Top Typography Terms, Best Practices and Tips

In this article, we’ll explain what typography is, cover important terminology, identify best practices for designers, and finally, explain how to picsart can help you achieve your typographic goals.

What is Typography?

what is typography in terms of visual design

Type design is the culmination of centuries of human trial and error, from the early days of handwriting to printing and now digitizing. In graphic design, typography is the art of arranging letters and text so that they are readable and aesthetically pleasing. It includes everything from creation and new font design, to decide how these fonts will be laid out. Imagine, for example, if everything you read was in Times New Roman? It would be boring!

For a field of design devoted to words and communication, it’s quite ironic that the world of typography seems to have its own language. Much of its terminology can be overwhelming to newcomers. To help you learn the jargon, we’ve compiled a list of key typography terms.

Top Typography Terms

Font versus typeface

font versus typeface

Although these two terms are often used interchangeably in today’s digital world, their distinction is important. A typeface is the visual design of letterforms and consists of multiple variations. Variants are what we call fonts. In short, a typeface is a family of fonts, like Helvetica, for example, that can have an overwhelming amount of styles – from light to bold and regular to italic. These elements combine to create specific effects.

Character versus glyph

character vs glyph

These two terms are often confused. While a character refers to the symbol that represents a letter, a glyph is a higher level concept. It’s a bit abstract, even philosophical, but it’s the essence of a specific letter. For example, what exactly makes an “a” an “a”? There are features unique to all ‘a’s that allow us to decipher it. The glyph is the agreed-upon minimum set of symbols we need to recognize and read an ‘a’.


leader explained

This term originated in the days of first printing when typesetters used lead strips to separate character lines. Although this is all done by computers now, it still refers to the space or distance between each line of text. There are many programs that allow you to adjust line spacing simply by typing in a value. It is generally accepted by designers that for text to be most readable, leading should be between 1.25 and 1.5 times larger than the font size. But if you want a more grouped effect or you are running out of space, you can choose to skip it.

Serif versus Sans-Serif

serif versus sans serif

We covered the origins of these two terms in previous posts, but in short, serif refers to typefaces whose characters bear short decorative strokes at the end of a letter’s stem (called serifs) as their defining characteristic. The Times New Roman is a shining example. Conversely, Sans serif refers to font families that do not use serifs, such as Arial or Helvetica.

Typography Best Practices for Designers

Think hierarchically

Establishing logical hierarchies is one of the type’s most important functions. Clearly distinguished font sizes and selections establish logical content order in your design. The type helps readers identify the order of priority for reading and comprehension. You cannot communicate effectively without it.

Enter the grid

Grids allow us to achieve a level of precision in design, and nowhere is this more important than in typography. By establishing and adhering to a grid system, you create structure. This means you can create a sense of logic and harmony, but when you want to create an element of surprise, all you have to do is step off the grid. A grid approach can be as simple as setting a baseline and following it with all text on the page. It makes all the difference, especially in the publishing world.

Contrast to match fonts

Associate fonts is one of the biggest challenges designers face when laying out a page. It can be difficult to get it right, but contrast is everything. If your header font is sans serif, you’ll want to choose a serif for your body text. If your header is bold, you’ll want your body text to be light.

Don’t overdo it

Try to achieve harmony above all else and choose your battles wisely over what information you want to surface.

Typographic Anatomy Tips

Here is a list of the main anatomical features that you will soon be able to recognize and name for yourself.


Traits are the main components of any character. They can be straight or curved segments.


The main stroke executed in straight letters is called the stem. Examples of stems include the main stroke in a lowercase “k” or the strokes that make up both sides of an “A” are also stems. But the strokes can also be slanted, as in the case of ‘Z’. If the stroke is rounded, as in a lowercase “c”, it is either open or closed.


This is the horizontal line in a character that connects one stem to another is called the bar. In a capital “A”, for example, the bar runs from one angled rod to the other.


There are a number of imaginary lines in typography, which designers use to help create clean, uniform typefaces in proportion. Think back to school when you were learning to perfect your handwriting. You have practiced lettering on lined paper. The baseline is the line on which the lower curve of the lowercase letter “a” falls.


There are letters with strokes that fall below the baseline. These strokes are called sinkers. An example is the lowercase ‘g’ descending bracket.

Cape Line

Refers to the maximum height of an uppercase letter. Although some letters exceed the height of the cap, such as the dot on a capital “A”.


This is the line we place just between the baseline and the height of the cap.


This refers to strokes that exceed x-height. An example is the upper stroke that makes up the lowercase letter ‘h’.


It is the end of any stroke that is not a serif. Think, for example, of the parasitic stroke on a lowercase “e” or at the top of a lowercase “f”. Terminals can be finials, which are curved or tapered, or balls, which are circular.

Create typographic designs with Picsart

There are hundreds of unique fonts in the Picsart text editor. So you can have fun with typography. Use these tutorials to experiment with new types and fonts, and see if you can identify some of the principles we talked about above, using them to improve your designs.

On the desk

1. Open the desktop editor and click New project.

2. Choose your canvas size from the available options.

3. Click on the Text tool and add a title, placing it on the canvas where you want it.

4. Enter your text and choose an appropriate font.

5. Click on the color picker and choose a color for your text.

6. And that’s all. You can of course make other graphic changes and adjustments, or add more text in different fonts if needed. But once you are done with your edit, click the Export button and upload your work.

On mobile

1. Open the Picsart app on your mobile device and tap the plus sign (+) to start a new project.
2. Scroll to Color backgrounds section and tap on the blank canvas option.
3. Tap the Text icon at the bottom of your screen.

4. Enter your text and choose the orientation (left, middle or right). Tap the checkmark in the top right and place the text anywhere on your image.
5. You will see a number of font options at the bottom. Scroll and select the desired font.
6. After selecting the font, you can change the text color, opacity, shadow, etc.

seven. Make other changes here, such as folding the text or adding additional graphic details to finish.
8. Tap the Next icon to confirm all changes.
9. Save your work or post it to the Picsart creative community.

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