The Top Ten Tips for Good Looking Typography in Final Cut Pro X

“Yes, the 3D text in Final Cut Pro X is amazing, but it is not a one-click solution to getting good looking text. We take a look at ten tips that should help to make your words on screen look good and avoid some common mistakes.


There is no doubt that good typography is hard. That’s why there are graphic designers who do nothing but concentrate on the design and layout of text.

The days of molten metal and Linotype machines are long gone, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t apply some old basic rules and guides to laying out text, this time in an NLE.

So here’s my top ten tips for making good looking, readable text in Final Cut Pro X. The examples are shown with the FCPX GUI, but the most of the techniques apply to all editing systems with a character generator.

10) Kerning

My pet hate is bad kerning and yes I shout at the television when I see text with incorrect spacing. It is also one of those things where once you have been made aware of it, you will see it everywhere.

Kerning is the adjustment of spacing between individual characters – not to be confused with tracking which adjusts the spacing between all characters at the same time.

Well kerned text should have the same surface area between each pair of letters or indeed numbers. Some fonts auto-kern, but still need a tweak to get looking right.

Take the name David for example as this is quite common in credits and shows the problem up well. The top name in the example below shows the text uncorrected. The second David highlights the different spacing between characters.

The third, kerned David shows an easier to read version where the character positions have been adjusted correctly. You can see there has been a lot of movement between the A and V, with not as much between the V and I.

FCPX kerning

Don’t forget that good kerning rules should also be applied to numbers.

FCPX kerning numbers

You will find the kerning control in the text inspector, but you’ll have to twiddle down the Advanced disclosure triangle to see it. Place the cursor in-between the letters and kern away until it looks good. Move on to the next spacing and repeat.

FCPX kerning GUI

9) Serif or not Serif?

Hang on a minute, what on earth is a serif?

A serif is a small extra line attached to a letter, indicated below by the red arrows on the image. They originated from the days when text was written with a brush. By varying the pressure and angle of the brush, these additions or flourishes to each character were added.

Serif fonts include Times, Courier and Copperplate which you should all find on a standard install of FCPX & OS X.

Fonts without serifs are called sans-serif and include the Helveticas, Arials and Lucida Grande for example.

With the current design trend for flat graphics, the contemporary thought for good design is to use san-serif fonts. Personally I think they are easier to read anyway and are my choice unless I’m looking for the old typography look of a book or newspaper.” – Peter Wiggins

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