Great fonts are essential to effective typography, which helps any design or layout have more impact. Although defined by traditional resources strictly as an element of print design, Typography’s role as a fundamental part of great layout design is carried through other visual mediums including logo design, video editing and other on-screen media such as websites.
Typography & Free Fonts
Wikipedia describes Typography as “the art and techniques of type design, modifying type glyphs, and arranging type.” (Typography) – Whether your work includes logo design, printed material layouts, websites or textual interfaces in any other medium, the fonts you choose, and how you place them with-in the environment can make or break your design. With a wide range of free fonts available you have thousands of font options at your disposal. Taking advantage of those resources you’re likely to find that perfect typeface for your design project.
Free Fonts vs. Expensive Font Sets
While many fonts must be licensed for commercial use, there are hundreds, even thousands of free fonts available online. An entire series of articles could be written comparing the merits of high end, professional font sets versus the value of free font sets, but for the purposes of this post I’ve restricted the resources listed to free font resources.
Free Font & Typography Resources
Free Fonts at dafont.com
My favorite repository of free fonts, dafont.com, offers over 8000 quality fonts organized under 9 general categories with over 70 sub categories. The organization of the fonts makes it a breeze to find a great font that is perfect for the current project or as inspiration for upcoming projects. In addition to the great organization at dafont.com each font has it’s own page where you preview the individual glyphs and even preview lines of text in the selected font on the fly – perfect for testing a font before downloading.
Free Fonts at urbanfonts.com
These guys made it into my bookmarks back in 2006, and have been a fantastic resource ever since. urbanfonts.com fonts are organized both alphabetically and in 48 categories in addition to a tag cloud of commonly search terms linked to relevant results. In addition to thousands of high quality free fonts, urbanfonts.com maintains an active font related blog and a highly interactive forum which are both fantastic resources.
Free Fonts at 1001FreeFonts.com
Although I haven’t counted them individually I get the sense that there are more than 1001 free fonts at 1001freefonts.com. The fonts are organized into 40 categories in addition to being able to browse the fonts alphabetically (which comes in handy when you know exactly which font you’re looking for – by name). Each font is listed in large clear type with the fonts name as the default text. 1001freefonts.com also allows you to type in a line of text and preview it in the selected font.
Free Font & Typography Tools
Match Fonts using What The Font
Ever needed to identify the font used in an existing logo or layout? I’ve been working directly with fonts for over a decade, and despite being able to identify hundreds of fonts I still run into projects where I need to recreate part of a logo, or header image and can’t seem to identify the font that’s being used. Given time and the help of a few fellow designers I can generally dig up the appropriate font, but this tool does it in seconds and is both simple to use & extremely accurate.
Organize, Install and Review Fonts with AMP Font Viewer
This powerful little font manager makes installing fonts a cinch, and reviewing installed fonts a breeze. Install & preview fonts quickly & easily with AMP Font Viewer 3.82 (latest version at publish time). This is great for installing a handful of fonts at once, or to review a specific passage of text in various fonts.
Generate & Compare Various CSS Treatments
Use this free online tool to establish various CSS declarations (weight, font-size, color, line-height, letter spacing etc) for a block of content and compare it with copies of the same text block using alternate values. This is great when working on templates or trying to select the right font for a project.
sIFR – SEO Friendly Alternative Text Display
Free Font & Typography Reading & More
Jonathan Hoefler’s fantastic introductory guide to typography & type styles. Typography 101 is a basic introduction to type styles including their origin and base characteristics and is a must read for every new designer.
Jonathan Hoefler’s Typography 110 typography guide is a more ‘theory’ oriented guide and delves into solid & linear forms – a good read even for experienced designers.
Font Identification Game
Are you pretty good at identifying fonts? Then put your font identification skills to the test with this quick little font identification game/quiz. See if you can pick out the subtle nuances of similarly seriffed fonts, or the variation in stroke thickness and treatments of familiar and some not so familiar fonts. Test your skills and challenge fellow designers to score duels. Sadly, despite my best efforts, I got 20 out of 34 on my first go at it.