postcard look. This is an 8.5 x 11 landscape page. The large font in yellow is Blessed Day in 95pt, the other two are Century Gothic in 30pt for the title and 11pt for the body text.
5. Keep it Simple. Unless you’re making a photo book for kids and want a whimsical look, don’t go overboard on choosing too many font styles and sizes. I typically use a total of two fonts. One font for the headings and then one font for the text. One font may be serif (like a handwriting font) and one is usually sans serif (a plain font without “hooks” and “tails” like Century Gothic).
6. Think Color! When you’re overlaying text onto a photo background, you probably have to compete a bit with the photo itself for readability. As you can see in the sample above, I added a semi-transparent blue background so that my heading would stand out a bit. I also added an outline and shadow as well. Then of course there’s the pop of yellow for the other title. For more tips on fun text ideas check out this post.
7. Preview Your Layouts. I know it can be hard to visualize final print size when you’re designing the pages, and depending on the photo book company or software you’re using, that can be easier or harder to do. Regardless, I always preview the book before printing. If I can enlarge the workspace to make it approximately equivalent to the size of the end product, that will often give me the best indication of the end size of the font. Sometimes you can use a browser’s “zoom” tool to get a larger view, or if you’re on a Mac you can use the “spread fingers” motion to immediately increase the size of the browser window’s contents. It doesn’t matter if doing so makes the preview look blurry, your intention is to see if the font will look readable at it’s end print size. With larger books, unless you have a really large monitor it may not be possible to zoom out all the way to your end size, but you may get pretty close. I take a ruler and just place it up against the monitor to make sure I’m seeing it at the size I think I am.
Another method I use is to look at the measurements or actual ruler on in the software to get an idea of how big something will print. For example if I see that this text will print 2 inches across per the built-in ruler or guides, then I can grab a physical ruler to get an idea of how big two inches of text will look. Similarly, if you look at the layout immediately above, the title “Our Disneyland Vacation” looks to be about 5.5 to 6 inches long. I know this because my page size is 11 inches and you can see that the length of the whole title is slightly more than half the width of the page. Again, not a perfect science, but you’re just trying to get a relatively good idea of the end size.
8. Check Your Grammar and Spelling. If you can have someone else do a once over on your text, that’s the best option, but careful proofreading will usually do the trick;
9. Watch Text Placement. Don’t put text too close to the gutter (center of the spread) or the edges of the page. Often you’ll see red lines or some type of indicator to help keep important elements inside the print area of the book. Usually photo book software will have warning messages that will pop up. I always make sure to keep text well within the boundaries so nothing is cut off.
More Posts on Fonts
Want to check out other posts I’ve written on fonts and text in your photo books? Check out my other posts here!