When I’m out walking about, I like to play a little game with myself called “Spot the Font”. Instead of ignoring the mass of advertising that constantly surrounds us all, I start checking the ads for fonts I recognize. Invariably, I catch a few I can recognize and name within a minute or so.
Why is this? With so, so, so many fonts out there in the world, there should be a much larger variety of typography on display for us.
While some of this is due to current trends in font popularity, the lack in font diversity is largely due to one thing — fonts are expensive! Taking a look at the best-sellers list at MyFonts, you can see that buying a single weight and style of a font can run you $25-$50 bucks, with some as high as $80-$100. And that’s not even considering buying the multiple weights and styles from a font family that would be needed for a web design project. For that, you might be looking at hundreds of dollars.
The alternative to spending this much is to sign up for a typography service (such as Adobe’s TypeKit) which charge a monthly fee and give you access to a large pool of fonts. But this is not a very attractive option, because it ropes you into a long-term payment agreement, and if anything were to happen with the service you choose, then you would lose your fonts, since you are only licensing them from the service, and don’t own them outright.
Spending huge gobs of cash on a font or signing up for a service are both pretty hard sells to a client for one small element of a design, so most people avoid paid fonts all together. This is why, when you start looking at designs out in the wild, you see so many of the same fonts used over and over again! Designers are pulling from a much smaller pool of free fonts with licenses that allow them to be used in commercial projects.
But! Even with this smaller sample-size to choose from, there are still a ton more options out there than get regularly used. So, in the name of diversity, I have curated a list of the best places to find free fonts. Next time you need to choose a font, take a gander at some of these and see if something new, fresh and underused might serve your purpose.
Don’t Forget to Check Your License
Not all free fonts have a license which allows them to be used in a commercial project, so make sure you check that license before you commit a font to a design. Most of the font sources I’ll discuss here today make it relatively easy for you to do so, so no excuses!
With over 840 font families to choose from, and counting, Google Fonts has become one of the primary sources for free fonts on the web. It also helps that their relatively new interface is gorgeous, and makes searching through their library a ton of fun. Google hosts all of their fonts as well, so web designers can choose from using the hosted versions or downloading and hosting the fonts themselves. Google Fonts even offers font pairing recommendations if you need to choose fonts that go together.
Font Squirrel has a smaller library than Google Fonts (in fact some of the fonts on Font Squirrel can also be found on Google Fonts), but their focus on serving only high-quality commercial free fonts makes it a good first stop for designers who don’t want to wade through mediocre typography to find what they need. Font Squirrel also offer a number of quality-of-life tools like a webfont generator and a font identification service. Plus, their little squirrel is just so cute!!
DaFont is one of the more venerable free font libraries out there, and while it’s age certainly shows in the site design, it remains a great source for free fonts, with over a whopping 33,000 fonts to choose from. The catch is that many of those fonts only have personal licenses, so you need to be vigilant in checking them. Still, there are plenty of fonts with commercial licenses in there as well, so dig around and you might find just the thing you’re looking for. DaFont also offers highly-varied categorization filters, which make narrowing their huge library down much easier.
Behance isn’t so much a font library as much as it is a place for designers to show off and share what they’ve been working on, but that includes a bunch of folks who design fonts. While the number of fonts is much smaller than any of these other services, that is offset by the fact that most of the free fonts on Behance are of high quality and not found anywhere else.
Boom! Now you’re ready to start choosing some fresh fonts that haven’t been used by everyone and their grandmother. Get to it! Want to work with a design team that knows their typography backwards and forwards? Give Solamar a shout!