Designers know that finding the perfect font for a project can be an agonizing experience. Letterforms have to be “just so,” and compromise on typographic quality is not an option. Throw tight budget into the mix and we inevitably turn to the web to search for free fonts.
Perusing fabulous typography is usually a pleasure, but searching for a cool free font (that’s also licensed for commercial use) can be quite daunting on a deadline. It’s a formidable task to find fonts that are of superior quality in their letterforms, glyphs and kerning pairs. Type “free fonts download” into any search engine and the result is thousands of websites. How do you find the right one for your design and dig through the mountain of type in an efficient manner?
Here are a few pointers for finding the best free fonts:
- Have a game plan. Decide what style of font (serif, sans serif, script, blackletter, display) will work best for your job and search only for that style.
- Search smart. Instead of typing “free fonts,” add qualifying words such as quality, professional, commercial and design to your search tag.
- Turn to twitter, blogs and design websites. Check for posts about great free fonts and if the author/design firm offers any of their own.
- Look at fee-based font sites. Many offer free fonts as a way to increase business.
- Look at the whole font. Essential characters such as numbers and punctuation can be missing in poorly executed fonts.
- Read the license carefully. Many free fonts are licensed for personal use only and don’t include commercial use. Always re-read the license before you use the font as they can change from time to time.
- Download the open type format. It will give you the most flexibility in use.
- The best free fonts come with a family. At minimum, the family should contain regular, italic, bold and bold italic weights. Many seemingly free fonts offer one weight for free with the rest of the family being available for purchase.
- Go with your gut. If the stylization of one particular letterform bothers you, then don’t use the font.
And here are some free font download traps to watch out for:
- Avoid any site that takes you to two more sites just to download a font or disguises/hides the download link.
- Avoid fonts that look grungy or handwritten. They tend to reproduce poorly at a large size. You’re better off rendering it by your own hand.
- Avoid knock-offs. If Gotham wasn’t deemed right for the job, then a Gotham knock-off won’t be right either. Pick something that makes a statement about your design project. In addition, it’s a disservice to the original font designer to use the copyright-infringing font.
- Avoid fonts that don’t read well small or degrade at a large size. You never know how the font will be used over time.
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Following are 10 quality free fonts to kickstart your search.
All of these are beautifully designed and have commercial use license options. Try one out today.
Not only are the tall letterforms gorgeous along every curve and stroke, but the font is extremely versatile in its six very different weights. This free font includes ultra light, normal, black, bold (inline), thin (dashed) and medium (rounded), of which we’re very fond of the inline bold for a headline that makes a statement. This highly legible all caps font is perfect for headlines and short paragraphs of body text.
This simple geometric font breathes new life to paragraph text. Tiny details to the letterforms are what make this font most special. Such details include the back slope to the e, chic upturn of the f’s shoulder, and upper extending serif on top of the upper- and lowercase z. Ten weights within the family also make it a great choice for a project that’s more extensive.
We rarely say wow to a script, but this one made us actually say it out loud. This bold condensed script has the best of everything: Beautiful letterforms, and hundreds of ligatures and alternate characters. Using OpenType allows the font to mimic traditional hand lettering techniques by selecting the best possible combination of letterforms in each and every word. We’re duly impressed. We hope you will be too.
There’s a contrasting angular and curved look to the letterforms that gives the font great appeal and visual interest. This is no ordinary sans serif, yet it works quite well in conventional design situations. The clean lines and generous family (six weights) make it a contemporary go-to font.
For all those designers who love classic transitional style fonts, Playfair is a beautiful alternative. Elegant curves play off a stark contrast between the thick and thin strokes. Don’t let the name fool you. This font has eight weights and is suitable for both headlines and body text. Try it in your next annual report design.
Go back to the roaring ’20s with this bold Art Deco style font. The powerful display font gives sophistication to the solid stocism of its letterforms. Whether it be for a modern or retro design look, this font won’t let you down. We also have to confess that the R makes us swoon.
Who knew laundromat-influenced type could be so cool. This charming modern-retro font has plenty of alternate characters (in three weights) to feel custom each time it’s used. We love that we feel like we’re getting hand lettering for free. Definitely explore the entire character set to find all of the hidden gems that makes this font so special. Lavanderia is perfect for logos, headlines, packaging and the occasional invitation.
We’re not usually a fan of monospaced fonts, but Static is an exception. Its kerning pairs are nicely hidden within the disguise of a technical exterior. The rounded terminals of this sans serif also make the font a friendly and inviting addition to any design. The bonus of four weights makes it versatile, too.
The unusual angular interior counters are what drew us to this font. The tall x-height/short capitals are what sold us. This serif breaks from tradition and lets functionality take the lead. The result is increased legibility, especially at a small size. Noticia is designed as a web font but has equal opportunity for use in print. Its four weights keep it versatile, as well.
Headlines and logos watch out! Weston is a slab serif not to be ignored. This bold font has delicacy and strength behind its rounded letterforms. We particularly enjoy the slight crossover of strokes in some of the letters such as B, P, F and H. Two weights are available with more on the way. Some glyphs are noticeably absent, but it isn’t overly worrisome since this font isn’t suitable for body text.
While all of these fonts can be downloaded for free, many of the font foundries and designers would greatly appreciate a small donation for the use of their fonts. At the very least, consider donating if the font ends up in a professional design piece. It’s your donation that helps the designers keep doing what they do best: design fabulous fonts. Thank you to all of the wonderful font foundaries and designers for offering their fonts for free.
Now that we’ve shown you some great free fonts to download, it’s your turn to discover some new ones for yourself. Here are some awesome free font resources to keep your creative juices flowing and your type library full: