Nowadays, subtitles are everywhere. You don’t believe it?
Ask 5 of your friends about their behavior while watching a film, a YouTube video, or a short on TikTok. You’ll realize that ⅘ are watching them while reading subtitles. They are a necessity for every audio piece you’ll watch.
Subtitle fonts began with films, and are now revolutionizing social media short formats. Where do subtitles come from historically? How did they evolve over the past few decades? And, what are the best subtitle fonts for your shorts/reels in 2023? This is what you will learn in this article. 🍿
History of subtitles and their fonts
Intertitle, the ancestor of subtitle
In the early stage of cinema, the absence of sound led to the birth of intertitles. These ancestors of subtitles were static cards inserted between scenes, bearing essential information such as dialogue, character names, and scene context. Intertitles acted as a narrative bridge, guiding audiences through storylines and helping them understand character interactions and plot developments… everything that is difficult to understand without sound! 🔇
👉 1903: the birth of intertitles
The birth of intertitles can be traced back to the film "The Great Train Robbery," where these written cards were used to clarify scene transitions and narrative elements. 📽️
👉 The 1910s-1920s: the emergence of intertitles
Intertitles proliferated during this period, as filmmakers experimented with more complex storytelling. Hence, they had to incorporate written information to maintain coherence in their silent films. Films like "Birth of a Nation" (released in 1915) and "Metropolis" (1927) showcased the potential importance of intertitles in advancing cinematic storytelling. ✍️
🔍 Which font was used for intertitles?
Cheltenham: This typeface was commonly used by filmmakers due to its bold and easily readable design. Fun fact: this font has been used by the New York Times from 1906 to 2003!
Why use subtitles for films?
Soon after “Metropolis”, as the audiovisual expertise and experience gained prominence, the role of intertitles diminished. Why? 1927 marks the beginning of synchronized sound in film, also known as the “talkies”! "The Jazz Singer" (1927) marked the transition from silent films to talkies for the first time (even though a few sequences of this film had sound, not all of them). 🔉
Here’s the most interesting thing about the history of subtitles: With the emergence of “talkies”, the reason why filmmakers added some texts into their films changed. Indeed, it was not a question of adding a context for complex storytelling, but of accessibility.
In fact, the need for subtitles shifted towards creating the notion of accessibility for non-native speakers and individuals with hearing impairments. Subtitles simply became a wonderful opportunity for filmmakers that saw their films reaching a wider and global audience (especially in the 1930s and beyond).
Evolution of the subtitle and font markets
👉 Subtitles and fonts in the post-World War II era
The cinema began to be international in the post-World War II era (1945-1970). Subtitles played a crucial role in bringing foreign films to new markets. However, the process of subtitling remained relatively manual and labor-intensive. 😣
What subtitle fonts were used in the 1950s?
The more the technology advanced, the more the film industry matured, and the more creative freedom for subtitle fonts. Generally, this choice depended on the context and film’s genre. One of the most notable fonts that saw use in films during the 1950s is "Helvetica."
👉 Subtitles and fonts in the 1980s
The home video revolution in the 1980s introduced a new dimension to the subtitle market. Subtitles became a standard feature in video home system tapes (also known as VHS) and later in DVDs. It allowed viewers to watch films with subtitles in the comfort of their homes. Video formats now include subtitle tracks for users to choose languages and turn subtitles on/off. 📼
What fonts were used in the 1980s?
The 1980s were a decade of design trends; the fonts depended on the film’s genre and thematic context. Futura, Avant Garde Gothic, and Franklin Gothic were commonly used fonts for films.
But less accessible font styles appeared when a new industry got its start in the early 1980s: the video games industry. 🕹️
Retro fonts have left an indelible mark on design, particularly in subtitling for films, TV shows, and digital content. These 1980s fonts, blending nostalgia, have become a must-have in designers' toolkits. The retro font era, for sure, influenced the evolving design landscape.
Subtitles and font in the digital revolution (late 1990s-2000s)
The digital age brought about transformative changes to the subtitling industry. DVDs paved the way for online streaming platforms, which not only offered subtitles in various languages but also enabled animations and dynamic switching between them. Subtitles became more versatile, allowing them to reach a global audience with diverse linguistic backgrounds. 📀
👉 What fonts were mainly used in the 2000s?
Several fonts gained popularity during this period:
- The Helvetica font continued to be a widely used font, known for its neutral design that fits with different contexts.
- The Verdana font was designed specifically for digital displays, making it a great choice for online content, videos, and presentations in the 2000s.
- The Comic Sans MS font was used in more informal videos, especially those targeting younger audiences.
The emergence of short videos (9:16) and subtitles online
Short-form video market (metrics)
Nowadays, you have to realize that no matter the time you post your video on a given social media, thousands of content creators will post their video within the same second! The data is mind-blowing. You’re probably wondering how many videos are uploaded daily on social media. How many TikTok videos are posted each day? A whopping 34 million shorts (1080 pixels by 1920) are uploaded every day on Tiktok, in 2023. This results in 1,400,000 shorts posted in 1 hour, 23,500 per minute, and 400 per second.
According to the report of "grandviewresearch", in 2022, the market size for global short video platforms reached a valuation of approximately USD 1.52 billion. Forecasts anticipate a growth trajectory with a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.2% over the upcoming period.
Tell me: How to stand out from this content creation market?
It may feel discouraging to know that millions of creators over the world are posting videos in the same niche. However, one of the three main keys to success online is to stand out from the crowd, by making your content unique, original, and differentiating. So, why not make your shorts special with your subtitle font? 🚀
Each video posted on social media platforms such as Tiktok and YouTube has an accessibility feature, which is closed-captioning (CC). You can activate them with one click. However, they all look the same, and the freedom of choosing the font you want is limited.
Good news, there are 2 other methods to add subtitles with the font you want, and make your video distinctive, with free and paid options! Check out this article to learn more.
8 best free fonts for subtitles and captions on shorts videos (for all video content)
Are you looking for another royalty-free font that might fit better into your niche? The choice of your font is more important than you think. Even though you’ll find on this list some commonly used fonts for shorts, you should be surprised to hear for the first time about less known free fonts to use for specific niches!
👉 Best font for professional and concise shorts
Widely chosen for subtitles and captions in short videos, the Arial font maintains a historical link with the Helvetica font. Created by Monotype in 1982, Arial emerged as an accessible alternative to Helvetica, broadening access to clear typography. 📝
This free font is an excellent choice for concise, professional, and information-rich videos. If you explain something complex in your video, the Arial font in lowercase is definitely the greatest choice. In fact, Arial’s simplicity won’t distract your viewer’s attention. Consequently, they will be more focused on your message, and less on graphics. Whether you're creating educational content, business presentations, online tutorials, or any video that requires delivering complex concepts, Arial's clarity ensures that your information is presented in an easy-to-understand manner.
The diverse Arial font family gathers styles like Arial Regular, Arial Bold, and Arial Italic.
#2 THE BOLD FONT
👉 Best font for impactful messages in your shorts
The Bold Font, designed by Sven Pels, creates a strong and impactful visual presence that sets it apart from traditional subtitles. The Bold Font and condensed design make it an excellent choice for creating attention-grabbing videos. 👀
When aiming to make a bold statement and tell your message with a convincing feeling in your short videos, The Bold Font is an amazing choice. The Bold Font commands attention with its shapes, making it perfect for videos with profound and strong messages.
Unlike many other free fonts, The Bold Font font doesn't have a font family!
👉 Best font for AI and business niches shorts
Have you ever wondered which font Alex Hormozi uses in his videos? You have your answer now, this is the Montserrat font. This minimalistic font is now used by millions of creators every day to enhance their videos. 🧡
Widely favored for subtitles and captions in short videos, the Montserrat font, designed by Julieta Ulanovsky in 2010, emerged as a contemporary alternative to Helvetica. Fun fact: this font was inspired by the signage and lettering of the Montserrat neighborhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Yes, Montserrat was a neighborhood before being known as a font!
When aiming to improve your short videos with a touch of modernity, Montserrat Bold in uppercase is an excellent selection. The Montserrat bold font carries modern aesthetics. It can complement the visual style while still delivering impactful information. If your shorts and reels discuss AI (artificial intelligence), or business, Montserrat Bold can match visually with those themes.
The Montserrat font family includes styles like Montserrat Regular, Montserrat Bold, and Montserrat Italic.
👉 Best font for artists and artistic videos
Less known than many other free fonts for subtitles and captions in short videos, the Jomhuria font has a unique style and impressive precision. Created with an artistic vision, if you post aesthetic videos this is definitely a font you should try. 🏄
No matter the artist you are, this typeface fits well with surf, photography, or even painting niches. You can also use the Jomhuria font for poetry and short-form content with quotes.
The Jomhuria font collection includes variations like Jomhuria Regular, Jomhuria Bold, and Jomhuria Italic.
👉 Best font for video games, retro, and memes niches
Designed by Jeffrey Lee in 1965, the Impact font has remained popular over the years, especially since the meme culture began to use the Impact font on the Internet in the late 2000s (at the point when at that time memes generators software incorporated the Impact font as the main font). 🔥
Even though this free font isn't as aesthetic as the others on this list, it remains a great choice for memes, Internet history, and video game niches. Also, we can start seeing this font being used for travel and vlog short content! The important guideline to keep in mind if you want to use the Impact font for your subtitles is to keep the number of characters short for each line. It's a quite heavy font. Try to reduce the characters of your words for each subtitle line!
Unlike many other free fonts, the Impact font doesn't have a font family with multiple weights, such as regular, bold, or even italic.
👉 Best font for fashion, make-up, and vlog shorts
Chosen widely for subtitles and captions in short videos, the Shrikhand font adds a touch of playful nostalgia to your visual content. Designed with a nod to the Y2K movement, Shrikhand brings a retro-futuristic vibe that resonates with the current global trend of embracing Y2K aesthetics. 🗺️
As the Y2K (Year 2K) movement rapidly emerges all around the world, nostalgia has made a strong resurgence. Influenced by the vibrant and futuristic designs of the late 1990s and early 2000s, this movement makes us remember the time when digital innovation was at its peak, and there were no boundaries for creativity.
The Shrikhand font shines particularly in fashion, makeup, and vlog niches. Its vibrant and creative design complements makeup tutorials, beauty product reviews, and DIY projects, adding a touch of energy and originality to these videos. Also, we could see a perfect match with the vintage niche!
👉 Best font for masterclass and podcast shorts
Created by Zetafonts in 2013, the CocoGoose font introduces us to a unique and original visual identity that completely distinguishes it from conventional royalty-free fonts. It's a great choice for distinctive video content with a convincing and professional message.🎙️
That's why you could use CocoGoose Bold in lowercase for any videos where you share a story, a personal experience, or a historical event. Editors frequently use this font to create a multitude of shorts, utilizing long-form videos such as masterclasses and podcasts, all with the CocoGoose font.
The CocoGoose font family encompasses styles like CocoGoose Regular, CocoGoose Bold, and CocoGoose Italic.
#8 BETH ELLEN
👉 Best font for emotional shorts
Beth Ellen is a charming font inspired by the handwriting of Beth Ellen Jelinski. Put into public by her daughter after the death of Beth Ellen, the intention behind creating this font was to share, for free.
This elegant font seems to fit perfectly with sophisticated content and could match with poetic and love-related short-form videos. With a mix of emotional music, Beth Ellen font, and a deep message, you can make sure that you're right into your niche. Indeed, if you add an emotion that everybody can feel through your shorts, viewers will watch more than a classic video, but something they can relate to. The importance is to make viewers remember your video. This is why this font is a great choice for the poignant message.
Which font should I use to stand out from the competition?
The best font for my social media
The choice of your subtitle font should remain consistent across all your different platforms. Try to understand your brand and the message you want to give to people. But, do not forget your viewers' preferences. Understand the visual trend there is currently in your niche because this is what your viewers will like to see. There is a mix to do between your brand message and your niche's trend. But, if you have the same font as the majority of competitors, don't worry! It's not only about the font...
Is it only about the font?
When it comes to differentiating yourself from the visual aspect of your videos, it is not only about the font, especially when you use royalty-free fonts. Here's how you could make a great impression with your visual:
-The font family: For plenty of free fonts, there is a font family. For instance, the Arial font family gathers styles like Arial Regular, Arial Bold, and Arial Italic. So, if everybody is using the same font, why not take a look at its font family?
-Uppercase and lowercase text: The fact that you switch the lowercase font into uppercase totally changes the design of the font. Sometimes you do not have to search for other fonts to change the visual design... simply switch the font from lowercase to uppercase (and vice versa!).
-The subtitle color: Do you like the font that everybody is using in your niche? No worries, you can make a lasting impression with your subtitle color. Nowadays, the majority of content creators are using the 3 main colors: red, neon green, and neon yellow. You will tell me that there is a reason behind that. Indeed, a study called "A Perceptual Analysis of Standard Safety, Fluorescent, and Neon Colors" has shown that those "were rated the highest on perceived importance". However, viewers are used to this color, so why not change the rules and start aligning your brand color with your subtitle keywords? 🎨