When it comes to choosing the best font for subtitles (or any other captioning), nothing matters more than readability. Clear subtitles are more than just identification on the screen, they can be a means of accessibility for many users.
You’ve probably seen a fair share of good – and bad – subtitle font options. (I remember watching a movie where the subtitles were yellow and nearly unreadable in some scenes. That’s not a good choice!) Closed captions are also common for viewing video on social media – who wants to play the sound at work? – and to understand content in another language.
Today, we’ll look at some of the best fonts for subtitles, and tips for creating small text elements on a moving video background that people will actually want to read.
Roboto is one of the most common typefaces in the modern era. It’s used pretty universally across device types, screen sizes and for a number of purposes. Subtitles and captions are no exception.
And because the eye is so used to this typeface, it’s quick and easy to read. The goal of using a subtitle is to make the content easier for the user to understand, and that’s why Roboto is a good option.
Wired magazine explains that people are using captions for everything:
“Closed captions are a must for foreign-language movies and shows like Netflix’s 3%, and they’re great for shows with heavy accents or jargon. But more and more people are leaving them on for everything. Why?”
Getting into the answer can be a little complicated – you can read about it in Wired – the takeaway is that people are using lots of subtitles and captioning. As a designer, you need to be ready to accommodate it.
Roboto has a wide range of weights and styles, but for subtitles and captions, avoid condensed or super-thick or thin weights. You might recognize Roboto Medium as the font YouTube uses for subtitles by default.
Find it here: Roboto is available from Google Fonts (and plenty of other providers) as an open-source typeface.
I like this option because some of the extra type options are just as readable as the monospaced version.
Cinecav Closed Caption Fonts is a set of sans serifs with monospaced and proportionally spaced options for all subtitle usage. What makes this font a good option is that it specifically designed to meet FCC requirements for closed captioning (CEA-708).
“They are more elegant, more legible, and more consistently designed for television applications than fonts provided by other suppliers and have been tested and refined on a broad range of DTV platforms,” …