Bulking up your font collection
Fonts are about the easiest way to add to your creative arsenal, and I’ve compiled a long, but certainly not complete, list of Web sites offering fonts ranging from completely free to über-expensive.
Free Fonts:Free fonts on the Web are a mixed bag. The quality of craftsmanship can be drastically different and you never know what you’re going to get, sometimes not until you’ve tried every possible letter, number and punctuation mark in the font. I’ve downloaded fonts that appeared to be awesome, only to find out that no punctuation marks were available in the font. Others are complete and look nice, but have horrible kerning, giving you a great-looking font spoiled by giant gaps between letters.
- daFont (This should be your first stop. daFont has about the most complete collection of high-quality free fonts available. The site is fast, well-organized and isn’t overloaded with link ads.)
- Abstract Fonts
- dincType (There are some real gems hidden on this site.)
- GMK FreeFonts
- 1001 Fonts
- Mac Fonts
- Famous Fonts (The site is in German; click the titles in the navigation column on the left to get started.)
- Dingbat Depot
- The Dingbat Pages (Who would have thunk holiday fonts could be so useful?)
- Font Paradise
- Graffiti Fonts
- Flood Fonts
- Shy Fonts
- Pizza Dude
- Simply The Best
- Type Index
- Wanted Fonts
Commercial Fonts:Bust out your pocketbook, because you’re going to spend some here. But you usually get what you pay for. That’s right, just because you’re paying for it doesn’t mean it’s any better than a finely crafted free font. To be clear, though, most fonts from big-name font foundries (such as Adobe, Linotype, ITC) are superb in quality and you need not worry about spending your money with them. I would not hesitate to do business with any of the companies I have listed here.
- Adobe Font Folio (The big kahuna of font collections. If you or your company can afford it, this is the one collection to buy, hands down.)
- Cool Fonts
- House Industries (One of my favorites, very high quality and useable fonts. You can just tell that they have tried to make a font for every need.)
- Letterhead Fonts
- The Font Bureau, Inc.
- ITC Fonts
- Acme Fonts
- Old Fonts [Their Emily Austin is one of my favorite handwriting fonts—Rick]
- P22 Type Foundry (Another group of talented font designers; you’ll certainly find something you like here.)
- Vintage Type
Both Free and Commercial Fonts:Mixed-use font sites are tough to figure out. They tend to—though not always—sell cheaper fonts which are of medium to high quality. But then you have to wonder why they give away some or many of their fonts. Usually, it’s as simple as the fact that it gets you there. Some of these sites offer nothing but high-quality fonts, a few of them also have some mediocre fonts, but all of them have interesting type, and they’re worth browsing.
- Blue Vinyl
- FontDiner (Fantastic collection of “retro” fonts. Some of their free fonts are better than commercial counterparts, in my opinion.)
- Font Kitchen
- Font Bros (Affordable font collections that aren’t half-junk and half-decent; you can actually use them all.)
- FontHead Design
- Font Mesa
Font Management & ResourcesNow that you’ve downloaded every last font you can fit on your hard drive, let me say that you’re going to want to use a font management application if you’re going to be using them all. For a few dozens fonts you can get away with using Apple’s Font Book that ships with OSX. But for larger font collections, you’re going to want to use something more robust such as Extensis’ Suitcase Fusion (which I highly recommend), Insider Software’s FontAgent Pro or the free Linotype FontExplorer X . I love Suitcase Fusion’s ability to assign keywords to your fonts, making it easy to find the type of fonts you’re searching for in your collection. This capability is essential for designers with a large collection.
You may come across a font in an ad or brochure that you want or need to use, but you don’t know what it is. In these cases, WhatTheFont can help you. WhatTheFont allows you to scan in the font you’re investigating and upload it to their servers where it runs through some complex NASA-style, gobbledygook algorithm and spits out the name (or possible names) of the font in question. For those times when even their automated method doesn’t work, they offer a discussion forum full of font enthusiasts that can help you out. Similar services include and Identifont, which asks a series of questions to identify your font without having to upload anything.
And finally, you may want to brush up on font management by browsing through this brief best practices guide supplied by Extensis.
[James Dempsey runs the Creative Guy Web site and blog, which offers tips, tricks and opinion on a variety of design topics.]