With the recent release of Affinity Publisher, it feels like just the right time to showcase some font websites that are very popular, and of course free.
We’ll go beyond the essential features expected of such sites, i.e. searching, category filtering (top rated, featured, by style) and font previewing, which most sites share.
The rankings in this article are based on the author’s opinions and research only.
1. Google Fonts
Probably the most well-known free font provider. The site is mainly intended for provision of fonts for websites, but the fonts will be perfectly acceptable for print or PDF output using Affinity Publisher.
The Good: 952 font families, easy-to-use website with previews, searchable by category. If a free font can’t be found, a purchasable equivalent is offered via the provider’s website.
The Bad: It isn’t immediately obvious how to download your chosen font! Tip: After selecting the font family you will able to spot the download button from the pop-up box!
This site claims its fonts are 100% Free for Commercial use. As always, check the licence for your chosen font (the licence will be included along with the downloaded font).
The Good: Over 1000 font families locally available. The font summary shows icons indicating licencing restrictions (e.g., for embedding). One-click downloads are a real time saver.
The Bad: Some of the advertising seemed to get in the way of important font search and filtering features. The site also looks a little dated and didn’t size to my browser window too well.
This is a big website, with a nice show/hide browser to access fonts via a rage of interesting categories. Optional login available.
The Good: 60,000+ fonts. A clean design with hover overs for licencing information before download.
The Bad: Adverts seem to masquerade as font category navigation bars.
4. Lost Type
While limited in the number of fonts available compared to the other sites, you get a very creative set of fonts nicely presented in card format.
The main distinction from the other sites is that the site operates on a cooperative basis. You can either:
- Pay what you want to for personal use
- For some fonts, you can pay a nominal fee for commercial use
The Good: The site is fun and feels creatively led. If you donate, 100% of sales goes to the originating font designer. Font previews are presented in actual design examples.
The Bad: No search feature or Records per Page view. Only 50 typefaces available.
The site covers a wide range of fonts (they quote 43,030!) segregated into many font categories. The fonts encountered were mainly free for personal use only. Optional login available.
The Good: The site offers filtering by themes (e.g., fancy, gothic, techno) and font designer. What looks like a popular forum helps users identify fonts visually.
The Bad: Another site that offers a multitude of adverts masquerading as font category navigation, and use the Themes filter or search feature you should be able to get what you need. Registering and subsequent login doesn’t reduce the volume of advertising displayed.
Really, really free?
Well yes, they are, but it’s worth noting that the free font may have a more limited glyph and special character support compared to a purchased font.
Fonts and other Affinity products
Not surprisingly, your downloaded free font will install and be made available to Affinity Designer, Photo and Publisher as for other fonts on macOS and Windows systems.
If you’re using Affinity Designer or Affinity Photo on iPad, you’ll have to install your free font via the Preferences (Fonts tab) before it becomes available to your app. This is due to the iOS environment being more ‘locked down’ compared to its desktop counterparts.
A final word
If you’re on a limited budget, free fonts are a life saver. For professional output, you may want to invest in purchasable commercial fonts from commercial font sites for absolute assurance on quality and licencing, but only if you’re able to stretch your budget further. Notable commercial sites include MyFonts.com, FontShop.com and fonts.com amongst others.
One important caveat is that fonts sourced from some of the free websites mentioned often means for “For Personal Use Only”. However, some free fonts offer purchasable upgrades to commercial equivalents, often by contacting the font designer directly. If donations are welcomed in relation to free fonts you have the option to support the hard work of the font designer at your discretion.