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Email safe fonts vs. custom fonts: what you need to know

Reading Time: 9 minutes

The text’s typeface is a vital element for all marketing communication materials: brochures, articles on the web, emails, etc.

The correct email fonts reflect your brand identity and contribute to the design and aesthetic feeling, text readability, and reader’s perception.

Essentially, this means that you shouldn’t underestimate this design detail that may seem small but is, in actuality, crucial.

The current email infrastructure 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.

In this article, we cover email safe fonts and their alternatives to help you create stunning email campaigns.

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Best, safest fonts for emails: Why care about fonts for your campaign?

There are two main reasons for this.

Reason #1: Supports your campaign’s topic

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 is one of the the standard email fonts and it’s famous for being used by default in documents.

Hundreds of pages of my Master final theses are written in Times New Roman, so it’s probably not the best typeface to use in a newsletter where you’re 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 this because the font looks unsophisticated and not trustworthy at all.

The Comic Sans font has received a lot of attention even from scientists who provided studies for why people hate it. For the sake of general understanding, Here’s a short video explaining the Comic Sans phenomenon.

Reason #2: Considers technical limitations

The second thing is the technical reason. Not all email clients can display fonts equally. Outlook, Apple Mail, Gmail – they all have default fonts that differ from each other. Your subscriber’s email client will display your message in the intended font style only if it’s compatible.

In other cases, the client will display your message in the predefined fallback typeface, which might be far away from the one initially intended. Since Gmail is the leading email provider, it’s safe to stick to Gmail-supported fonts.

What are email safe fonts?

Email safe fonts (also known as web-safe fonts) are those supported by all major email clients. They’re the typefaces you can be sure will look good, no matter which email client your subscribers use to read your emails.

The most popular safe fonts for emails are:

  • Arial
  • Courier
  • Courier New
  • Georgia
  • Helvetica
  • Helvetica Neue
  • Lucida
  • Tahoma
  • Times
  • Times New Roman
  • Trebuchet MS
  • Verdana

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

1. Arial

an example of a sentence in Arial font

Probably one of the most popular typefaces out there, Arial is a Sans Serif font. You see it on websites, posters, logos, and emails. It has great readability at small sizes, but it doesn’t provide much contrast when combined with other fonts since it is monoline.

2. Georgia

an example of a sentence in Georgia font

Georgia is a classic Serif font that’s been widely used for decades. It isn’t among the most popular choices since it looks more formal and conservative than other typefaces, but it still has great readability, which makes it suitable for emails.

3. Lucida

an example of a sentence in Lucida font

Lucida is a typeface family with sans serif, serif, and monospaced font styles. It’s extremely versatile and can be used in almost any design context. Clean and simple, Lucida is the perfect font to use to convey a sense of modernity and sophistication. 

4. Tahoma

an example of a sentence in Tahoma font

Tahoma is a Sans Serif font that resembles Verdana but has sharper edges and higher contrast between thick and thin strokes. It’s a good choice if you want something that’s easier to read than Arial, but still has a modern feel.

5. Times

an example of a sentence in Times font

No list of email safe fonts would be complete without Times. It’s a timeless classic – after all, this font has been around since 1931. That said, it’s also one of the most overused fonts out there — so if you want your emails to stand out, consider using something else.

6. Trebuchet MS

an example of a sentence in Trebuchet font

MS – If you want to add a bit of fun and whimsy to your emails, Trebuchet MS is the perfect font for the job. It’s an easy-to-read sans serif typeface with a wide range of weights and styles. Despite being a non-standard font, it’s widely supported in email clients, so you don’t have to worry about your emails looking strange on different devices.

7. Verdana

an example of a sentence in Verdana font

Verdana is another Sans Serif typeface with a rounded quality that makes it look more friendly and approachable than Arial. It has great readability even in small sizes, making it a perfect fit for emails or websites.

Custom fonts in emails

Custom fonts are fonts unique to your brand. They give your emails a unique, professional look that helps you stand out. However, they can be tricky for email since not all clients support custom fonts. 

Ensure you have fallback fonts (like Arial or Times) in place if the custom font doesn’t render. Custom fonts also take a while to load, so it’s best to keep them to a minimum in your emails. 

Here’s a list of custom fonts you can consider for emails:

  • Roboto
  • Open Sans
  • Montserrat
  • Raleway
  • Playfair Display
  • Oswald 
  • Ubuntu
  • PT Sans
  • Dosis
  • PT Sans
  • Source Sans Pro
  • Anton

Email editors like Omnisend allow you to choose the email safe fonts you want to use in your emails. They also offer a preview of how those fonts will look like on different devices and email clients.

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

Font nameFallback 1Fallback 2Fallback 3Fallback 4Fallback 5
Email safe fonts:
ArialSans Serif
CourierCourier NewMonospace
Courier NewCourierMonospace
HelveticaHelvetica NeueArialVerdanaSans Serif
Helvetica NeueHelveticaArialVerdanaSans Serif
LucidaLucida Sans UnicodeLucida GrandeSans Serif
TahomaSans Serif
TimesTimes New RomanSerif
Times New RomanTimesSerif
Trebuchet MSSans Serif
VerdanaSans Serif
Custom fonts:
Abril FatfaceGeorgiaTimes New RomanTimesSerif
AlegreyaGeorgiaTimes New RomanSerif
Alegreya SansHelvetica NeueHelveticaArialVerdanaSans Serif
AntonHelvetica NeueHelveticaArialVerdanaSans Serif
AntonioHelvetica NeueHelveticaArialVerdanaSans Serif
ArimoArialHelvetica NeueHelveticaSans Serif
ArvoCourierGeorgiaTimes New RomanTimesSerif
CatamaranLucida Sans UnicodeLucida GrandeSans Serif
Della RespiraGeorgiaTimes New RomanTimesSerif
DM SansTahomaSans Serif
DosisDosisHelveticaArialSans Serif
Fira SansHelvetica NeueHelveticaArialSans Serif
Gilda DisplayTimes New RomanTimesSerif
InterHelvetica NeueHelveticaArialSans Serif
LatoHelvetica NeueHelveticaArialSans Serif
LoraGeorgiaTimes New RomanTimesSerif
MarcellusGeorgiaTimes New RomanTimesSerif
MerriweatherGeorgiaTimes New RomanTimesSerif
Merriweather SansGeorgiaLucida GrandeArialSans Serif
Nanum Gothic CodingHelvetica NeueHelveticaArialSans Serif
NeutonGeorgiaTimes New RomanTimesSerif
Noticia TextGeorgiaTimes New RomanTimesSerif
Noto SansHelvetica NeueHelveticaArialSans Serif
Open SansHelvetica NeueHelveticaArialSans Serif
OswaldImpactHelvetica NeueHelveticaArialSans Serif
Playfair DisplayGeorgiaTimes New RomanTimesSerif
PoppinsHelvetica NeueHelveticaArialSans Serif
PT SansHelvetica NeueHelveticaArialSans Serif
PT SerifGeorgiaTimes New RomanTimesSerif
QuicksandHelvetica NeueHelveticaArialSans Serif
RalewayHelvetica NeueHelveticaArialSans Serif
RecursiveHelvetica NeueHelveticaArialSans Serif
RobotoHelvetica NeueHelveticaArialSans Serif
RubikHelvetica NeueHelveticaArialSans Serif
Source Code ProHelvetica NeueHelveticaArialMonospace
Source Sans ProHelvetica NeueHelveticaArialSans Serif
Space MonoCourierGeorgiaMonospace
SyncopateHelvetica NeueHelveticaArialSans Serif
UbuntuHelvetica NeueHelveticaArialSans Serif
Work SansLucida Sans UnicodeLucida GrandeSans Serif

Though the web fonts, as well as email fonts, are an issue for lots of internet users, the given fallback fonts are the ones that you usually use anyway.

So why not to experiment and make a campaign with these new fonts?

What are web safe fonts?

Web-safe fonts are preloaded on most users’ devices — so when you use them in an email, they display correctly across most platforms. If a user doesn’t have the font installed on their device, the client uses the fallback font (typically Arial or Times) instead. 

Employing web-safe fonts for email is a great way to express your website’s intent and personality. Traditional and formal fonts are perfect for news and commentary websites, whereas more adventurous brands prefer creative fonts.

Here, we’ve listed the most popular web safe fonts:

  • Arial Black. Arial is a sans-serif font and one of the most popular email fonts. It’s simple and legible, yet it still stands out among other serif fonts. 
  • Calibri. Calibri is a modern sans-serif font designed in 2004. It’s the default in Microsoft Office and favored by many for its professional yet casual tone.
  • Cambria. Cambria is a great all-purpose choice for emails. It’s easy to read on screens of any size, and its style is sharp and modern.
  • Corbel. Corbel is characterized by its curved edges, which give it a friendly and inviting look. It’s great for emails that you want to feel more personal and approachable.
  • Helvetica. Helvetica is a versatile sans-serif font widely used in corporate branding and advertisements. Its simple and clean look creates an impression of professionalism, so it’s perfect for emails where you want to convey a sense of trustworthiness. 
  • Papyrus. A rustic font with a vintage feel, Papyrus is perfect for emails that you want to have an old-fashioned look and feel. You can use it to create a sense of nostalgia or romance in your emails.
  • Segoe UI. A modern sans-serif font, it’s well-known for its elegant curves and legible letterforms. It’s popular because, when used in email newsletters and other digital projects, it remains sharp and legible regardless of what device it’s being viewed on. 
  • Terminal. A computer-inspired typeface, Terminal is perfect for giving a project a futuristic and technological feel. It also makes certain words stand out in emails thanks to its sharp angles and unique glyphs.

Plan B: how to use your brand fonts if they’re not “email safe”

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

Although you can definitely try some of them (at least ones from the list above), you should avoid the fanciest ones in email copywriting.

However, they’re still great for using in your email images.

See the example below:

Due. email

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

I also like the Vente-Privee password reminder.

These guys have found such a creative approach for this automated email. The nice typography makes this email unexpectedly beautiful.

Vente-Privee email

Here’s another example from Taylor Stitch.

Taylor Stitch email

The headline uses the Georgia font, giving it a classic and elegant look. The complementing copy uses Avenir Next, a simple sans-serif font that’s easy to read on any device.

The bottom line is you can’t always use your custom fonts in emails since it won’t be guaranteed across all devices and browsers. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try adding a bit of creativity to make your emails stand out.

5 tips on how to choose email fonts

Choosing a safe email font can be an arduous task. Here, we discuss what tips and tricks you should remember when selecting email fonts:

  • Avoid using more than two email fonts. If you choose safe fonts, using too many styles can make your email complicated and hard to read. Stick to one main font and an accent font.
  • Preview your desired email across various devices. Smartphones, tablets, and computers can all render fonts differently. Check your font choice on each of these devices for consistency so your viewers have the same experience.
  • Select a safe font to ensure excellent readability. Readability affects how quickly someone reads the email, so it’s important to choose a font that’s legible and easy to scan. It also helps if the font is widely supported across all major clients.
  • Test different font sizes. The optimal size for email fonts is between 10-12 points, however, this may vary depending on the device you’re viewing it from. Experiment with different font sizes until you find one that works for all devices.
  • Ensure your email displays consistently for all users. Select an email-friendly font available across all devices and mediums. If you choose a font not available across your reader’s mobile or computer device, they may substitute it for another Gmail-supported font and your email design ends up looking different than what you intended. Avoid this by using the above-mentioned email safe fonts.

Create emails with legible and safe fonts

Choosing the right font for your emails is an important part of designing an effective email. From selecting widely supported fonts to understanding how different sizes work, a lot of thought should go into your font decisions. Use safe fonts across all devices to ensure email consistency, readability, and the best user experience.

And, if you need help creating emails, explore our extensive blogs and tutorials. We’ve got all the resources you need to design effective emails that make an impact.

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Article by
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.

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