The best font resources make it simple and easy to add new and fresh font styles to your work.
When it comes to online creativity, text is often vital, with every aspect of your visual presentation having an impact on its overall value. It’s pretty much a given that typography plays an essential role in designing, and the type of font you use can be critical for a brand.
If you’re looking for something truly unique, you should seriously find a way to put some money in the kitty, so you can eventually afford to hire a professional designer - you get what you pay for after all. However, since you’re reading this, you’re obviously in the market for something less expensive.
You’ll find that fonts available online sometimes come with licenses to protect property rights, meaning you might be able to use it for your personal work, but not if you’re creating something with commercial intent. With that in mind, we’ve gathered a list of eight online resources who can definitely cater to both needs.
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One of the top answers when searching for the best free font resources is Google Fonts.
Google's platform offers more than 1,300 font families, including, but not limited to, handwriting fonts, mono-spaced styles to sans serif varieties, to name but a few.
Everything in the Google Fonts catalog is open-source, meaning they are licensed to be used on any website, be it personal or commercial.
You can download as many fonts as you need onto your computer for use in documents, mock-ups, or anything you’d use fonts in. Whenever websites using Google Fonts are rendered by your computer’s browsers, the browsers will check your system to see if the specified one is already available and will use the local one instead of the web version to speed up the rendering process.
Another popular source for free fonts online is Font Squirrel, which offers a variety of choices that can transform your content into something distinctive, interesting, or even simply different.
One great tool Font Squirrel offers is the Font Generator, which lets designers take any font and convert it into web fonts. It supports various file types such as TrueType, OpenType, and Windows Postscript, and even .dfont.
As you browse through the library, you’ll see small icons lower left of each font. These tell you at a glance if you can use said font in a commercial document or artwork, whether you can embed it in your website or CSS, use it in eBooks and PDF, or incorporate it into software. You’ll see that despite its tagline that all its fonts are “100% Free for Commercial Use”, that isn’t actually the case, and some of these four options are occasionally restricted.
The site offers a guide for making web fonts work on your website. There’s also a web font installation tutorial, a web font issue troubleshooting tutorial using the website inspector from Chrome, an explanation about style linking, as well as a font-face bugs list for easy reference.
Each one you download comes with a simple document explaining what you’re allowed to do with its license - just so there’s no misunderstanding, between you and the creator.
Launched in 2008 by FontShop, FontStruct is an online font creation tool which is a combination of a web-based font-making platform and a community site of users who get together to build fonts, discuss them and share them with each other.
The site’s online tools are simple to use with pre-constructed geometrical shapes that are arranged in a grid pattern similar to bricks or tiles. Users build fonts, and FontStruct comes up with TrueType fonts that are ready for use for applications on any platform. The creations can be kept private by the builder, but it’s highly recommended by the site to share them with the community.
Because of this, the site houses a selection of over 64,000 fonts, the majority of which are produced by its users, and can all be downloaded for free thanks to a Creative Commons license. In some cases, they are made to serve as inspiration by other users when creating their own unique designs. As you’d expect, this is limited to those fonts whose licenses don’t include the No Derivatives clause.
One of the largest databases of free fonts online is DaFont. It currently has more than 64,500 downloadable designs that are free for use - the majority of which are limited to personal use, but some can be used for free commercially.
The best asset of DaFont is how its database is arranged systematically in categories or themes such as fancy, foreign, holiday, gothic, and techno. You can also choose from basic, script, and dingbats options.
You’ll also find a general notice on the site highlighting the fact that the fonts are owned by the authors, and that the license information specified above the download button for each font is only an indication. Fonts come with an info sheet when downloaded, making it clearer what you’re allowed to do with it (ie, whether it’s free for personal or commercial use).
Users are advised to check the archives’ readme-files or go to the author’s website for details about legally using the font. If in doubt, it’s even recommended that users get in touch with the author. The site also declares that the absence of information regarding the author or license does not mean that the font is free. It only means that DaFont does not have the said information.
If you’re using them for personal use, you shouldn’t have a problem. It’s only when you intend to incorporate them in a commercial product that such uncertainties will become problematic.
Founded in 2006, FontSpace is another great free font resource online which currently has more than 92,000 fonts in its library. The site was created to focus on font designers by having customizable quick preview tools and easy uploads. Each of the fonts on the site has been evaluated by a site moderator, going through quality check and license verification, making it a more attractive destination than DaFont.
FontSpace is quite easy to use, as there is no need to provide any information or create an account or log in to one for you to download a file. Finding fonts can be done in different ways. The top menu breaks down the catalog by font, style and collections. ‘Fonts’ has a ‘Popular’ tab, and there’s also a ‘Commercial-Use’ one so there’s no ambiguity. If you’re not sure what to search for, try your luck with ‘Random’.
Each font has a large preview based on its name. Clicking on it brings up an example of it in one or more designs. You also have the option of seeing all available characters, check out the copyright information, contact the designer, donate to them (designers spend hours creating cool new fonts, so this option is a grand idea), or just download the font instantly.
Clicking on the designer’s name will show you all the fonts they’ve created which are currently on FontSpace. Each page has a comment section so you can see what others think, how many times the file has been downloaded and how old the design is. It’s all laid out extremely clearly and perhaps best of all, you don’t even need to set up an account to grab yourself any available font.
Another reliable site for free fonts is Abstract Fonts. The site prides itself on having high-quality font designs as its collections are curated. The majority of them are available for free personally and commercially, although it is still recommended to read the font’s license before downloading and using it, as a good number have restrictions.
In addition to a handy search field (that’s a given), you can browse through the large collection by categories, how popular they are, broken down by collection or by designer, or simply alphabetically. Clicking on the font of your choice, provides you with information such as its license for use, a full display of all available characters so that you know what you’re getting, as well as some metrics to show you how many times it’s been recently downloaded.
There might’ve been a time when 1001 Fonts was aptly name, but now that it has over 19,500 of them in its database, it’s become far from accurate - but in a good way. The site itself is very simplistic, greeting you with page after page of font samples.
1001 Fonts’ database may be smaller than most of its competitors, but you’re still privy to an impressive collection. The free fonts are free for personal use (displayed with a red dollar price tag), and many can also be used commercially without legal issues (those with the green dollar price tag). You can download them simply by clicking on the appropriate button, opening the folder, and double-clicking on the TTF file. Any modern and competent operating system will do the rest.
We liked the option of replacing the sample text for each font, with a custom word or sentence, to help you see more easily how the style would match your desired output.
FontBundles is another interesting one, although not all of its fonts are free of charge, as they have a large selection of paid-for designs for you to choose from. But in order to entice you, just click on ‘Free Fonts’ in their menu bar at the top of the page to see what you can get with no financial outlay.
The great thing about this site is that all of their fonts can be used commercially (there are some provisos, like the font cannot be included in a product for sale, but they can be used in print, the web or your clients’ work). There aren’t many of them (last we checked there were around 180), but they all look original, are visually striking, and can definitely make your output look different than the competition.
Each font is displayed on a sample artwork, but you also have the option of seeing each included glyphs, and clicking on the designer’s name shows you any other work they’ve done for this site. The only downside is you have to register to download anything, but it’s a small hassle.
Finding the best free font resources
The internet is overflowing with options when it comes to font resources, both free and paid. This can make the process of looking for the most ideal typography theme to fit your designs, be it for print, web, or even for apps, quite taxing.
The above list highlights a handful of the most reliable and extensive sources of free fonts for you to use. Just make sure you look carefully at the small print for each font you download to make double sure the licence matches your intended use.