[Presentation Skills #5] Effective Fonts for Presentations

Serif and Sans-Serif Fonts

Font families are classified according to their appearance: serif fonts, sans-serif fonts, monospace fonts, cursive fonts, fantasy fonts, etc.

Effective Fonts for Presentations

Characters in serif fonts have little projections or ‘tails’ (serif = tail in French) at the end of strokes and line widths that thin out on curves. The serifs guide a reader’s eyes to flow across lines of text. Conventionally, serif fonts are used for smaller text such as blocks of texts in newspapers. Serif fonts are harder to read from a distance. Examples of serif fonts are Times New Roman, Times Roman, Garamond and Palatino.

Characters in sans-serif fonts have more consistent line widths and do not have tails (sans = without in French.) Sans-serif fonts appear clear, fresh and balanced in shape and form. Conventionally, sans-serif fonts are used for larger text such as headlines or text in posters. Sans-serif fonts are the most popular choice for on-screen (TV, computer, etc.) text because of their clarity in display. Examples of sans-serif fonts are Helvetica, Arial, Futura and Verdana.

Fonts for Presentations

  • Sans-serif fonts are perhaps the best choice for presentation design because sans-serif fonts are more legible than serif fonts when projected.
  • With serif fonts, given the limited resolution of projectors, some of the thinner strokes tend to break-up or disappear when projected, especially at smaller sizes.
  • Characters in monospace fonts (e.g., Courier New and Monaco) each occupy the same amount of space. Use monospace fonts for tabulated information or computer console output only.
  • Cursive or decorative fonts easily distract the eye and make a presentation look unprofessional. Use such fonts sparingly in presentations.
  • Avoid using more than two fonts in a presentation; too many fonts lead to inconsistency in visual design.

Font Sizes: Larger the Better

Font size is measured in points. A point represents 1/72 of an inch; text in 72 points prints to text of one-inch height.

The choice of font sizes is dictated by the size of the room in which you will present. Choose a font-size that will make all of your text readable to everyone in the audience. Use font sizes of 32-48 points for slide titles and headings and font sizes of 24-32 points for the rest of the content.


  1. says

    An excellent summary of the issues involved with typeface and font selection for a presentation. One thing that we note on our courses is the over-use of colour in text; either too many colours to a slide or inappropriate colours. Not many of us can read the presentation’s yellow text at the back of the conference room. Blue and black text seems to work the best for presentations. Both red and green text causes problems for legibility.
    Presentation Skills Training

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