Serif Fonts 101: Everything You Need to Know

Learn about the origins and uses of serif typefaces. This helpful overview covers the history, characteristics, and examples of popular serif fonts like Times New Roman, Garamond, and more.

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Serif Fonts 101: Everything You Need to Know

So you're curious to learn all about serif fonts, huh? Well you've come to the right place.

This little guide will tell you everything you need to know about serif fonts and why they matter. Serif fonts are those fonts that have little feet or tails at the ends of letters.

You've been reading them your whole life in books, newspapers, and magazines.

Serif fonts are classic, and traditional, and tend to evoke a sense of authority or history. But they're not just for your grandparents - serif fonts can also be used in many modern designs.

In this article will look we will dive into the wonderful world of serif fonts.

Let's get started.

What Are Serif Fonts?

Serif fonts

Serif fonts have those little feet, or serifs, at the ends of letters. They're the fonts you're used to seeing in books, newspapers, and magazines.

Fonts like Times New Roman, Georgia, and Garamond are all serif fonts.

They're considered more traditional and tend to evoke a formal tone. Many people also find serif fonts easier to read in print because the serifs help guide the eye from letter to letter.

For digital reading, though, serif fonts aren't always the most legible. The low resolution of computer screens can make the serifs look blurry or uneven.

That's why many websites opt for sans-serif fonts, like Arial or Helvetica, which have a cleaner, more minimal look.

Still, serif fonts absolutely have their place on the web.

They can convey a stylish, authoritative tone and work well for long-form articles. Just make sure to choose a font size large enough to render the serifs clearly and increase the line height for easier reading.

With the right considerations, serif fonts can be a great choice for adding a polished, timeless feel to your website.

Anatomy of Serif Fonts

Serif fonts get their name from the little feet at the ends of each letter. Those tiny lines and curves are called serifs. They help guide the reader's eye across the page and make text easier to read in print.

Within the serif font family, you'll find varieties like:

  • Bracketed serifs: Times New Roman, Georgia
  • Unbracketed serifs: Minion Pro, Palatino
  • Slab serifs: Rockwell, Courier

Compared to sans-serif fonts like Arial or Helvetica, serif fonts tend to look more traditional and formal.

They're popular for body copy in books, newspapers, and magazines. If you're looking to add a classic, polished touch to your design, serif fonts are the way to go.

Best Uses for Serif Fonts

When it comes to using serif fonts, certain applications are particularly well-suited.

1. Traditional and formal documents

Serif fonts, with their classic, polished look, are perfect for conveying authority and professionalism. Use them in:

  • Legal documents like contracts to appear as official
  • Academic papers seem scholarly
  • Corporate reports to look distinguished

2. Branding and logos

Want your business to seem established and prestigious?

A serif font in your logo, signage or stationery can do just that. Serif fonts imply sophistication, elegance, and tradition.

3. Print and digital media

With their variable stroke widths, serif fonts are highly legible in print and online.

They make text easier to read, which is why many newspapers, magazines, and book publishers choose serif fonts. On screens, serif fonts may appear slightly blurry, so consider your medium when selecting a font.

Pairing Serif Fonts

When combining serif fonts, keep in mind that less is more.

Using two serif fonts together can appear cluttered, so choose wisely. Opt for serifs with distinct personalities to create visual contrast, like pairing a traditional font with an unconventional one.

For example, try pairing Minion Pro, a classic serif, with Playfair Display, an ornamental serif font.

Minion Pro’s simple, elegant letterforms balance well with Playfair Display’s decorative swashes and ligatures. Using one serif for headings and the other for body copy is an easy way to achieve harmony.

Experiment with different serif fonts in various weights and styles.

Combining a bold condensed serif with a light expanded serif can result in an interesting mix of thick and thin lettering. Just be sure to give each font enough breathing room so they don’t compete for attention.

Serif Fonts in Web Design

Serif fonts add a classic, polished look to web designs. Their little feet, or serifs, guide the eye along the line, creating a formal yet readable style.


Serif fonts can be tricky to implement on screens.

Low-resolution displays often make serif fonts look blurry or jagged. But with a higher resolution screen and font smoothing technology, serifs have made a comeback.

  • Choose web-safe serif fonts like Georgia, Times New Roman, Cambria or Constantia are designed to look good even on lower-resolution screens.
  • Use CSS techniques like @font-face to load custom serif fonts. Make sure to include multiple file formats (TTF, WOFF, WOFF2) for maximum browser support.
  • Set larger font sizes (16px and up) and line heights to improve legibility.
  • Limit use of serif fonts to headings and short blocks of text. Sans serif fonts may still work better for long-form reading on screens.

With the right font choice and implementation, serif fonts can convey authority and class on the web.

Serif Fonts in UI/UX Design

When designing user interfaces, serif fonts can be a great choice for enhancing the user experience. Serif fonts, with their little feet and rounded edges, often appear more traditional and polished.

They convey a sense of authority and classiness that sans-serif fonts lack.

1. User-Friendly

Serif fonts are typically very readable, especially in print.

Their rounded letterforms and variation in stroke width make them easy on the eyes over long passages of text. For this reason, many books, newspapers, and magazines rely on serif fonts like Times New Roman or Georgia.

Leveraging this in your UI can make for a pleasant, user-friendly experience.

2. Aesthetically Pleasing

Serif fonts simply look beautiful. Their ornamental details give them a stylish, decorative quality that complements many design esthetics.

When used well in an interface, a serif font helps create an overall impression of high quality, artistic merit and visual harmony.

Examples of serif fonts that achieve this include Baskerville, Palatino, and Garamond.

3. When to Use

Any time you want to convey tradition, authority or class in your UI, a serif font is a great choice. They work well for:

  • Content-heavy sites like news publications
  • E-commerce stores selling high-end or luxury goods
  • Financial or educational platforms

Used judiciously in the right context, serif fonts can balance esthetics and functionality to create memorable user experiences.


So there you have it, everything you need to know about serif fonts to get started. Now that you understand the origins and different categories of serifs, you'll be able to make more informed font choices in your own designs and writing.

Next time you're picking out a font for your newsletter, blog post or school paper, you'll know just which serif to choose to convey the right tone and make the right impression.

Go forth and serif!