Typographic Color


Hang around a designer long enough and you're likely to hear them refer to typographic color, and they aren't talking about the color of the font.

They aren't even describing the appearance of individual characters in a font.

Typographic color describes the relative lightness or darkness of a block of text. The shade of color in a text block is dictated by factors including the font size, the space between letters (kerning), the space between lines (leading), as well as the font selection itself. In the interest of time, I will discuss the latter, typographic color with varying fonts in this edition.

How do fonts influence typographic color?
Let's forget about fonts for a moment and think about doodling. The more you draw and layer your strokes, the darker the image. The same applies to fonts and typographic color.

The visual weight of a text block is influenced by the amount of ink used to create the characters and the amount of paper that is visible through the characters. Variations in this visual color of a font in turn influence the legibility of a font. This is why certain fonts are consistently used for body copy, while others are used for headings.

Here are some examples of different type classifications:


What does this mean for you?
It means that there is more to consider when choosing a typeface than just individual character styles. But it also means that more compressed or thicker fonts are more difficult to read than a more open font. This is why fonts like Garamond, Baskerville, Times, etc are so widely used for large bodies of copy.