The Best Cursive Fonts
Your elementary school art teacher told you that art is a subjective and egalitarian form of expression; it was impossible to choose the best. Your third-grade teacher harbored no such illusions. If you couldn’t link your cursive letters fluidly, if you couldn’t execute the elusive lowercase “r,” and if your “b” looked like a malformed “li,” your penmanship simply didn’t make the grade. Now that you design for a living, it’s time to admit it – your third-grade teacher was harsh, cruel, and absolutely right.
In the grown-up world of typography, the definition of proper cursive is a bit more nebulous. Aside from the decisive feature of connected letterforms and single-stroke words, anything goes. Designers often use “cursive” as a shorthand for handwriting-style fonts and also for excessively ornate italicized script, but these two font styles don’t necessarily have a great degree of correlation.
Yet, in all the styles that fall under the aerie of cursive fonts, you will see a tradeoff battle between aesthetically pleasing forms and legibility. For a font to make the grade, it has to find a good balance between function and style.
- PF Champion Script Pro. If you like ornate Spencer-style script, Champion is a good choice. The thoughtful kerning makes the letters flow legibly, and the soaring flourishes are at just the right line width to read perfectly without competing with the legibility.
- Metroscript. You probably know this typeface as the official script of the New York Mets. It deserves further consideration in its own right. The clever discontinuities in the round lowercase gives this font an almost anthropomorphic quality, and the thick lines, open bowls, and gradual line weight blends make Metroscript easy to read from far away.
- Liza. With angled forms and drastic line weight shifts reminiscent of blackletter fonts, Liza sacrifices some readability for a pleasing amount of quirk. Save this one for page design rather than posters – because Liza reads better in your lap than on your wall.
- Susa. A playful take on the cursive genre, Susa pairs witty, stylized symmetric letter with meaty, gothic lines. It’s easy on the eye in more ways than one; the heavy lines and round negative spaces make Susa easy to read from a distance.
- Satisfaction. A leading handwriting-style font, Satisfaction is a space hog and a design element in its own right. It is as readable as the also-pleasing Eye Catching handwriting font, but the dramatic sweeps of Satisfaction move the eye across the page.
Fontophiles may notice that these fonts are crowd favorites on MyFonts.com. What makes the honored fonts noteworthy instead of competing perennial bestsellers Allura and Sheila? Compare Allura to any font listed above; Allura plods along like a tired greeting card couplet. The reason it lacks life is that the typeface is too uniform; the kerning has the look of a font that relied heavily on a ruler instead of the eye.
An excellent counterpoint to cursive typography of the Roman alphabet is the Chinese equivalent, grass script, a deliberately nonuniform script intended to convey energy, motion, and life. The best cursive fonts do the same.