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Put It In Reverse: Reversed Type Treatments in Desktop Publishing

Tips and considerations when using reversed type

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Reversed Type Knockout Type

Reversed or Knockout Type

Reversed or knockout type is a lighter typeface on a darker background.
With white on black reversed type, the background prints and the text is knocked out so that it doesn't print, letting the white background (or paper color) show through. With color on color reversed type, both colors print but the background color is knocked out of - not printed - in the area occupied by the light colored type.

Separate and Emphasize with Reversed Type

  • Set a single large headline in reversed type.

  • Set small department or column headings in a periodical in reversed type.

  • Use an initial cap reversed out of a simple shape such as a square or circle.

  • Reverse text out of a colored box and use as pull-quote.

Keep Reversed Type Readable

Reversed type can be harder to read. Ink can spread and when it spreads into the white areas of reversed type it is more noticeable than when it spreads from black text to a surrounding white background. Avoid this and other readability problems with careful type choices and restrained use of reversed type.

  • Use a larger, bolder font to avoid having ink spread obliterate fine serifs and thin strokes.

  • Choose sans serif fonts, especially if setting reversed type at relatively small sizes. It lacks serifs that can disappear and the strokes are usually thicker than serif faces.

  • Use more leading between lines of reversed type than you might for the same text not reversed.

  • Use increased letterspacing with reversed type.

  • Avoid using reversed type on busy photographs. Choose photos with large expanses of uniformly colored areas.

  • Ensure that there is adequate contrast between the text and the background it is reversed out of. White on light blue is much harder to read than white on dark blue, for example.

  • Because the eye is naturally drawn to reversed type, use it sparingly. Avoid setting every headline, pull-quote, and sidebar in reversed type. All areas compete for attention and no one wins.

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Glossary Terms Related to Reversed Type

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