Best Fonts for Email: Usage Tips and Tricks
One of the most striking concerns in the email production process is choosing the right font. Weight, height, width, color, shape, spacing… Does everything matter? Yes, it does, but also one of the most crucial things is to choose the font that is legible.
In this post, we're gonna show you how to choose the best professional font for email.
HTML email fonts: General rules to follow
There are three ground rules to keep in mind when choosing the best font for email:
1. Never use more than 2 fonts in emails
If you use too many fonts, your email seems very complicated in the best case and annoying in the worst one. Choose only a font or two for one email. In a perfect case, that’s enough to use only one font but different sizes: one to highlight the heading and another one for the rest of your content.
2. Avoid using more than 2 font styles in emails
Do not mix regular, bold, and italic font styles in emails. If you use more than two, emails look somewhat messy. Normally, one font style is right enough. If you want to highlight things, you may apply the bold font style.
But never underline your text and never apply italic typeface out of email accessibility reasons.
3. Pay close attention to the legibility of the chosen font
The main feature of your content’s font is legibility. Legibility is the ability to distinguish one letter from another. Of course, legible text is better and faster to read so check if all characters are visible, clear, and distinctive enough.
What is the most readable font? The experiment about font legibility was conducted by Norbert Schwarz and Hyunjin Song in 2010. The results were impressive. You spend almost twice as much time on reading italic font style and decorative fonts compared to regular ones:
Speaking of legibility... There are two major types of fonts: Serif and Sans Serif. Let's see which font to use for email newsletters.
Which one to choose: a Serif or a Sans Serif font?
Typefaces do affect the legibility of emailing fonts, too. What’s the difference between them?
Serif fonts could be defined as fonts that have a small line at the end of every character. The most popular serif fonts are Times New Roman and Georgia.
Sans serif fonts are those that don’t have a decorative line at the end of every symbol. The most popular sans-serif safe fonts are Arial, Trebuchet MS, and Helvetica.
During the investigation, I have found several sources which claimed that serif fonts are most suitable for emails but I totally disagree. Based on the assumption that emails are being observed only online using the desktop or mobile screens, the best are sans serif fonts. It’s easier to read sans-serif characters on the screen.
Email safe fonts
Here is the list of the top 10 fonts that you may use with a 100% guarantee that they will render in users’ inboxes just like you planned:
Designed in 1982, is packaged with all versions of Microsoft, starting from Windows 3, and Apple Mac OS X. Displayed by all email clients. Due to terminal diagonal cuts, it looks less mechanical compared to other fonts of the sans-serif family.
A sans-serif typeface, one of the most used fonts of a type, has rounded letters and wide capitals. Designed in 1957
3. Times New Roman
Has tall low-case letters, slightly condensed, short descenders, and ascenders. Commissioned by “The Times” in 1931.
It was designed to be readable on low-resolution screens, its main feature is tall and wide low-case characters.
5. Courier / Courier New
It was designed in 1955, similar to Times New Roman, but adjusted to be a monospaced font. Courier New has heavier dots and commas than the original Courier. Courier is the standard font used for screenwriting in the film industry.
It is similar to Verdana yet has narrower letters, small counters, and tight letter spacing. Used as the default screen font for Windows 95, 2000, and XP versions.
Has tall lower-case, strokers are thicker than average ones, its numerals blend seamlessly with the text due to its similar size.
It was originally designed for headings, advertisements, and printing. Wider than other old-style serif fonts.
9. Trebuchet MS
Has shortened tails for some letters, in bold its letters are pointy rather than rounded, and rounded dots in lowercase. Released in 1996.
A redesigned version of Helvetica, its main distinction is that it has a basic set of ligatures.
These fonts are said to be the most readable email fonts.
Custom fonts in emails
There are cases when you want or need to use a custom font for your emails, either in order to stay brand consistent or in order to make your emails look more festive for a special occasion.
We want to remind you that you can upload custom fonts to your Stripo account and use them in your email campaigns.
We strongly recommend that you preview these emails across multiple environments. You can do it with our embedded testing tool.
Important to note:
If an email client does not support a certain font, the latter will be replaced with a default one.
Here is the list of default fonts for the most popular email clients:
iCloud Mail uses Helvetica as a default font;
Gmail adopts Arial;
Microsoft Outlook of the oldest versions often uses Calibri;
Outlook 2007/2010/2013 has a Times New Roman as a fallback font.
Email font size
There is no such thing as the best font size for email, as quite often different fonts have different symbol heights. As a result the same, say, 16px font will be different due to the chosen font family.
I have made an email template with Stripo which allows comparing different fonts of the same size. Please, see the results:
You choose the one you like and use it across all emails so that your newsletters are always legible and brand consistent.
We recommend that you set fonts and font sizes when only start designing your email template — the settings will be applied to the entire email. This will save you a large amount of time as it will prevent you from the necessity to set fonts for every part of your emails.
Did you know that Stripo allows setting different font sizes for mobile and desktop devices? For instance, you use 14px for emails opened on desktops, and 16 pixels for emails opened on mobile devices.
Setting font size for desktops
- enter the Appearance tab;
- go to the General Settings section;
- pick a necessary font from the dropdown menu. The custom fonts, that you have previously added to your Stripo profile, will also appear on this list;
- set line spacing;
- in the Stripes section, you set a different font size for every part of your email (excluding banners), and font color;
- in the Headings section, you need to pick a font once again — it may be a new one. Here you also set the font size for Headings 1, 2, and 3;
- in the Button section, please set the button font color and its size.
Setting font size for mobiles
- enter the Appearance tab;
- go to the Mobile Formatting section;
- set font size for headings, footers, content areas, menu tabs, and buttons.
Line spacing for emails
Line spacing is the vertical distance between lines. It is measured as the percentage of the font size.
You can set the desired spacing for your emails just in the tabs and sections where you've just set your font sizes.
Some sources claim that 150% is the best line spacing size.
But according to Email accessibility guidelines, it varies between 150% and 200%.
(email copy with single-line spacing)
(email copy with 1.6-line spacing)
Links in emails
Don’t use a different font to draw readers’ attention to links. Don’t ever put links without text. The text should explain where this link leads to and be organically a part of the text. Don’t use the words “here” or “link” as a text. They are too short and too general to be click-worthy.
One of the best practices here is to make links of the same color as a logo. It looks great, check it out:
(Source: Email from Epilepsy Foundation)
You can also underline links for your emails if you find it necessary or if it matches your email design.
However, we strongly recommend that you never underline links for the sake of email accessibility — it distracts dyslectics.
Fonts for buttons in emails
Buttons are the same links but they have a more interactive form for users. It’s better to use both in your email. If you provide a link that will take readers to a blog post, you can make it a text link, but if you provide a link to try out the product you have, just use buttons.
There is no certain rule about the color for buttons that should be used but it’s better to rely on color psychology and try not to ruin the design concept with too loud color reproduction.
The same applies to fonts for the buttons: No certain rules. You just need to make sure the button texts are legible enough.
The text’s color is supposed to match the button’s color and make sure that it is visible enough for reading. Check also if the text is located properly inside of the button, it shouldn’t cross the button’s borders.
Here is an example where the button looks cool:
(Source: Stripo email template)
Important to note:
You may add white spacing in buttons with Stripo so that there's some space between the text and the button borders. It makes them more legible.
So how do you do it? Work on “internal padding" in the Button tab.
You can also set a different font size for email buttons for the mobile view.
To do so, you need to:
go to the Appearance tab;
go to the Mobile Formatting tab;
set button text size — to make your button text legible on mobile devices. 16px or higher is the best size here;
toggle the “Full-width buttons” button to make your buttons wider on mobile devices. The chances customers will notice full-width buttons are too high.
Text over banners
Here is the chance to use festive, or decorative fonts that you shouldn’t actually use as the main text font. Since the text over a banner is a part of an image, it will remain the same across all email clients. And it is expected to be festive enough. So you may choose any.
Please be advised that it’s better to choose a legible font. And that you don’t have to write too much text on a banner. Keep it short.
Which one to use depends on your inspiration and email design.
Using decorative fonts over email banners with Stripo
- when your banner image is uploaded and edited, you click the "Text" icon above the template to start working on button copy;
- enter your copy in the "Caption" section on your banners;
- then highlight your banner text and pick a desired banner font from the dropdown list.
Email font color
There are only 2 rules you should follow here:
1. Keep the number of colors to a minimum
You should only use the colors that are present in your brand identity. If you have an idea to use more than 3 colors in your email, just leave this idea aside because it will make text illegible and your email messy.
If you want to highlight one sentence or a phrase just use a bold font, using a different color is ambiguous.
Example of a good color combination in emails.
(Source: Email from Victoria's Secret)
2. Use contrast colors
If you intend to use bright colors — many of us do when it comes to holidays — be sure to use contrast colors. Don’t place red text over green buttons, don’t use white over grey. It may seem festive enough for people who have good eyesight. However, color blind people may not find our text legible.
Commonly for email content, designers use black or dark grey colors. It’s better for readability. The only exception is when you have a black background. In this case, use a white font. Don’t use a light grey font on a white background because it makes it hard to read your emails.
HTML tags for text formatting
Those email marketers who prefer email builders can format texts right in the builder.
Those who prefer coding emails from scratch might need the following:
to make your text bold:
<strong> text here </strong> or <b> text here </b>
for bullet lists:
<ul> <li> point 1 </li> <li> point 2 </li> <li> point 3 </li> </ul>
to make your text Italic:
<i> text here </i> or <em> text here <em>
to use the same font of smaller size:
<small> text here </small>
to highlight the text with yellow (by default) filling:
<mark> text here </mark>
and this one allows you to define a paragraph:
<p> text here </p>
Right to Left texts in emails
Over 550 million people speak the languages that use the Right-to-Left inscription. RTL text is way more than just reversing words.
For instance, you are not supposed to reverse numbers, foreign words, etc. All punctuation marks that you'd normally put at the end of the line, will actually start it. We will not dive into details here. But you can familiarize yourself with all the RTL text guidelines in our "Right to Left text" blog post.
We also show there how to activate the RTL option with Stripo, so you can use RTL scripts in your emails with no coding skills.
Email accessibility guidelines
In a nutshell, we should consider these guidelines for several reasons:
to enable color blind people to read our emails;
to enable people with visual impairments to listen to our emails with screen readers;
to enable our users who are extremely busy and check their emails while driving or cooking and ask Siri to “read” their incoming messages, to listen to our emails;
to enable dyslectics to read our emails — as many of the people who suffer from dyslexia are not aware of it, but reading unadapted texts is quite unbearable to them.
So, the guidelines to make your email text accessible:
Consider color contrast.
Make your texts left-aligned for easier perception of email copy by dyslectics — avoid center-aligned texts.
Always add punctuation marks at the end of every bullet point. Yes, it may be against grammar rules, but by doing this we make our emails more legible and make at least one recipient happier.
Keep font size 14 pixels or more.
Do not underline texts.
Avoid Italic. If you need to highlight any part of your text, use only bold type!
Do not use all caps!
For more information, please refer to our "Email accessibility" blog post.
What is the best font to use for email newsletters?
There's no such thing as the best font for Gmail, the best font for Outlook, and any other email client. It does depend on the language you're speaking. As a result, we dare to say that preferences vary from country to country due to language features.
Due to many experiments made by the eSputnik marketing team, the best fonts for emails for Russian-speaking countries are Arial and Tahoma. Arial is the most compelling font among those who set up email marketing campaigns in Russian. Tahoma looks great in both content-heavy emails and small texts.
Helvetica is the most popular font among English-speaking countries. Arial takes 2nd place.
To choose the most legible one in your opinion, according to your alphabet features, you may test all the email-safe fonts as we did. You can also ask your friends and colleagues to help you with this test.
I have created an email template with Stripo editor with the same text and the same size of 18px for each font.
So, here are the results, just compare these fonts and choose the one that fits your needs the most:
Considering all the above, we can say there are no professional-looking email fonts that are legible and look nice across all kinds of devices. You always have to choose:
Georgia and Times New Roman are too narrow;
Courier New is wide but maybe even too wide for email;
Arial is lighter than Helvetica;
it’s impossible to tell apart Verdana and Tahoma fonts.
Apart from choosing the right email font, we need to make our emails accessible by sticking to the guidelines mentioned above.