What’s in a name? Not as much as how it looks written out. As visual tools, fonts and typography have as much impact on communication as photos and other graphics… which makes free fonts that are actually useful a hot commodity.
Earlier we listed out the 7 Commandments of eCommerce Typography, which explained the fundamentals of using typography correctly for eCommerce, and what to avoid. We mentioned a study that monitored the results of the fast food chain Wendy’s changing the font in their logo. Long story short, diners were more likely to believe Wendy’s claim of “old-fashioned” cooking when the font better corresponded to the message.
That gives you a little insight into how important font really is, but when it comes time to nailing down your typography, you as the designer have to add your artistic opinion. There’s no right-or-wrong fonts, but fonts that communicate your message better than others.
So we’re listing 16 free fonts from across the spectrum to help you choose what you need. We pulled these free fronts from Google Fonts, FontSquirrel, and independent designers from Behance. Whether you’re looking for exact fonts to use, or simply just typography inspiration, we hope this list helps.
Let’s start our free fonts list with a nice, middle-ground font: Lato by Łukasz Dziedzic. This font is neutral enough to be used in almost any situation — it’s simplistic with nice round edges, but there’s just a hint of serif to give it more formality than straight sans serif fonts.
This font would work well for casual business who want to seem more professional and professional businesses who want to seem casual. It’s a blend of both, which makes it good for long-term reading like articles or blogs.
2. Josefin Slab
Josefin Slab, by Santiago Orozco, takes a more definitive stance. The serifs are far bolder, and the x-line is lower than normal, making this font far from average. What makes Josefin Slab noteworthy though is that it still retains simplistic nature and smooth curves of a more casual sans serif font. This font has a “work hard, play hard” feel to it, with enough formality to impress, but enough playfulness to still seem friendly.
Think of Alexey Kryukov’s Old Standard TT as the new old-fashioned. With modern design trends leaning more towards minimalism and semi-flat design, traditional “old-fashioned” fonts are considered too flamboyant to even be usable. Old Standard TT, however, has that classic feeling to it, but with modern sensibilities. The flamboyant serifs in the heading style make it great for grabbing attention, as long as the overall mood harkens to days past.
Abril Fatface by TypeTogether is another font of the old-fashioned variety, its main distinction that, as the name suggests, it’s fatter. Reminiscent of thick newspaper headings, this font is great for titles, headings, and slogans, especially paired with a minimalist style that is lenient towards this loud font. If paired with a minimalist background, try giving the text a vibrant color; the thickness will make it an attention-grabbing element on the page, putting the page’s emphasis squarely on the word’s message. Because it’s rather garish, avoid using this font for long-term body text.
5. Open Sans
If ever there was a font perfect for casual, long-term reading, it’s Open Sans by Steve Matteson. This staple font could be the Times New Roman of the new era, with smooth curves and simplicity that lends itself towards easy reading. Open Sans is the sneakers-and-jeans CEO that’s replaced the more formal suit-and-tie business people of the bygone era. Keep in mind, though, that it leans more on the casual side, so if you want to hit that “professional” atmosphere hard, choose more blatant serif font.
If you’re looking for casual, sans serif free fonts that are still flashy and attention-grabbing, Fertigo by Exljbris is it. Blurring the line between simplicity and activity, this lively free font seems to make the words dance with its wild curves and frequent upswings. It’s still sans serif, though, so it maintains that easy, flowing style. A font like this is suitable for both headings and body text, depending on which member of the family you use.
7. Great Vibes
Do you want to go full-throttle on elegance and lavishness? TypeSETit’s Great Vibes has just what you need. The wild tags and lofty curves are so decadent, they’d made Gatsby blush!
Unlike the other free fonts on this list, Great Vibes needs to be used carefully. Obviously, it’s not a long-term reading font, and even more than a line or two would be pushing it. Caps seems to be a mistake as well, judging by how hard the sample is to read. However… in those cases when you need something both opulent and unique, nothing is better.
Designed by Impallari Type, Lobster is a fun, artistic font that blends cursive and block lettering in creative way that’s never been seen before. The letters flow into one another as with cursive, and even letters like the lower-case O and S, or the capital E are ripped straight from the cursive alphabet. However, the rigid backs in letters like H and T keep in grounded and make reading easier.
Take note that the capitals have a lot of open spaces and hanging tags. Not that those are inherently bad, but they give this font a distinction that makes it work better in some situations than others.
Do you need free fonts for something so official, it deserves to be written in stone? Natanael Gama designed Cinzel to mirror first-century Roman inscriptions, so its dominant trait is one of authority and organization. Still, the occasional open space and wide berth give it a more modern feel (plus the existence of a proper U), though these updates are not enough to tarnish its stark formality. As you can see from the sample, it’s an all-cap font, without lower-case… and that suits it just fine.
Another font from Natanael Gama, this one targeting the future rather than the past. Exo has that computeristic, ultra-modern appearance that signifies sci-fi and cutting-edge technology. Long straight lines create square-like, almost cornered circles, setting up a firm structure. Exo also has 9 different weights, supporting a large family with a lot of versatility.
Independent Designs (Behance)
Leafy brings a much-needed firmness and rigidity to the otherwise disorderly handwritten style — and the handwritten style is itself very practical, so opening it up to more broad usage is a great move.
From designers Ieva Mezule and Krisjanis Mezulis, this font is easy to read and displays a stern, clear message, while simultaneously retaining the playful, personal ambience of handwriting. There is no lower-case, but if you use this font sparingly to accent small blocks of text, you won’t need it.
From designer Matt Ellis (no relation — Seriously! I’m as surprised as you are…), Alcubierre is an all-purpose font that suits the minimalist and semi-flat themes of 2017. The great thing about this font is its versatility: it’s strong enough to support titles and headings, but simple enough to be used for long-term reading in body text. One of the reasons it accomplishes this is the ample space inside the letters.
Getting back to more specialized free fonts, Cosimo Lorenzo Pancini’s Kitten is the very definition of a playful font. There’s no disguising this formal or professional typography, but when you need something that shows off your fun and childlike side, Kitten’s a solid go-to font. Blending cursive with block lettering, the letter seem to flow into one another, creating a fluid reading experience that can support larger blocks of text than most other free fonts in the handwritten category.
Like Alcubierre above, Nawabiat by Syed Faraz Ahmad is another all-purpose font, as at home for headings as it is for body text. As a hand-drawn font, it has a certain artistry and charm that transcends into the message of the text. Surprisingly, though, it doesn’t come across as a handwritten font, so it’s still acceptable for more formal and professional businesses.
Huerta Tipográfica’s Bitter font gives a refreshing update to the traditional serif fonts, but without sacrificing the classic feel. Looking at it, it seems familiar to conventional periodical typography, but somehow fits it perfectly with modern sensibilities. According to the creators, it follows rational principles to allow viewers to read most comfortably — this font was literally designed for long-term reading.
Last, we have Coves by Jack Harvatt, with two weights that can change the personality of the type. Coves is simple, almost breezy font, so starkly minimal that it can come off as formal if you need to it. This font works in almost any situation where a simple font can be used: formal or casual, heading or body text, large or small type, caps or lower-case, etc. A font this flexible is a great thing for any designer to keep handy in their back pocket.
What do you think of the free fonts on our list? Do you have any recommendations of your own to add? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments now.