There isn’t a single answer to determine the smallest font size that can be used in every design. When determining the smallest font size to use in printing, a few factors must be considered: font style, line weight (line thickness), printing process, legibility, and final print size.
Every font is designed with different set of thin and thick lines that are specific to that typeface. Some fonts can be larger in point size but still have very thin serifs or lines that are extremely thin. Other fonts can be chunky and thick making them easy to read when extra small. Your font choice is the biggest factor when trying to find the best size to print.
The thickness of a line or stroke also plays a role with the readability of a font when printed. Depending on the paper being used, some fonts with a thinner overall weight, like script fonts, or ornate typefaces, may be difficult to read at small sizes. For offset printing, a minimum thickness of 0.25pt should be used. We recommend this minimum for the thinnest line in your typeface.
For digital printing, we recommend reading the support article related to our specialty papers. Typically, a line thickness of 0.25pt or thicker will print legibly on any of our digital stocks, unless otherwise noted. Many of our specialty papers have variations in texture that may interfere with very fine detail in a design.
Offset Printing, Digital Printing, Letterpress Printing, and Foil Printing are processes that each have different limitations. For the finest detail possible, letterpress and foil printing are ideal. These processes reproduce details & thin lines with better clarity and precision than digital or offset printing but also come with their own limitations.
Line Thickness vs. Font Size
As all fonts are different, it’s important to look over fonts that have thinner lines to ensure the minimum line thickness is being met. One method of doing this is using your design software to make a straight line with a .25pt stroke thickness. Compare this to the thinnest areas of your font and resize your font if needed.
When considering a new font choice, the legibility of the font at a small size is a key factor.Heavily textured paper stocks may interfere with the thin nature of script fonts or serif fonts. Other factors also include the use of reverse type, or knock-out type. This is when a light colored type is printed against a darker background. In both of these scenarios, we recommend to use a font that meets the minimum recommendation for reversed type (0.3pt) and to read the design considerations of our custom stocks.
The finished size of your project may also play a factor in selecting a minimum font size. For example, on a standard business card, 6pt would typically be legible to most individuals. However, 6pt on a large format poster may not be legible at all due to viewing distance. We strongly recommend to view your printed project at 100% scale on screen prior to submitting a job to confirm all type is legible and does not present an issue being read.