How to Change the Mail Font Size in Mac OS X

Sep 16, 2014 - 35 Comments

Mail app icon

The default font size in the Mail app for Mac OS X is size 12 for emails and messages that are lacking styling, which tends to be most communications that are sent by email.

If you find the font size in Mail for Mac to be too small, or even too big, you’ll be pleased to know that changing the text size of email messages is quite simple. Not only can you change the font size for the email content itself, but also for other components of an email message, including the sender, recipients, subject line, and even the message list.

While we’re going to focus on changing the actual font size, it should be noted that users can also easily change the font family or face as well. From a readability standpoint, it’s the font size that most users may find improves their Mail app experience.

How to Adjust the Font Size of Mail App in Mac OS X

This can be used to adjust the font sizes in Mail app either down or up, and the process is the same regardless of which version of Mac OS is installed on the Mac.

  1. Open Mail app if you haven’t done so already
  2. Optional but recommended: select / open an email message to see a live preview of the changed mail font size for
  3. Pull down the “Mail” menu and select “Preferences”
  4. Choose the “Fonts & Colors” tab and adjust the following:
    • To change email message font size: Alongside “Message Font”, click the ‘Select’ button and then use the Size indicator to increase or decrease the font size – the default is size 12
    • To change email inbox list font size: Click the “Select” button next to ‘Message list font’ and adjust the size as desired

    Change the Mail Font Size in Mac OS X

  5. Close out of Mail Preferences when satisfied with the change

A change in font size can make a considerable difference in readability in either direction, this is particularly true if a users eyesight isn’t perfect or even if you’re just trying to avoid eyestrain and spend a lot of time sending and receiving emails.

For example, here’s an email message in Mail app for MacOS and Mac OS X with the default font size:

Default small font size in Mail app for Mac OS X

And here’s the same email message in the Mac Mail app with a font size increased to size 18:

Increased larger Mail font size in Mac OS X

While that may look too large for some users, it may be perfect for others, it really depends on user preference, and the screen size of the display in use. This is specific to the actual Mail app in Mac OS X, meaning if your default email client is set to something else, or even to webmail, you’d need to adjust those settings separately. For web mail users like Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail, simply increasing the browsers text size with a zoom keystroke is typically sufficient.

This obviously covers the Mac side of things, and remember that iPad and iPhone users can also change the mail text size on iOS to accommodate their preferences.

Keyboard Shortcuts for Increasing & Decreasing Font Size in Mail for Mac

It’s worth mentioning that you can also change the font size of emails you are actively composing by using the ‘Format’ menu in Mail app too, and there are two handy keyboard shortcuts for increasing and decreasing Mail font size using the Formats menu:

In a new Mail composition window, or when replying or forwarding an email, click into the body of the email message and then use the following keystrokes to increase or decrease font size of the email:

  • Command + to increase font size
  • Command – to decrease font size

You can also access those formatting options from the ‘Format’ menu within Mail app. These keystrokes are found in many other places in Mac OS for increasing and decreasing font size, including Safari, so they may already be familiar to you.


Related articles:

Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Chris says:

    Well, it’s 2019. When will Apple allow us to change the color? Jeeze. I see complaints back at least four years. And, this effects every email I send. What a productivity sink for us users.

  2. Macman says:

    I run a 4k 32″ AON screen with a 8k Graphics card, Apple does even make Displays anyone, they use Samsung, and not being able to change the font list size in MAIL is like not being able to adjust your cars review mirrors. Who’s test osx these days? 3 year olds?
    Keep taking things away, like coloured folders and OS X will become as bad as Windows 10.

  3. Adam says:

    It’s crazy that when editing an email you can’t zoom in on the tiny text without changing the font size. If Apple is looking for something to do with their $250 billion dollars in cash reserves, maybe they could use it to fix these bugs that make their core products unusable. Ignoring this kind of stuff is why giants fall.

  4. Mike Sanders says:

    This does not change the font or the font size in the subject line which has long been an issue, this font seems to have been fixed by Apple.
    I write all my emails in Times New Roman 16 point and I want the subject line to be the same but it is not possible.
    If you can help I’d appreciate it.

  5. Terry says:

    The problem is not the font size on screen, that’s totally legible.
    But when I print emails, the text is tiny, totally unreadable.
    How do I fix that???

  6. Jon W Florey says:

    That certainly makes my outgoing message font larger, but I guess I’ll stick with G-Mail when I want to read a message.

  7. Dacey says:

    Possible addon for Thunderbird (i just saw it on the addons homepage)

    Thunderbird is free by the way.

    Disclaimer: I’m a freelancer and don’t work for Mozilla and I’ve trusted it for years over Apple mail or MS Outlook.

  8. Dacey says:

    You could use Thunderbird.

    I set it up for my dad with larger email inbox text (email list) and even colour filtering so he gets the messages from people he knows in blue.

    There are lots of useful extensions for Thunderbird and they’re all free.

  9. mike sanders says:

    Good article but there is still the problem of the font and font size in the address box. The subject is always in Helvetica I did not choose and I use Times New Roman for my messages.
    Everything but this can be adjusted cannot understand why not.
    Any ideas?

  10. Mary says:

    My message list font is locked. I cannot selected. :(

  11. wislonp says:

    OK, fixed how to set the font size by downloading the latest version of Java.

    But still cannot set the colour.

  12. wislonp says:

    This sucks. Even with El Capitain APPLE is NOT LISTENING.


  13. Damien Theophano says:

    I have adjusted the font size in the preferences and it doesn’t change.
    I can adjust by zooming in for each message, but I want to be able to set a prefered font size for all my messages and have it stick.
    How do i do it?


  14. Vivian Berg says:

    It seems to easy. The problem is that one cannot change the font size or message style in the mailbox lists. One can select font and size on the screen in preferences, but it has no effect on behavior in the mailbox lists.

    • Marius says:

      Exactly Vivian. I am so frustrated with Mac.. Crikey i own a windows for personal use and am made to use a mac for work but i have never had so many problems ever before.. I will try and convince my work place to change this ludicrous system.. Hate Apple..

  15. Kent says:

    How can I change the font colour of my outgoing mail?

  16. Jacquie says:

    I am trying to create signatures in mail that are a certain font and colour. Then when I go to create an email it has the body of the email in that font and size which I don’t want. How can you change this any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  17. Steve says:

    I recently had my iMac’s OS 10.8 system reinstalled. Before that was done, I was able to select (darken) the email text and then from the format bar choose and create different font sizes for the message without having to go to the mail menu, preferences and fonts and colors. Now, the capability of doing that has disappeared. How can that be restored?

  18. Dave says:

    Your 18 point example renders as about 3mm high on the screen of my MBP. That is 3mm/25.4*72 = 8.5 point font. If you want to deliver something that renders as a true 12 point font on a screen like mine, you’d need to format your email in a 25 point font.

    This is madness! Why doesn’t a 12 point render as a real 12 points ( = 12/72″ = 4.23mm ) ?

  19. Pam says:

    I would like to be able to see the emaul I am composing too. How wold I accomplish this task? Thanks!

  20. StarBird says:

    Totally not what I need. There was a font drop down with a size drop down ON THE EMAIL ITSELF.

    I just opened apple mail and it’s not there now. I cannot find anything that says how to put it back and apple is closed for help.

    It’s infuriating when I search with font size and nothing comes up. I can’t be more specific.

  21. Great article! Best part was getting to the bottom and realising that I could do it with IOS as well!

    Thanks A Million!

  22. mikedvzo says:

    This only works if you change to Classic Layout under Preferences. Send Feedback to Apple.

    • Lisa says:

      Mike..thanks for the tip! I read this in the Mail help, but it didn’t point one to just what the heck “classic layout” is. Your pointing me toward Mail Preferences helped me solve the problem. I would just like to specify for your readers that this only refers to the email *list*. You can still change the font size, at least, of the messages themselves, even if you’re not in classic layout…AND….if the sender of the email did not specify their own font.

  23. peter buchmueller says:

    so far so good, size change is OK, but some reason I am not able to change font type. For example I would like to use Helvetica, default, but the default type of the font are restricted, Helvetica is not among.

    I am really mad about, why apple created this mail program like this. Why I am not able to use kind of font which I liked, which I want???

  24. forkboy1965 says:

    I tried this as well, but the list of e-mails font size didn’t change. Odd.

    • Armin says:

      I tried this as well, now on yosemite, still doesnt work.

    • Lisa says:

      I have Yosemite v10.5, and it STILL doesn’t change the font size for the e-mail list. I have been able to change the size for the individual emails, but even though there’s a choice for it in Mail (Mail>Preferences>Fonts and Colors..and then there’s a choice for the e-mail *list*), it doesn’t work.

    • Lisa says:

      OOps! A PS..I just read a poster below. Being able to change the size/font of the email *list* works on;y of you’ve changed to “classic layout” (the individual email is below the list of emails, as opposed to on the right side). Mail>Preferences..the click on the “Viewing”icon at the top. Check “Use Classic Layout”, *then* got to Fonts and colors and change your font/’ll work then.

  25. Paul Morrison says:

    I follow the directions, several times, but the font does not change in the preference window. I change it in the font window and close but no change. 10.9/ I will try this at home on yosemite.

  26. MeD8R says:

    I like to use Garamond 18 pt in blue for my emails. I have never found a way to do that automatically. Do you have a solution?

  27. Phil says:

    Unfortunately this has no effect on the size of a printed message. This has been a problem from the first release of Mavericks and hasn’t improved with the various upgrades. It seems to be slightly better with the version in the Yosemite beta.

  28. Jacob says:

    I’m using the public beta version of Yosemite and I’m curious if there’s a way to increase the font size banner notification texts. Or at least increase the size of the text notification center. Any ideas?

  29. McKay says:

    Great tip but what about signatures that change size when I send an email? I have the ‘set to default size’ checked on the signature edit but it still seems to send my signature at a huge size vs the email text. Thanks

    • pah says:

      If you use a rich HTML signature with a font size defined within the HTML/CSS it should stay the same size and not be overridden by your Mail app preferences upon sending

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