I’m creating cover art for a game that I’m making. I have a narrow vertical space for my title text, so I want the two-word title to be vertical.

The words are different lengths (“Sherlock Indomitable”).

There are three options:

  1. Put them all on the same line. This makes it too small to read.
  2. Make the second word stick out more than the first.
  3. Make he second word a smaller font.

I’ve searched over several days for design principles for vertical text, but it all came up empty. How should vertical text of different lengths be handled?

enter image description here

  • The primary principle of stacked text is that it is unreadable. You could use vertical text reading up or reading down depending upon your regional preferences by rotating the baseline 90°. Visit a bookstore or library for samples of text found on the spines of the publications.
    – Stan
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 21:34

2 Answers 2


To format vertical text you use all the same principals as horizontal text.

To make 2 lines of text equal length you can adjust the type size, style and the spacing between characters.

First of all select your desired fonts. A tightly spaced Narrow font style will fit a lot more characters in the same space.

Type the 2 lines of vertical text in the desired fonts. Size and space the first line to fit your artwork as needed. Size and space the second one to match the first.

In my example I compressed one line and expanded the other using the Tracking setting in the character panel. This setting plus font size and font style are the things you can use to control line length.

Be sure to use guides and zoom all the way in to get your letter forms reaching the same location at both ends.

enter image description here

  • Here's a rhetorical question to test your principle. I give this question to my students in typography: How would you stack the word, "DAVE'S"? (I'm referring to the treatment of the apostrophe.)
    – Stan
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 21:46
  • This answer is the best literal response to my question, and I’m very glad you posted it. But Scott’s answer got to the heart of my question, which I wasn’t even aware of, so I accepted it. Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 5:55
  • Hi Stan, in vertical text I believe the punctuation is out of vertical alignment, it's to the right of the characters, spaced like normal in relation to the character. Except probably the exclamation mark.
    – Webster
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 16:58
  • Hi Brian, no worries. Vertically aligned text is not too uncommon on book covers, book spines, posters and signs. I wouldn't remove it from your tool box.
    – Webster
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 17:00

Sorry, I think that vertical text layout is atrocious and shouldn't be used, ever.

Alignment is irrelevant. No one reads single characters top to bottom even if they happen to be aligned. Actually aligning them may make things even worse.

Putting two words, vertically, next to each other is basically just making things as difficult to read as you possibly can. It will inevitably be read as "SI-HN-ED-ORM-??-??"

I'd suggest a different layout entirely.

There's a reason you don't see this type of text alignment often and can't find any real rules regarding it... it's always horrible when used -- and it's unthinkable with two words side by side..... other than in signage, where it can't always be avoided, you should not be designing text this way.

Related: http://studiofunctioninc.tumblr.com/post/57734589578/the-problem-with-stacking

  • I agree with you but I think the issue is "readability." Point of information: I think the OP is referring to "stacked" letter vertical text. A vertical baseline would be preferable.
    – Stan
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 21:29
  • Well, looking at down votes, there are apparently people who feel stacking type is fine. I'm mystified by that.....
    – Scott
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 21:40
  • I picked this because it was the right answer. I tried a horizontal text instead and I think it is just so much better: twitter.com/MathBrush/status/975530875650625536. So thanks Scott! Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 5:52
  • 1
    The down votes are due to your tone. it sounds like you are telling off a child. Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 10:00
  • Tone?? Uhm... it's text. There can't be a tone.... any "tone" is in your head, certainly not in my words. I assure you no "tone" was intended. It's text.. just text. Read it again.. but imagine it being posted by someone smiling in a clown costume... Holding me responsible due to some possible personal underlying inferiority complex on the reader's part seems pretty unfair to me. I mean I can't help it if you hear a "tone" in your head that I never intended. And that's not what down votes are for. They aren't meant to be a "dislike" button.
    – Scott
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 12:01

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