Non-NU Email
Display fonts are generally intended as headlines or titles -so generally 18+ points. Caption fonts are generally intended to be used at smaller sizes - say about 8 pts. 

That isn’t to say you can’t use them otherwise. But be aware of display font counters that might close up at small sizes. And also of any design issues with caption fonts. In other words - proof everything!

Text size for publications is generally 10 pts or thereabouts. 12 pts is typewriter-sized and is big for publications. (Paper is expensive.) So with 10 pt text, I’d set captions at 8 pts. Roman or italic. Not bold. Bold for a caption would disrupt the type hierarchy. 

There are always exceptions. 



Sent from my iPhone

On Nov 1, 2021, at 5:23 PM, Ann Zyg <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Non-NU Email
Hi Gail, 
This info is from, a reputable font seller. I’ve used Helvetic bold, 10 pt with a 12 pt Times Roman body text. Hope this helps.

Captions Part 1

by Ilene Strizver

Captions Part 1

A caption is the brief text description accompanying a photograph, illustration or cartoon, most often as part of a longer article. Neither body text nor display text, captions require special treatment to be set for optimal effectiveness. It’s worth the trouble, though: captions tend to be among the most-read portions of any printed piece.

Harmony and contrast

A properly set caption should be distinct from the body text, yet still be in visual harmony with it. To achieve this, try these approaches:

  • The most foolproof strategy is to use a corresponding italic or oblique of the body text. This almost always works well
  • Try a corresponding bold weight. Make sure it’s heavy enough for good contrast with the body text, yet still readable (see below for more on the subject of readability)
  • A clean, simple bold sans often works well as a caption font with serif body text
  • Captions are slightly subordinate to the body text, so set them anywhere from .5 to 2 points smaller

Legibility and readability

Captions are usually set fairly small, and yet they’re prime real estate on the page when it comes to drawing the reader’s eye. Therefore, it’s vital that captions be set for both maximum legibility (the design characteristics of the font) and high readability (the size and arrangement of the text).

Some typefaces hold up very well at small sizes, but others do not. Watch out for these pitfalls:

  • Thin strokes that begin to disappear (a danger in high-contrast typefaces)
  • Counters that fill in, especially with bold weights
  • Design details that suddenly become a deterrent to high legibility at small sizes

The key to finding an effective caption treatment is preliminary testing. Take the time to set several different typestyles and point sizes on a dummy page with some actual body text. Print the page on a high-resolution printer for an accurate representation of the final outcome, and let your eye be the judge: choose the one that offers the best combination of contrast, visual harmony, readability and legibility.

See more in Caption Fonts part two.

Page 2 of 2

by Ilene Strizver

Usually part of a complete typeface family, caption fonts are special designs that have been reworked to hold up better at smaller sizes, most often in the 6-9 point range. Adjustments can include:

  • reduced weight contrast (resulting in sturdier thin strokes and serifs)
  • larger x-heights
  • more-open counters
  • more-open letter spacing

Typefaces families that include caption fonts with the characteristics described above include ChaparralCronosAdobe Jenson ProKeplerUtopia and Warnock Pro (see illustration).

Some foundries design (or name) caption fonts a bit differently. For example, the Fairfield family’s caption fonts are slightly angled, a cross between the Roman design and its italic counterpart (see illustration). ITC Bodoni Six is a size-specific design intended for captions and other small text, but it’s identified by a point size descriptor rather than the word caption in the name (see illustration). The family also includes Bodoni Twelve and Bodoni Seventy-Two. Other typeface families use the heading “optical sizes” to describe variations suited for use at specific point sizes.

Whichever font you decide to you use, the principles of good design remain the same – contrast, harmony and legibility are the keys to setting effective captions.

On Mon, Nov 1, 2021 at 5:33 PM Gail Guth <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Non-NU Email
Hi all!
What makes a caption or display font? A quick visual scan tells me there are subtle differences, but otherwise I can't tell.



Need to leave or subscribe to the Sciart-L listserv? Follow the instructions at name is Sciart-L
Problems: Email Lana Johnson at [log in to unmask]

Sent from Gmail Mobile


Need to leave or subscribe to the Sciart-L listserv? Follow the instructions at name is Sciart-L
Problems: Email Lana Johnson at [log in to unmask]


Need to leave or subscribe to the Sciart-L listserv? Follow the instructions at name is Sciart-L
Problems: Email Lana Johnson at [log in to unmask]