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Font Size Guide – convert points to inches

Converting Points to Inches: 72 points is equal to 1 inch… usually

In the print world, the standard unit of measurement is the point (pt). If you’re not a graphic artist, you’re probably most familiar with point size from your high school or college days. Most instructors gave writing assignments with the following instructions: 5 pages, double space, 12pt. font – Times New Roman (and if they didn’t give guidelines, I know you bumped up the point size to 14 – everyone did!).

Point size is great for keeping consistency across documents at school, your website or in your business, but measuring those points in real-world measurements (e.g. inches and centimeters) is something many business owners have to deal with figuring out on a daily basis in order to meet industry regulations. We often get customers designing labels on our custom label tool who have strict guidelines they need to meet. Unfortunately, choosing font size is more of an art than a science, and it can get very, very confusing.

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Fixed-Height Font Measurements

When measuring fonts in inches, you are measuring the fixed height of the font. This fixed height measurement is useful when regulatory laws dictate that your product must have labels with a minimum font height of 3/8 of an inch, for example.

So what is 3/8 of an inch in point size you might ask?

Well… that depends.

font size guide measuresHere are some facts (and a helpful visual from James Madison University School of Media Arts & Design) font size x-height measurementabout point size measurement and inches, but there are some contingencies that I’ll explain next.

  • 1 inch is roughly equal to 72 points
  • Fonts have 3 elements:
    •  x-heights, ascenders & descenders
  • x-height = height of the lowercase x character
  • Ascenders = lines that extend above the base x character
  • Descenders = lines that extend below the base x character
  • Point Size = includes all three of these elements

Point size measures from the height of the highest ascender (peak) to the baseline of the lowercase x. It then measures from the lowest descender (valley) of the font to the top of the lowercase x. Standardized fonts (e.g. Arial, Times New Roman, Calibri, etc.) tend to abide very closely to these rules, so these are your most accurate bet for converting from points to inches. However…

Every Font Appears Differently

Theoretically, if you choose a 27 pt. font, no matter the font, it should be 3/8 of an inch tall, using our 72 point to 1 inch ratio. Unfortunately, many fonts are not standardized (think handwritten, funky, artsy fonts), so these ratios may not apply. But if we stick to standardized fonts even then there may be some issues.

Taking our previous example, which uses 3/8 of an inch as the minimum height requirement of the font, you will still have to go to a larger font size than 27 pt, if you are using lowercase letters. Depending on the amount that the letters like “d” ascend from the x-height, the “d” may very well be 3/8 of an inch at 27 points, while a plain “c” or “x” will be much less because they have no ascenders or descenders.

While you can generally use things like this great font height calculator to calculate the minimum point size you should be using, it will not always be 100% accurate, so allow yourself some wiggle room.

Best Solution for Font Height Regulations

The best solution to make sure you meet a font height minimum requirement when using our custom label tool, or when attempting to get an accurate inch size for your text, is to write in all-caps with a standardized font (e.g. Arial and not FontDiner Swanky) and give yourself an extra point or two – just in case. Always make sure that you have the extra few points if possible, in case the font you have selected is off of the standard by a percentage.

If you have any questions about choosing font size for your custom labels, let us know at 1-800-750-7764.

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