A curious small font question...

Whizzo's picture

Hi all
Hey wow, first post! This looks like the place I might find an answer to a burning question. Firstly a little background. The company I work for has put me in charge of producing our "Year Of 2010" garments, with the names of graduating students printed on the back. We do this on behalf of universities and educational institutions all over the place. The maximum total print size for the artwork is A3, so obviously there's an upper limit to the number of names we can fit on, currently around 1600. Sometimes we have a graduating class of between 1600 and 1750, which requires the production of two pieces of artwork, and this is a real pain for pretty much every stage of the ordering, production and administration process.

So obviously a way of fitting more names, legibly, on an A3 sheet is a good thing. The names appear like this:

John Smith ~ Jane Smith ~ Ali Abbas ~ Sue Holness ~
Juan de Souza ~ Richard Strauss ~ Ben Jones ~ Kate
Hanratty ~
and so on.

I've so far managed to squeeze more names on by reducing the line spacing, replacing the ~ with a narrower character (usually a Middle Dot), and reducing the character spacing by 5% when I'm desperate to get those last 20 names on!

So here's my question - is there a better font for the job that the 8pt Arial we currently use? I don't know the terminology for all the components of a font, but something with narrower "rounded" (like O, S, C, D, G) characters would be good. Also bear in mind that these are being printed on fabric, so the characters are on a fuzzy background rather than shiny white paper. I've read a few other forum posts about fonts that are legible when printed small, but I'm very much on the hunt for a font that's defined enough to print well on fabric while being narrow enough to ensure the maximum number of characters can appear on a single line. Can anyone help out?

Many thanks in advance!


jasonc's picture

Well there are lots of nicer fonts that take up less space than Arial. But you could make the most basic change and use Arial Narrow. It certainly takes up less room (in width.)

Jason C

Whizzo's picture

Hey, that works pretty well, thanks Jason. The lines that make up the font get quite thin though, I'm not sure how that'll fare with the screen printing process. Are there any fonts out there which save room by using less white space rather than sacrificing the "boldness" of the lettering? I'm probably using all the wrong terms for each of these things, you lot are probably laughing your heads off!

jasonc's picture

Sure there are lots of them. But for simplicity's sake, you could try using Arial Narrow Bold.

Alternately, you could try Delicious, a free font which I really love. It comes in 3 weights, and they all have the same character widths. It should be narrower on average than Arial. You can download it from this page:

Jason C

Indra Kupferschmid's picture

Maybe browse this list of recommendations for small sizes by Nick Sherman:

First one on the list, Bell Centennial, is probably as economic as you can get with text.

Whizzo's picture

Bell Centennial looks just about perfect. I'll give that one a try, many thanks gang!

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