Email Safe Fonts vs. Custom Fonts: What You Need To Know About Them

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Karolina Petraškienė
Content Marketing Manager
Reading Time: 5 minutes

The typeface of the text is one of the most important elements for all marketing communication materials: brochures, articles on the web, emails, etc.

The right text font helps to reflect your brand identity, contributes to the design and aesthetic feeling, text readability and reader’s perception.
Perhaps, it means that you shouldn’t underestimate this small, as it can initially seem, but important design detail.

Email channel technology determines some limitations on typefaces. So you can’t use whatever font you want if you want your emails to look good to all your subscribers.

So I’m here to make you aware of the email safe fonts and their alternatives while creating your email campaigns.

Best Fonts For Emails: Why Should You Be Careful About Picking The Font For Your Campaign?

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There are two main reasons for this.

Reason #1

The first thing about choosing the right font is a match between the font and the topic you are writing about.

For example, Times New Roman typeface is famous for being used in the documents. Hundreds of pages of my Master final theses are written in Times New Roman… So probably it is not the best typeface to use in the newsletter trying to make a friendly connection with your subscribers.

Another good example is the Comic Sans font. Would you use your bank service if it sent flyers, bills, and emails written in Comic Sans? I have doubts about it because the font looks unsophisticated and not trustworthy at all.

The Comic Sans font has received a lot of attention even from scientists. They provide studies why it is so hateful by people. For the sake of general understanding, I’m including a short video explaining the Comic Sans phenomenon.

Reason #2
The second thing is the technical reason. Not all email clients display fonts equally. Outlook, Apple Mail, Gmail – they all have sets of default fonts and they differ from each other. Your subscriber’s email client will display your message in the intended font style only if this font style is compatible on his or her end.

In other cases, your message will be displayed in the predefined email client’s fallback typeface. Which might be far away from the one initially intended.

So what would be a solution to avoid a mismatch?

Use Email-friendly Fonts

An email, very similar to the web, has a list of fonts that are considered to be safe to use. It means that using them all your subscribers will see your text the same way.

The most popular safe fonts for email are these: Arial, Verdana, Helvetica, Georgia, Tahoma, Lucida, Trebuchet and Times.

All the typefaces mentioned above have great readability. Georgia, Verdana, Trebuchet are ones of the most neutral and easy-to-read typefaces.

In the table at the end of this post, you will see that email-safe fonts also have fallbacks. However, their alternatives are so similar that no-one will notice the difference.

Custom Fonts in Emails

Sometimes it is not enough to use email-friendly fonts. The reasons for this might be various, one of it – a need to follow brand identity. In this case, email service providers offer to import the font you want to the custom email HTML by yourself and offer a fallback if needed (~ 50% of cases).

Omnisend added extra web fonts to custom template creator, so you don’t need to code or insert anything on your own. If a particular device does not display a certain web font, it is being changed to a similar fallback font. We take care of it. It means that you are safe to choose any of the fonts and be sure that your newsletters will look good anyway.

What subscribers will be able to see your custom fonts?

  • Apple Mail on OS X
  • Apple iPhone
  • Apple iPad

According to Litmus, it covers about half of your subscribers.
Plus, in April 2018, Gmail updated webmail client’s interface with two popular fonts – Google Sans and Roboto. This means, that if you use either of these fonts in your emails, they will render in Gmail as well.

You can always check in your Google Analytics (Audience -> Behavior -> Operating System) account what percent of your subscribers will be able to see the web fonts.

Bellow, you can find a complete list of fonts supported on Omnisend with a complete list of fallback fonts, so you would know, what to expect.

Font name Fallback 1 Fallback 2 Font type
  Arial Sans
  Courier New Monospace
  Verdana Sans
  Helvetica Arial (on Windows) Sans
  Times Times New Roman (on Windows) Serif
  Georgia Serif
  Tahoma Geneva (on Mac) Sans
  Lucida Sans
  Trebuchet Sans
  PT Sans Verdana Arial Sans
  Source Sans Pro Verdana Arial Sans
  PT Serif Georgia Serif
  Open Sans Verdana Arial Sans
  Playfair Display Georgia Serif
  Ubuntu Verdana Arial Sans
  Roboto Verdana Arial Sans
  Oswald Verdana Arial Sans
  Raleway Verdana Ariel Sans
  Dosis Verdana Arial Sans
  Anton Verdana Arial Sans

Though the web fonts, as well as email fonts, are an issue for lots of internet users, the offered fallback fonts are the ones that you usually use anyway. So why not to experiment and make a campaign with new fonts.

Plan B: How Should You Use Your Brand Fonts, If They Aren’t “Email Safe” Ones?

There are a lot of fancy typefaces that brands choose to express their brand identity.

Although some of them you can definitely try (at least ones from the list above), the fanciest ones should be avoided in email copywriting. But they are still great for using in your email images.

See the example below:

Due. chose Helvetica for email copy and a nice typeface to enrich their main image and highlight the deal.

I also like the Vente-Privee password reminder. What a creative approach these guys have found for this automatic email. Nice typography makes this email unexpectedly beautiful.

5 General Tips on Email Copywriting:

  1. Don’t write long pieces of content in your promotional emails. Usually, people don’t read them. Use imagery and clear call-to-action instead.
  2. Make your email easy to scan: use headlines, spacing, and lines for different content blocks.
  3. Font size matters. The best size for headlines 18-22 pt, the best for content 14-16 pt.
  4. Choose neutral, email-friendly fonts for text elements and custom typefaces for imagery.
  5. Don’t mix many different typefaces, type sizes, and colors. Firstly, because it never looks good. Secondly, because it’s hard to read and understand what’s most important in the email.
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Karolina Petraškienė

Karolina is a writer, content marketer, and email enthusiast at Omnisend. When she's not curating articles, you can find her in the woods challenging herself in hiking boots or off-roading her bike.