Sans-Serif Vs. Serif Fonts
As mentioned above, sans-serif fonts of any kind are much better to use than serifed fonts when 3D printing. But what is the difference between sans-serif and serif fonts? To answer this question, we’ll first need to know what “sans” and “serif” mean.
Firstly, a serif is an extended feature, line, or stroke that appears attached to the end of a larger line in any letter, number, or symbol. Now it may be hard to picture just by reading the definition, but you have undoubtedly read countless paragraphs written in fonts that contain serifs.
Any font that you think of as elegant or fancy most likely includes serifs on its letters. Serif fonts are most often used in the body of physically printed media like books, newspapers, and magazine articles, as it is generally believed that serif fonts offer superior readability in this case, though science has yet to support this.
Serif fonts are also used in decorative text to make the words on a page appear more beautiful. Imagine a caligrapher drawing beautifully detailed letters on a page. The letters are more aesthetically pleasing to the reader with all of their wavy lines and intricate details. There is most definitely a lot of artistic talent needed to do this; however, even if the letters look prettier, that doesn’t mean that the text will be easy to read on a 3D print.
The “sans” in sans-serif comes from the French word meaning “without”. So naturally, sans-serif simply means “without serif.” Knowing this, you’ve probably already guessed that, unlike serif fonts, sans-serif fonts do not feature any of those fancy serifs hanging off the ends.
Though sans-serif fonts do appear to be a bit less sophisticated and pretty than their serifed counterparts, sans-serif fonts have plenty of advantages of their own. Firstly, sans-serif fonts have less detail and contain thicker lines that make the letters appear bolder and more attention-grabbing. This is why sans-serif fonts are so synonymous with breaking headlines at the top of newspapers. Sans-serif fonts grab your attention so that your eyes are naturally attracted to the most important information on the page.
Sans-serif fonts are also the default used when text will be viewed on a screen. Whether using your computer, tablet, or smartphone, the text you see when you’re writing emails, scrolling through Instagram, and reading online blogs is undoubtedly sans-serif.
Though not yet supported by science, It is the common view that sans-serif fonts are more readable on-screen than serifed ones. This is largely due to the extra details that come along with serifed fonts. Small serifed letters that take up less than 20 pixels can cause distortions in the appearance of the letters as the serifs will oftentimes be smaller than the size of a pixel. Overall, this can make a text much harder to read than if it were typed in a sans-serif font.
This same issue is why sans-serif fonts are superior when 3D printing as well. If you are printing in anything less than the largest of font sizes, your printer will have trouble drawing the intricate serifs attached to each letter. The absence of these serifs means that your printer has much less opportunity to make a mistake and allows the text on your print to be much more legible than it would have been otherwise.
The Importance Of Font Size
Though this goes without saying, font size is incredibly important when it comes to the legibility of text on your print as well. Printing in a size that is too small will make it nearly impossible for anyone to read, and printing too large can take up space very quickly.
Ideally, you should always use a font size anywhere from 18 to 26 points when designing text for your print. This will ensure that your text will be easily readable without being too large or too small.
More Tips To Ensure Your Text Is Readable
The font and font size you use are both incredibly important when it comes to the clarity and readability of text, but there are a few other things you can do to make sure that your text is as clear and easily readable as possible.
By default, you should always bold your text so that it sticks out more. Sans-serif fonts already include thicker lines than most other serif fonts do, but bolding the font will make it stick out even more and improve the clarity and readability of the text.
Another important thing to consider is whether you will be using raised or recessed text in your print. While recessed is generally viewed as being more readable, both can be easily readable if done correctly. Using a different color for raised text or filling in recessed text with a different color can really help make the text pop out and appear clearer. Just make sure that any raised text you include is at least 0.5mm tall, and any recessed text is at least 0.8mm deep.
The Best Fonts For 3D Printing
So we’ve established that sans-serif fonts are much superior to serifed fonts when it comes to their use in 3D printing. But what are some of the best and most common sans-serif fonts to use? In all reality, any sans-serif font you want to use will work perfectly and there really aren’t any that will show up significantly better on your print than another. Still, there are some sans-serif fonts, both classic and contemporary, that see the most use in both 3D printing and other digital and physical media.
Helvetica is undoubtedly one of the most famous and widely used fonts out there. This Sans-serif font was invented by Swiss typeface designer Max Miedinger in 1957 and has since taken over the world.
Helvetica is commonly used on websites like Facebook and has been adopted for use in the logos of countless major companies and brands, including Microsoft, Jeep, Nestle, and The North Face, just to name a few. Helvetica is a familiar and well-respected font that anyone can recognize, so it's safe to say that Helvetica is a great choice for anyone who wants to include text in their next 3D print.
Arial is another one of the best and most popular sans-serif fonts in use today. Arial is most likely the default font on whatever word processor you use. Developed by Robin Nicholas and Patricia Saunders in 1982, this font has become the standard for most regular computer usage, not to mention its common use on the various billboards and signs you see around town.
The letters in Arial generally include straighter lines than those used in Helvetica, so letters printed in this font may be a bit easier for your printer to produce consistently and successfully.
Futura is another great font to use in your 3D prints. Despite the name, this font is actually quite old. Designed by Paul Renner in 1927, this font is based on geometric shapes. The circle is particularly important in this font as letters typed in the Futura font appear much more rounded than the letters of Arial and Helvetica do.
Proxima Nova is another great choice for inclusion in your print. Developed by American typeface designer Mark Simonson in 1994. This is another common font used in the logos of many different companies like Buzzfeed and NBC. The most famous company to use this font is Spotify. Not only do they use it for their logo, but it is also used for all of the artist and track names on their app and website.