Web Font

Custom Web Font vs. Web-Safe Font?

Since the first email was sent in the early 1970’s, the look and style of emails evolved greatly. Today, design plays a vital role in conveying your message to consumers, and all design elements require a great attention in order to reflect your brand identity effectively. Fonts are a significant part of brand personality but can be tricky to adjust to email as a channel. In this article, we’ll clarify the difference between web-safe fonts and custom web fonts.

Web-safe fonts (email safe fonts) exist by default on almost all devices. These fonts are found on multiple computers, devices, and operating systems and include Arial, Verdana, Georgia, Times New Roman and Courier.

Custom web fonts are usually not found in different devices and operating systems. Those fonts are particularly designed and licensed for websites, accessed usually using browsers like Chrome, Internet Explorer or Safari.

Custom web fonts look more attractive, allow for more creative solutions to designers and let you keep your email design consistent with your website and company’s brand. Web fonts can be downloaded from Google Fonts which is the most common source. Other sources include paid services like MyFonts.

Should I Use Custom Web Fonts in Email?

Definitely. Majority of email platforms today will display web fonts. And clients that do not support web fonts will simply show a web safe font instead, so your email will still look OK. However, custom web font in email won’t be rendered on all subscribers’ devices properly, so it needs to be added into the email code. InboxArmy described three methods of adding fonts to the email.

Good news is that out of top 10 email platforms only one (Outlook, older versions) does not support custom web fonts. This means that 89% of the market share is under email platforms that support web fonts. You can check the market share more precisely in Litmus Email Client Market Share survey.

Which Email Clients Support Custom Web Fonts?

Custom web fonts are supported by:

  • Web email clients (Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook.com…)
  • Mobile email clients (iOS Mail – iPhone and iPad, Android Mail)
  • Some desktop clients including Apple Mail, Outlook.com app, Outlook 2000, Thunderbird, AOL Mail

Web-safe fonts only are supported by:

  • Older desktop email clients
  • Gmail mobile app

If you think your audience is mostly using current common email platforms like web email and smartphone and tablet devices, which is likely the case, you can rest assured that vast majority will see your neat shiny fonts. An exception is Gmail mobile app that shows web safe fonts only.

If your audience mostly consists of, for instance, traditional businesses or public offices and institutions, it’s likelier that they will see your text content styled with a web safe font, as they are more likely to use desktop email clients.


custom web fonts example

Taken from Apple Mail, web fonts supported: Playfair Display (heading), Open Sans (paragraph)

Taken from Outlook 2013, web-safe font fallback set to Georgia (heading), Helvetica (paragraph)

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