Typographic Elements: Serif, Italic, Weight, Size, Height, Measurement, and Color (Especially for GATE-Geospatial 2022)

Get top class preparation for NSO-Level-2 right from your home: get questions, notes, tests, video lectures and more- for all subjects of NSO-Level-2.

Examrace Books on Mapping, GIS, and Remote Sensing prepares you throughly for a wide range of practical applications.

Typographic Elements

This Diagram Shows Typographic Elements

Serif vs. Sans Serif

A major difference between typefaces is whether it is serif or sans-serif. Serif fonts have decorative flourishes at the ends of the strokes in the character. Sans is French for without, hence sans-serif is without the decorative flourishes. Times New Roman is a commonly used serif typeface and Arial is a commonly used sans-serif typeface.

This Figure Shows Serif and Sans-Serif Typeface

Italic vs. Oblique

Italic and Oblique fonts use the sloping of letters to set text apart from non-italicized or oblique fonts (or vice versa) . Using these font styles on a map also slightly decreases the size of the font as it shapely squeezes it around features. When introduced, the idea was to condense the text, thus creating more text on the pages.

This Image Shows Size Comparison of Italic and Oblique

Italic is a cursive font style that stems from calligraphic handwriting style. The slope in the font was created to mimic the flow of cursive handwriting and thus, the angles of italic letters range anywhere from 11 to 30 degree and consequently, serifs are absent.


The weight of a font refers to the thickness of the character՚s outlines relative to their height. These weights are assigned by the user or by the software itself. Typeface can come in many different weights such as ultra-light, extra-bold, bold, or black. Four to six weight is normal to have in a typeface, but it is not uncommon that more exists in others.

This Image Shows Examples of Weight: Light, Normal and Bold


The type size of fonts stresses the importance and emphasis of the intended map. Size is expressed in points through the American point system with 1 point equaling 1/72 ″ of vertical height. Furthermore, points also show the spacing between letters, words and lines. A larger size implies more importance or a greater relative quantity; smaller denotes less importance or less quantity.


X-height is the distance from the baseline to the mean line or midline in the typeface. This is the height of a lowercase x, thus the name x-height. There are lowercase letters that have a height different from x-height. They can have descenders like p and y. They can also have ascenders who rise above the x-height with curves like m and n.

This Image Shows How the X-Height is Measured and Determined

Type Measurement

Typeface is typically measured in points. A point is the smallest unit of measure in typography (Point) . 72 points make up one inch, thus one point is 1/72 of an inch. So a standard 12pt. font means that the font size is approximately 12/72 of an inch. Fonts can vary widely in size due to differing x-heights, even if they have the same point measurement.


Color (value and hue) alterations also allow for a further emphasis on certain features. By changing the color of the font to correspond to the feature it is representing, the two become joined. If the cartographer were to label a river, the extra emphasis would be inherent if the font chosen was blue, to correspond with the blue feature (arc) .

This Image Shows Typographic Element of Color Use for Labeli …

Developed by: