How to Create Image Captions that People Can Actually Read

People often pick the wrong font-color when creating image captions, or when pairing the color of a text with the color of its background in general. Doing this makes the text illegible, which means people will struggle to read what you wrote, and will likely decide to just not read it at all.

Fortunately, this issue is easy to fix. The following examples will show you which common mistakes to avoid, and which guidelines you should follow in order to make your texts and image captions readable and aesthetically pleasing.

 

What not to do

Avoid placing light-colored text on a light background:

A light font on a light background is bad

 

Similarly, avoid placing dark-colored text on a dark background:

A dark font on a dark background is bad

 

Avoid relying only on color contrasts between the text and the background to ensure readability:

Relying only on color contrast is bad

 

Doing this generally leads to text which is annoying to read, and which can be illegible to color-blind people in some cases. It can work sometimes if you know what you’re doing, but you’re almost always better off not relying on it.

 

What you should do

Rely primarily on a light-dark contrast. For example, you can pair a dark-colored text with a light background:

A dark font on a light background is readable

 

You can also pair a light-colored text with a dark background:

A light font on a dark background is readable

 

If readability is your main concern, or if the background color is not consistent throughout, you can use a white text with a black outline, which can be easily read on any background:

White text with a black outline is readable on any background

 

Similarly, you can also use a white text with a black highlight, which is also readable on any background, and which might look better than a black outline in some cases:

White text with a black highlight is readable on any background

 

Keep in mind that since you’re essentially creating your own background for the text when you use a highlight, you can choose other color combinations besides white and black, as long as you maintain a light/dark contrast between the text and its highlight.

 

Summary and conclusions

  • To ensure that your image captions are legible, maintain a light/dark contrast between the text and the background. This means that you should avoid placing a light-colored text on a light background, or a dark-colored text on a dark background.
  • In addition, don’t rely only on color contrasts between the text and the background to achieve readability.
  • Try to pair light-colored texts with dark backgrounds, and dark-colored texts with light backgrounds.
  • If readability is your main concern, the best option is to use white text with a black outline, since it’s legible on all backgrounds.
  • You can also use white text with a black highlight, which might look better than a black outline in some cases. In this case, you can also choose other color combinations besides white and black, as long as you maintain a light/dark contrast between the text and its highlight.