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Designing with reverse type


Students will look at fonts in a whole new light. Namely, they will look at fonts printed on dark background colors and how to use reverse type effectively. They will create a chart demonstrating how white and black text looks on different colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, 25 percent black, 50 percent black, 75 percent black. (This lesson will tie into Lesson 5.2 – Positive and Negative Space.)


  • Students will describe different situations or reasons in which it is appropriate to use reverse font.
  • Students will assess when to use reverse fonts in a layout.
  • Students will create two layouts in which they use standard font treatments and then transform them to reverse type.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA.Literacy.W-9-10.2d Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to manage the complexity of a subject.
CCSS.ELA.Literacy.L.9-10.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
CCSS.ELA.Literacy.L.9-10.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 9-10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
CCSS.ELA.Literacy. L.9-10.6 Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.


120 minutes


Handout: Negative space sample (created by student Jason Manhneio) 

Lesson step-by-step

1. Tap prior knowledge — 5 minutes

Ask students what they know about the word “reverse” and to share their assumptions about what reverse type might be. Then provide the definition and explanation. Reverse type refers to a lighter typeface on a darker background, such as “white” text on a black background; in print design, the text appearing white is actually the absence of ink, or that area removed from inside a black element. Distribute the Reverse Font Sample as an example of reverse type. Students may use mobile devices to conduct a quick search for additional examples.

2. Experiment — 60 minutes

Students will use a layout from their own publications to replace the headline treatment with a reverse type treatment. They should begin by deciding whether to use white text on a black background or color. After deciding on color choices, students will create a new headline treatment for the layout. The purpose is to differentiate between what happens when reverse font is used in place of a standard font treatment. After the initial reverse type treatment, students may re-assess their color choices and may change the colors at this point. When they are finished, students will submit their revised layout digitally or print a copy to turn in.

3. Application — 50 minutes

After completing the layout revision using reverse type, students will make a font/color chart. For each of the basic colors, students will create a chart demonstrating the use of white and black fonts on each color: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple (or your own list) as well as 25 percent black, 50 percent black and 75 percent black. Each color should have the same font size and choice to show what happens when each font is used for each color. After students finish creating their font chart, they will print it or submit it electronically.

4. Closure — 5 minutes

Students can conduct a pair-share to offer feedback if time permits. Consider using a screen and projector to showcase some of the designs, and/or hang them around the room to display student work.