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The Complete Guide to CSS font-family Property

In this article, we will learn about the CSS font-family property in detail.

Introduction to CSS font-family Property

The font-family property is one of the most powerful CSS properties. It allows you to assign different fonts and font variants to textual elements on your website. With this property, you can use a single HTML element with multiple font faces instead of separate HTML elements for each variant. This makes your code more maintainable, scalable, and accessible.

In addition, the font-family property also has the highest specificity among all CSS properties, making it quite useful for increasing the visual consistency of your site. With so many benefits, it’s hard to imagine why anyone wouldn’t use the CSS font-family property on every website they build! However, there are a lot of nuances with this property that often go overlooked. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about the font-family property — from commonly asked questions.

What is the font-family property?

The font-family property is a CSS property that specifies the font to be used in an HTML document. You can specify one or more fonts, along with different variants (e.g., bold, italic, etc.), which will then be applied to all textual elements on your website. As an example, you might declare this in your CSS: h2 {font-family: Verdana, sans-serif;} The h2 element will use Verdana font and the regular weight for any text contained within it. If you wanted the h2 element to use a bold version of Verdana instead of the regular weight, you would write this in your CSS: h2 {font-family: Verdana, sans-serif; font-weight: bold;}.

Can We Use Shorthand in the `font-family` Property?

One of the most often asked questions about the CSS font-family property is whether or not we can use shorthand values in it. The answer is yes. For example, if you want to use the Arial font on all your text elements, you could write font-family: Arial; instead of writing out each variant of Arial individually (e.g., font-family: arial, arial narrow, arial black).

The main thing to keep in mind when using shorthand values is that they will be applied to all textual elements with no exceptions. In other words, it’s best to use shorthand only if you want all text elements to have the same family name set. Shorthand values are also limited by the operating system and browser support. So make sure your website visitors have access to fonts that are specified as part of a single value before using these properties.

How to Specify Fonts in CSS?

In CSS, you specify fonts by using the font-family property. The property accepts a comma-separated list of font-family names. These can be generic families like sans-serif or specific ones like Montserrat. Below are the syntax and examples:

CSS font-family Syntax

font-family: family-name|generic-family|initial|inherit;


#content p {
  font-family: "Times New Roman", Times, serif;

#main p {
  font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;

Which Fonts Should I Use?

The font-family property can be used to specify a variety of fonts. You can use traditional fonts like Arial and Times New Roman, or you can use more modern fonts like Oswald and Proxima Nova. In addition, the font-family property offers the ability to include any other font you have on your computer in your website’s code — even if it’s not installed on most browsers. This is also known as @font-face coding.

The downside to this is that it may increase load time depending on how much content is included in the style sheet, so we recommend only including a few fonts at any given time. When deciding which fonts to use for your website, keep these things in mind: readability, accessibility (think mobile and screen readers), quality of the font, and browser compatibility. We recommend sticking with one or two fonts at a time per project to reduce loading time and maintain readability.

Should I Always Use Variants?

No. Variants are a useful tool for condensing your HTML, but you should use them sparingly. One of the most common reasons people use variants is to assign different weights or styles to their fonts. However, it’s not always necessary, as there are other ways to do this with CSS. For example, you can use CSS3 features like font-weight and font style to achieve the same result without using variants.

In addition, if you decide to go with variants, make sure they have been installed on the user’s computer before the browser renders your website. If the variant font doesn’t exist on their computer, they won’t see anything but blank space where the text would normally be displayed. This is why it’s important to use conditional coding so that all visitors will be served a consistent experience — even visitors who don’t have your preferred fonts installed on their computers. This leads us to our next question.

What is a font stack and how do they work?

A font stack defines the order of your fonts, so you can use the first font listed if it’s available and the next one if it’s not. Let’s say you want to specify three different fonts for your website: Arial, Times New Roman, and Comic Sans MS. You could create a single font stack like this: ``` font-family: Arial, "Times New Roman", Comic Sans MS; ```.

If all three fonts exist on the visitor’s system, then they will be displayed in this order. However, if only Arial and Times New Roman are available on the visitor’s system, then only those two would be displayed. If Comic Sans MS is not available at all, then nothing would be displayed in that spot of the font stack.

How to Order Your Font Stacks?

When specifying your font stacks, order matters. Suppose you want to assign the “Segoe UI” font to an element and then use it in combination with a sans-serif font for smaller text. Your CSS would look something like this: p { font-family: "Segoe UI", sans-serif; } small { font-family: "Segoe UI", sans-serif; }.

What are the best practices when using font stacks?

When using font stacks, it is necessary to use a generic font for paragraphs of text. This ensures that the text will display on any platform and browser. Using a generic font like sans-serif (or "Arial") will prevent any issues with text not displaying correctly. Additionally, it is important to consider the specific typefaces you are using in your design.

When choosing fonts, try to use clean and simple fonts that are similar in weight, form, and style. This will help keep your design balanced and uniformed for a more attractive appearance. Lastly, when selecting a font family for your site you should always try to limit yourself to only two or three fonts at most. This will ensure that the website is easy to navigate and continues to look aesthetically pleasing.

Browser Support

CSS font-family supports all the commonly used browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari, and Opera.


Likely you've heard of the font-family property. It’s one of the most basic properties in CSS and it can be used to set fonts.