Chances are your computer and the software that is installed on it has plenty of the basic fonts pre-installed. But for many users, the basics are just the tip of the iceberg. Finding the perfect font for a particular publication becomes a quest or even an obsession. Many turn to the internet as their first choice in finding the perfect font. Finding fonts on the web is as simple as entering the word “fonts” into a popular search engine. Hundreds of millions of hits come up pitching both free and commercial font web pages. But what can you expect when searching for fonts?
Commercial web pages such as fonts.com provide thousands of fonts available for purchase in the form of libraries of fonts, font packs, family packs, volume packs and even specialty packages such as eBook fonts and FunFonts. Depending on your needs, you may purchase an individual font or an entire collection. Prices can vary from about $40 for an individual font to upwards of $8000 for a library of over 2900 fonts.
A library of fonts is an extensive package of bundled fonts designed as a one stop resource for the serious graphic designer. Libraries typically contain thousands of fonts in a particular format such as OpenType format or PostScript format. Purchasing a library of fonts is a large investment but typically costs less per font than other bundles.
Other font packs such as font.com’s value packs contain a bundle of several themed fonts as a group that you can buy. For example, you could purchase a value pack of five different Celtic style fonts for a discounted package price. It’s like getting five fonts for the price of two.
A volume or family pack is a collection of fonts from the same font family. Each font in the collection would be of the same font but have varying weights and attributes. For example, the Agenda Family Pack could contain Agenda Bold Ultra Condensed, Agenda Semi-bold Condensed Italic, Agenda Black, Agenda Light, Agenda Thin Italic and many more variations.
Specialty packs such as the eBooks pack are also available for licensing. In the case of eBooks, the fonts, along with the proprietary font software, must be embedded into the document itself. This requires a license from the software manufacturer granting distribution rights. Using a specially designed eBook font and purchasing a license for distribution in eBook format is a vital step in the eBook publishing industry.
Most of these commercial web sites also have a searchable database of their fonts so that finding just what you want is as easy as possible. If you are looking for a Celtic style font, simply type in the word “Celtic” in their keyword search box. A listing of Celtic fonts appears along with Celtic styled dingbats featuring Celtic knots and other designs. Other ways to search include searching by classification, designer, foundry, alphanumeric, libraries, packages, volumes or even by sight.
Searching by sight or vision is unique in that you view a series of images and answer questions about the font style you desire. This is great for trying to match an existing font style. For example, if you have a font that you need to match and are unsure of what the font is called, use the visual tool to match the various attributes of the font. First you’ll compare various images to your font and answer questions about it such as, “What type of tail does the letter Q have?” Some of the answers to consider include: Does it cross the circle? Touch the circle? Is it below and separated from the circle? You’ll continue this type of questioning for an entire series of letters and questions. At last, the software will define the font that best matches your criteria. From there you can display the font and determine if it meets your needs.
Most font web sites also feature new releases or their “Most Popular” font lists, for example a top ten list or top downloaded font list. These listings are fun to browse to see what’s new and what’s popular.
Viewing the fonts is generally a breeze. Once you’ve found the font of your choice, a preview or image is displayed on the screen. If you choose to purchase the font, there’s usually an “add to cart” button or a link to download it. Downloading instructions can vary from web site to web site so be sure to check the instructions on the web page.
Whether a font web site is free or commercial, font sites are good sources of information. Many web sites are loaded with articles about fonts, font technology, the art and science of fonts, font theories, font techniques, font history, how to use fonts, how to make fonts, profiles of font designers, and more. Graphic Design and Typography are vast and extensive subjects and these web sites are a great place to begin to gather information.
Many web sites also offer other font services such as licensing, conversions, custom made fonts, logo fonts, conversion to OpenType, adding the Euro symbol to a font, consulting and more. They can even design fonts for use on specific OEM devices and with specific software programs.
After browsing the commercial font web sites, you may have a slight case of sticker shock. Some of the libraries, while extensive, cost thousands of dollars. Before you click the “check out” button, you owe it to yourself to check out some of the free font web sites.
Free font web sites offer similar features as their full price counterparts. In many cases, the free font web sites have both free and commercial fonts available. You’ll notice more advertisements, banners, affiliate links, and perhaps membership or premium options on the free web sites. Many of their free fonts will be freeware, shareware or demoware, and some may have restrictions for commercial use. In addition, some free font web sites do offer commercial fonts for purchase as well. In these cases, they usually have a separate portion of the web page set up for free fonts and for paid fonts. Oftentimes, the paid fonts are links to a paid website such as fonts.com where the free web site is an affiliate and will receive a commission from the purchase.
Browsing for fonts on a free site is similar to browsing on a commercial site. Simply enter a keyword, browse by category or alphabetically. Some even have their own version of a visual lookup, or font recognitions system, similar to those found on the commercial pages.
Just like the commercial web sites, the free font will be displayed on the computer screen as a preview. Again, downloading instructions vary from web page to web page. To download a free font, you may have to follow a link to another site or download either a zip or ttf file. Be sure to follow the instructions given on the web page for downloading the free font of your choice.
Perhaps you want to replicate the font that Disney uses for a publication where you are featuring a trip to Disneyland. Simply go to your favorite free font website and enter in the keyword, “Disney” in the search box. The results will pop up and you may choose the font that best meets your needs.
Many of the free fonts are freeware fonts designed by talented hobbyists. The ability to submit designs to free websites is a bonus to both the designers and to the end user as well. The designer gets exposure for his work and the end user gets a fantastic font for free.
Free websites also tend to attract a community of designers and users with message boards, forums, chats and ratings systems. A vibrant community of fellow fontaholics is a great spot to go to for companionship, information, ideas, creativity and more. The ability to rate fonts lets other users know how useful or unique the font was.
In addition to online font communities, many free font web sites set themselves apart by also offering tools and tutorials to aid in the design of fonts. For the novice designer, these first steps will help them launch themselves into the art of font design.
Choosing a free web site over a commercial one has advantages besides pure economics. By using a free font, you are not locked in to using it simply because you need to get your money’s worth. If the font doesn’t quite fit your design as expected or if you’ve switched gears and want to try something different, you have the freedom to do so. Also, if it’s a one time use and you don’t foresee needing the font beyond this particular application, you won’t feel the need to store it on your hard drive once the project is delivered. This makes font management easy.
www.urbanfonts.com is an example of one of the web’s premier free font web sites. This comprehensive web site is on par with the more expensive commercial sites. Why pay thousands of dollars for fonts when urbanfonts.com is just a click away? Here you will find a wealth of free fonts, numerous informative articles, an extensive and searchable database, a vibrant web community and a responsive behind the scenes staff. Urbanfonts.com makes searching simple, downloading a dream, and acquiring knowledge as easy as one, two, three.
With hundreds of thousands of choices of font web sites, and hundreds of thousands of fonts out there and new ones being designed every day, finding the fonts that are right for you can be an overwhelming task. Instead, pick the web site that makes finding fonts easy, painless and free. Be sure to bookmark urbanfonts.com and visit often.