What I learnt about formatting a book—part 1

Are there too many fonts in the world…or not enough? Here’s one of the fonts I modified for easier readability.


Fonts—part 1

The other day I got some lovely comments about my “What I learnt about writing books” posts so today I’m writing more about formatting books.  If you’re stuck on formatting, I empathise.  It’s overwhelming!  I had to get a feel for what I was writing and how many illustrations I had before I thought about formatting and creating a style sheet.

Let’s start with fonts.  This may seem like a simple thing but there’s a lot to them.  The best way to study fonts is to look at images of logos and fonts online.  I printed many out and analysed them as a part of the InDesign course I took at the local community college last year.  I found the same processes were used often and were adapted to any style of font to make it shine.  Here’s some observations and questions I came up with for the fonts inside a book.  Logos and titles on the covers have many more issues to address.

  • When downloading fonts online (whether they be free or purchased) check the licensing rights.  Look out for fonts that have an open license.  Some websites have very little information on the licensing. Designers upload their fonts with conditions such as free for personal use, may or may not be used for commercial use, may or may not be modified, and may or may not be redistributed (meaning you may not send the font to others or post the font online).  I found www.1001fonts.com has good licensing information.  
  • If you can’t remember what fonts you’ve downloaded and what originally came with your word processing software, you can look it what fonts are included with the software online on the company’s website.  In the InDesign course, I learnt you are allowed to modify and use the fonts that came with the software.  Check your software’s fine print though. For the fonts you’ve downloaded, check the file they came in and you’ll find the licensing rights there.
  • Readability is crucial.  Many quilters are in their 50s and 60s. Nobody wants to struggle to read your work. The consensus is that serif fonts are easier to read in print and sans serif fonts are easier to read on screen. High contrast is best instead of something like a light grey font on cream paper.


Above: Light coloured serif text. Below: Narrow and bold sans serif text.


  • I looked at thousands of fonts for my title and chapter headings but failed to find one with an open license that had good readability that evoked the feeling I wanted.  I ended up modifying a couple that came with my word processing software.  Doing this creates a lot of work.  Either you have to get a font software program that allows you to create or modify fonts, or create each letter as an image and manually adjust the leading, tracking and kerning.  This means that your ‘text’ will be entered into the book as a picture that has to be aligned so no one knows that it is a picture and not text.  As I was over having to learn new programs, I decided to make it all myself.  It took ages but I certainly learnt about fonts, especially that subtle differences in height or curve makes huge differences!  The other disadvantage to creating text as images is that you can’t link them into your word processors table of contents creator.  You also can’t use spell check on them.  Despite these issues, I think I did a pretty good job and no one has noticed how those pieces of text were created.



Partial page from The design master plan book.  The lettering in the heading has been placed there manually before being inserted as an image. The font for the captions is an italic form of the paragraph text.  The font for the illustration has a more handwritten feel to it.


  • You’ll also note in the image above that figure 104B on the lower right hand line and its corresponding page number was written in italics.  When I’d shift images around but had referenced them in the text,  it was hard to find the reference later on to change it when they were in regular print.  This was much easier when they were in italics.
  • This version of the font I modified is the bold version.  I also created a regular version.  This is because some parts of the bold version had to be altered so they didn’t become too thick or hard to read (like the inner loop of the ‘e’).


What is your favourite font and why?  Is there any particular font you dislike?  I love movie title fonts.  They can have so many effects or very few to create the necessary atmosphere and emotion.   When looking at doing fonts for your cover, I recommend looking at movie titles and logos online.  Analyse what you like and dislike about them.  They use techniques such as spacing, different sized letters and words, images can be used as fill within the letters and sometimes not all of the letter is present.

Stay tuned for part two, until then

Happy quilting,




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