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Whether you're producing a documentary on the Victorian era or a period piece, you have to maintain a traditional aesthetic in everything ranging from music to color grading. In creating a cohesive old-timey look in your content, you have to consider the relevance of your subtitle font as well. Whenever your content relates to history or tradition, its subtitles should have a vintage font.
The best vintage subtitle font for bottom-screen captions is Smythe, and the best one for mid-screen captions is Shippori Antique. Other fonts to consider are Gilda Display for its versatility and Old Standard TT for its visibility. These are Google fonts, which means they are accessible and free.
In this article, you will learn how to choose a vintage font and what to look for when selecting one for your content subtitles. You will also find out how different fonts can be good for different contexts. By the end of this post, you'll understand the strong points of the best vintage subtitle fonts like:
Old Standard TT
Designed by: Astigmatic
Yesteryear is a font designed with a feel of the yesteryears. It has a vintage vibe driven mainly by its cursive style. The font's strongest point is its heavy body, which makes it great for title cards as well as subtitles.
Its best use case is short-form content with bold subtitling. You might have noticed such clips on TikTok, Youtube Shorts, or Instagram Reels. If you want to create similar clips where the spoken word is almost as important as the visuals, then using a bold vintage font like Yesteryear is highly recommended.
Its heavy body makes it legible, and with the right color choice, it can stay readable throughout the duration of any given video. When using Yesteryear, make sure to pay attention to the text size. This video is an example of the type of content for which Yesteryear can work.
As you can see, the subtitles in the short clip above have a significantly larger size than standard movie subtitles. For such subtitling, a heavy font style like Yesteryear can work.
You can download Yesteryear from its official Google Fonts page.
Designed by: Nicole Fally
Oldenburg is an unapologetically vintage font that can be used for small-sized subtitles. If you were watching an old black-and-white movie with Oldenburg font subtitles, you wouldn't find it odd. It has a light body ideal for body text and a serif type. Some glyphs have slightly curved ends, which reinforces the vintage typographic aesthetic.
The Oldenburg font is best for small standard-sized subtitles with a black backdrop. You might have legibility issues if you use this font for subtitles without activating a block background. The slim font-weight embodies the vintage body text aesthetic, but it isn't perfect for non-standard backgrounds.
Use Oldenburg for long-form content subtitling with a letterbox or black subtitle background. The ideal color for this font in the context of subtitles is white, though yellow can work as well.
You can download Oldenburg from its official font family page.
Designed by: Astigmatic
In vintage typography, anything that doesn't have serifs has to have a cursive element. Grand Hotel is unique in that it uses non-leaning cursive glyphs to create a straight-looking handwritten font. Cursive can be hard to read in changing use cases like subtitles and credits. But Grand Hotel has high legibility because of the straightened glyphs.
The font has medium weight and minimal spacing. Words displayed in Grand Hotel font are easier to read at any size, though the vintage vibe disappears when the font is enlarged beyond a point. It is best left for standard subtitling and captioning use cases.
Do not use Grand Hotel for the contemporary spoken-word content, which demands more prominent subtitles. When this font occupies a significant portion of the screen, it starts looking modern. It looks vintage only when it is at a standard caption size.
You can download the Grand Hotel font family from its Google Fonts page.
Designed by: Fontdasu
Shippori Antique offsets the limitation of the Grand Hotel. It is a font that looks great (and vintage) in every size. It is a sans-serif, disconnected font with high legibility in all sizes. It is versatile and can be used for mid-screen and bottom-screen captions.
Its vintage appearance is reminiscent of old beverage labels. Despite having glyphs that seem machine-written, it has a handmade feel because of the vintage labels that were typeset by hand. Use this font if you want to have a variety of content with the same font for branding reasons.
Shippori Antique's versatility is its greatest asset, and anyone who creates short-form and long-form content with varying caption sizes can use it as a familiar element across all their content.
Download Shippori Antique from its official font download page.
Old Standard TT
Designed by: Alexey Kryukov
Old Standard TT has great legibility in standard, italic, and bold forms. It has a very traditional appearance with slim serifs and a gradient weight that fades down toward the end. This font looks like the traditional body text font used by publishers in the 80s, which is on-point for those seeking a vintage style.
But like vintage body text, it can have its legibility limitations. If you use it for small-sized captions, make sure to bolden the text. You might not be able to use it in its italics or standard setting in a captioning use case. Subtitles have a higher legibility burden because of the changing background and non-stationary text. So, you can improve the readability of your subtitles by adding a solid block background and using the bold version of the font.
The entire Old Standard TT font family is available for download from Google Fonts.
Designed by: Vernon Adams
Smythe is a straight font with a gradient weight. It has a vintage appearance because of its slim serifs. The font is ideal for captions because of its high legibility, even at a small size. You can use Smythe for standard subtitling as well as short-form content captioning. Its weight allows it to remain readable even without a solid background, though you need to choose the right font color for maximum legibility.
Smythe font doesn't have cursive and connective elements that can make certain fonts hard to read. Still, it carries a traditional aesthetic thanks to its kerning potential and slim serifs. You can download Smythe from its official font family page.
Designed by: Eduardo Tunni
Gilda Display is a display font designed by Eduardo Tunni. Its main features include gradient weight, curves, and serifs. It has a classic traditional appearance and decent mid-size legibility. If you use this font for captions or subtitles, you should activate a solid background. It is legible in body text size but against a stationary background. The minimal font weight makes it hard to read against a moving background.
This font is better for letterbox settings and solid color subtitle backdrops. It works in traditional subtitle placement and not in contemporary mid-screen captioning. So, you can use Gilda Display for standard captions but not for spoken-word reels and youtube shorts.
Knowing what you want out of a vintage font, aside from it being vintage, is crucial. Understanding the use case can actually help you pick the font with the right weight and size as well as the appropriate aesthetic. Gilda Display has a limited use case but looks great when used for the right context.
What To Look For In A Vintage Font?
As mentioned above, font use case influences one's choice of fonts, and even within the vintage font umbrella, there are plenty of fonts that can be good or bad depending on the context. In this section, we will go over what you need to look for broadly when selecting a vintage font and specifically when choosing one for subtitles.
Broadly speaking, you should focus on a traditional aesthetic when selecting a vintage font. The font must have tangible elements that allude to or dignify practices present in publishing and typography 40 years ago. This includes sharp serifs, prominence of cursive, and handwritten display fonts.
Because vintage fonts were mostly superimposed against a white background, their legibility isn't guaranteed in a subtitles context. That is why you should be mindful of how a font looks when it is against a changing backdrop. Some fonts work at a small size. Others are unreadable unless they are large enough.
It doesn't matter whether a font is vintage or contemporary. If it is used for subtitles, then it has to be legible before it is anything else. Discounting legibility can end up making video subtitles downright unreadable.
Most font previews are against a white backdrop. By testing the legibility on paper, you might end up with subtitles that aren't readable once they are displayed against a video. So, when you choose a font for your subtitles, make sure to view it against a video instead of a white background.
You should also consider the weight of the font. A font that is not heavy is unlikely to hold its own without a solid color background. You cannot err on the side of extra weight either, as the font's rising size can burden its spacing. If a vintage font is too heavy, the letters can start merging into each other.
Available and Usable styles
Most fonts have standard and bold weight styles and standard and italics font orientations. Still, these cannot be assumed to exist for every font. Check the variation in a font family before you select it for subtitling.
Using Vintage Fonts: Things to Know
If you're looking for vintage fonts for captions, you have to know a few things regarding their use cases and potential liabilities. In this section, we will go over things most content creators should know about using vintage fonts.
Vintage Means 40+ Years Ago
The term vintage is mobile. As decades pass, what vintage is will also change. For any given period, vintage is an era that is at least 40 years in the past. In the 2020s, "vintage" is the 80s era. In the upcoming 30s, the 90s might be considered vintage.
Mind The Spacing
Where the legibility requirements apply to all subtitles, the spacing problems are more specific to vintage fonts. Just because a font is classified as a vintage one does not mean that it will retain a vintage look even if you change its spacing and size. Display fonts that are considered "vintage" look the part only in headlines and titles. They do not look very vintage when shrunk to the size of subtitles.
Body fonts that have a vintage appearance do not look old when they are blown up to a large size. Spacing has even more of an impact on how modern a font looks. If the letters are spaced apart enough, they start looking futuristic, no matter the constitution of the individual alphabets.
Avoid Copyright Problems
It is also worth keeping in mind that fonts are considered intellectual property. Different fonts have different licenses. Some font licenses do not allow their use in any commercial content, which would make them illegal to use in marketing content.
You should either filter fonts with commercial licenses or should find them from Google Fonts, which generally have a broader license, including commercial use. All the fonts included in this post are Google fonts.
ContentFries: Upload Your Own Subtitles Font
This educational resource is provided by ContentFries, a program that can be used for effortless, automated subtitling. Not only does ContentFries have a vast library of drag-and-drop caption templates, but it also has a custom font library to which you can upload your own fonts. This feature opens up the possibility of using subtitle fonts that other creators do not use, making your content more unique.
The vintage subtitles fonts covered in this post are great for mid-screen, lower-screen, and standard-use captions. You should try downloading and sampling all the fonts featured in the article above to see one that matches your content needs. More importantly, you should pick a content editor that allows you to upload custom fonts so that you can use them for effortless subtitling. Check out ContentFries if you're interested in efficient auto-captioning features that allow custom subtitling.