If free fonts were offered at a restaurant, most web page designers would weigh 500 pounds. There are thousands and thousands of free fonts available, many of them interesting, well-designed and useful. Anyone who limits themselves to what comes loaded on their computer is missing out on one of the great joys of designing for a website, advertising, books or any other form of the written word.
True, many free fonts are quirky display (advertising) typefaces – not the sort of fonts in which you’d want to set text for every-day reading. If you want a classic text font, such as Garamond, you’ll have to pay, one way or another. (We’ll assume you already know the pitfalls of using pirated software; in return, you’ll be spared the obvious bad puns about using “hot type.”)
The other pitfall, involving malware hidden in a downloaded font file, are equally obvious. When downloading any software – particularly free software – it is the responsibility of the recipient to judge the trustworthiness of the source. Even then, many of the “free font” sites are simply acting as bazaars for freeware and, while they wouldn’t intentionally offer “buggy” downloads – they don’t necessarily know what lurks deep in the digital guts of these files. Beware, be careful and be sure to always run downloaded files through a malware-checking program.
Why do sites offer free fonts? What’s the catch? For one thing, many sites are actually trying to sell something – a font management system, a one-click library of thousands of fonts, other (fee-based) fonts, advertising, links to other sites, whatever – and offer free fonts as a come-on. It’s like those free samples at the grocery store. A lot like that, in fact: nice little snacks, but not a balanced meal.
Who among us hasn’t taken advantage of taking a nibble of that sample of microwavable kung-pao chicken without actually buying the Chinese-dinner-in-a-box the store is selling? Even so, it’s danged good kung-pao chicken, isn’t it? There are also other reasons: Graphic designers trying to make a name for themselves by designing and giving away some cool fonts and even some type hobbyists/fanatics who just do this sort of thing in their spare time. Sometimes they’ll ask for a donation, sometimes they just give the fonts away for the sheer joy of creativity. Just be grateful and enjoy the type.
1001 Free Fonts
Probably the granddaddy of all free font sites, it was founded in 1998. There are quite a few free fonts (and, no, we didn’t count them all) offered for both Windows and Macs. The fonts are arranged by style (“Comic,” “Rounded,” “Old English,” etc.), but if you know the name of the font there is a search tool. All of the fonts are roman, so the so-called “Russian” fonts are not Cyrillic, but cute Russian-looking roman fonts. They do offer stuff for sale – a 10,000 font library for $19.95 and links to pay-for-use fonts – but they don’t shove the advertising in your face.
New font site contains hundreds of high quality fonts, and the list continues to grow each day.
Ray Larabie is one of the pioneers of digital type design. He began designing fonts on a Tandy
TRS-80 (back when the earth’s crust was still cooling), creating – and giving away – over 300 fonts. He worked as a typographer for a videogame production company (the titles on Grand Theft Auto are his design; take that, Stanley Morison) before setting up his own type foundry, Thypodermic Fonts. Most – but not all! – of the fonts offered here are free. A great selection from a very talented typographer.
A massive collection of both free and fee fonts. As of mid-May 2012, they list 3,218 free fonts and 25,084 commercial faces. They are listed alphabetically, which means lots of browsing, but that’s half the fun, anyway. There are also quite a few links to other free font sites which, if you follow them, will soon get you tangled in a delightful maze of free fonts and soon fill up your webpage browser bookmarks file and/or your hard drive.
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! A wonderful collection of 20,000 fonts, with a detailed classified list, including lots of dingbats and even barcodes. Also included is a free download for the Skrifttype Manager software. A few non-roman faces as well.
Search Free Fonts
With more than 13,000 fonts, this website is bound to have some overlap with other sites, but what makes it different is that it gathers non-Roman (or, “non-Latin” as they call them) into one group. There’s another section for Cyrillic, including some wonderfully obscure ones (Macedonian Church, for example).
Despite the name, these folks are less interested in quantity than quality. Their headline, “Only the Best Commercial-Use Free Fonts,” shows a deliberative process for their selection. With about 1,500 fonts, they also have theme packages (called “kits”). Be sure to look at their blog and forum.
Not only well-organized and easy to use, they provide a variety of ways to search their collection of 17,246 fonts: categories, alphabetical, year uploaded (not designed), by specific character and even a “random font” option! There are a variety of license levels, depending upon the font, which are explained in their excellent FAQ page.
At this point, even the most rabid font fanatic should be getting a headache… and this is only a tour of the highlights of free sources for fonts. There are also some very specialized sources for such fonts as linguistic fonts (for languages without a system of writing), technical fonts (fields of science, mathematics and engineering, for example, have their special symbols), historical fonts (there is a group that is gathering, digitizing and selling – for a very small price – fonts of 19th century wood type) and many, many others.
The next time you decide to just settle for Times New Roman (although there’s nothing wrong with that face, mind you), but you think you might want to go browsing for something a little different, these sites will give you a place to start. Here’s hoping you don’t bill by the hour, though.
This post was written by Peter Nevis, on behalf of Orangeline.com.au. Peter contributes to various websites, he’s a marketing expert and enjoys writing articles about SEO & online marketing strategies.