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The Video Editor’s Guide to Working With Text


Tighten up your typography with these tips on choosing the best fonts for video projects.

Whether you are creating title sequences, lower thirds, or motion graphics, here are a few tips on choosing the right type of fonts for video projects.

Let’s get things started with the big disclaimer. The most important thing in choosing a font for video is the ability for the text to convey information. The text should be simple, neat, and legible. Don’t overcomplicate the design or ability for the audience to read the information.

You should have a basic understanding of the anatomy of a character. You don’t have to have a masterful grasp of details like arms, links, swashes, and tails — but you should know the difference between serif and sans-serif. Also, avoid stretched and compressed fonts, instead adjust the leading, kerning, and tracking. 

Serif vs. Sans-Serif Fonts

The Video Editor's Guide to Working With Text - Serif vs Sans Serif

Image via BMCC

A serif is the small projection that extends off the main strokes of a character. For text heavy projects, serifs are often terrible for video. They can be difficult to read at small sizes, which is why a majority of commercials feature disclaimers written in very small sans-serif type.

The basic rule of thumb is to avoid serifs for any type of informational text. If the audience needs to know the time and date of a show, go with a sans-serif font. Serifs can be used when the type is large, like show titles.

Stranger Things is a perfect example of using a serif font for the shows title (ITC Benguiat), but keeping all relevant information like the names of actors and directors in a sans-serif font for legibility (ITC Avant Garde Gothic).


The Video Editor's Guide to Working With Text - Leading

Leading determines the amount of vertical space in between lines. It really comes into play in the previously mentioned commercial disclaimers. You’ll see these at the bottom of the screen, with three to four lines of warnings or legalese. It is measured from the baseline.

When it comes to determining the proper distance, you need to take ascenders and descenders into account. Theses are the lines that extend in letters like b, d, g, h, j, p, and q.


The Video Editor's Guide to Working With Text - Kerning

Kerning is the space between individual characters.  In the word no, it’s the amount of space between the n and the o. Something to take into account, whenever you use ALL CAPS, the kerning is typically defaulted to regular type. This is why some ALL CAPS characters look too close together. (Here’s how to quickly adjust kerning in AE by holding the Option or Alt keys.)


The Video Editor's Guide to Working With Text - Tracking

Tracking is similar to kerning, which is why many people get the two confused. Tracking involves the spacing throughout the entire word. In the word yes, it’s the amount of space between the y and e, and the e and s.

Best Fonts for Video Text

The Video Editor's Guide to Working With Text - Best Fonts

Now that you know how to adjust the font, it comes down to finding fonts that look great not matter how you adjust them for your video project. Here are a few of the most popular options constantly used in a variety of videos.

  • Helvetica
  • Source Sans Pro
  • Lato
  • Futura
  • Impact
  • Arial
  • Gill Sans
  • Gotham
  • Univers
  • Trade Gothic