I am currently trying to choose suitable fonts for a map. A very time consuming experience - actually too time consuming as i´m not a trained typographer and will inevitably make all the classic mistakes!

In order to save myself time, and probably many other GIS users who very probably make all the classic errors when choosing font types, does anyone have any SIMPLE guidelines regarding which type of fonts should be used for standard thematic maps. I am not talking about artistic fonts for special types of graphic, just simple clear easy to read fonts which work well together in different sizes and weights in the same map.

My main problem at the moment is trying to choose a large bold clear font for the main point theme layer annotations, and a less-weighted font for the place names. I want to have a sans-serif for the point layer which displays the names of the points in a dominant concisive factual way, but want a fitting and complementary serif-font for the place names which is thinner and less dominant.

If anyone has standard fonts which they use together for most of their work, I would be grateful for any advice,

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    I feel that the question in its current stage will invite a lot of subjective answers. As such I feel that it cannot have an objective answer. This means that it will fall outside the scope of the site. Dec 10, 2013 at 9:32
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    Cartographic flair is quite self opinionated. It also depends on the styling of the map.
    – Mapperz
    Dec 10, 2013 at 14:53
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    How could I simply change the question to fit this forum? I would just like to know which are the standard Fonts people use for simple standard maps.Nothing fancy....nothing really artistic or subjective...just Clear, legible, reliable choices. Dec 11, 2013 at 11:54
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    There's a more welcoming site on cartography, Carto Talk (cartotalk.com). It has a section General Cartography Advice (cartotalk.com/index.php?showforum=15)
    – Martin F
    Dec 11, 2013 at 18:45
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    I have to respectfully disagree with my esteemed colleagues. Choice of typeface (font) in a map is as relevant as questioning whether to use hachures or a polygon fill, or improving visualization of overlapping polygons (see related questions at right). In any case, Robert: Are there any cartography "rules" you should follow when labeling maps? probably has what you're looking for. Dec 17, 2013 at 23:09

2 Answers 2


You need TypeBrewer - from the site:

TypeBrewer: A Map Design Help Tool for Selecting Typography

TypeBrewer is a free help tool that gives non-specialist mapmakers a chance to explore typography in a semi-structured environment. It is not mapmaking software. Instead of providing the functionality of a graphic design program or GIS, TypeBrewer offers a quick and easy way to explore typographic alternatives and see the impact that various elements of type have on the overall look and feel of a map. TypeBrewer is designed for mapmakers who want to learn more about map typography and get practical design specifications for starting a map project.

Only downside is that you need flash to make it work :-(

  • Typebrewer seems to be temporarily offline as they are updating it to utilize HTML instead of Flash. Jan 3, 2020 at 7:21

Gretchen Peterson has written a great book called "Cartographer's Toolkit" (on Amazon), which has about 30 pages of examples of vetted typography, all shown in a map context.

In addition to typography, the book also covers colors and patterns. It's definitely worth purchasing for ideas.

Not affiliated, just a fan of the book

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