Fonts can help turn your web site from good to great, but it’s important for designers and business owners to understand the usage restrictions on them. Typeface copyright issues require serious attention, and ignorance of the rules governing the use of certain fonts is no excuse for violating them. You cannot use any font you want free of charge if it is copyrighted.
There’s a difference between typeface and fonts. The usage rights for commercial fonts, or computer file that instructs your printer how to display a certain character, are outlined in the End User License Agreement including in the purchase license. But typeface is generally not protected under copyright law.
Unless you have a law degree, the whole thing can be a little confusing. Many sites like to play it safe by using free commercial use fonts from reputable sites around the web. If this is the route your company chooses to take, here are seven great places to find them.
1. Font Squirrel
With a wide range of fonts ranging from sans serif to calligraphic, Font Squirrel allows browsers to filter fonts through a number of options, including those best used for e-books, applications and desktop. It also groups them by formats such as retro, contemporary, distressed, all caps and more. In total Font Squirrel offers more than 264 unique fonts.
3. Google Fonts
Why is it not surprising that the world’s biggest search engine is a great place to find free fonts? Google Fonts includes a very wide selection, more than 600 open-source fonts. The site does recommend double-checking that they remain free before using them commercially. Each font links to the Google+ user profile of the creator, if available. This may be the most universally useful free font source, because it can be searched through a number of filters including thickness, width, slant, script style and serif.
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4. Hype for Type
Yes, Hype for Type is primarily a paid commercial font site, but it also has a sizable selection of free fonts that are worth checking out. With nearly 100 choices, there’s something for everyone, no matter what type of document or site you’re building. It also has a fun feature that allows you to play around with the font you’ve selected, seeing how it looks using certain sentences or changing the color or increasing the size.
DaFont doesn’t just allow you to search through fonts by name. It also categorizes them by style, which is unique among the free font sites highlighted here. Say, for instance, you’re designing a logo; click on the “logos” tab to see fonts that might fit the bill. The site is very useful for someone who does design work for a wide range of clients, because the selection is so diverse and it’s grouped so uniquely. DaFont offers 23,547 fonts, including more than 6,000 with accents and nearly 7,000 with the Euro symbol.
5. 1001 Fonts
Practically ancient by web standards, 1001 Fonts has been online since 1998, and it allows you either to browse the fonts based on whatever characteristics you desire or to search for a specific font you’d like to find. It works with Windows or Mac OS, and despite its name, it offers more than 6,000 fonts for free download.
6. Urban Fonts
For those who want to make sure the fonts they find are not just free but also cool, check out Urban Fonts. The fonts are searchable by specific names as well as tags, such as college, cursive, comic, 3D and curly. There are more than 8,000 free fonts available, as well as a handful of premium ones.
FontSpace offers a number of commercial fonts and about half of them are free. Although FontSpace outlines their terms for using material from their website, each font has a separate creator as well as separate licensing requirements. If you need additional information on licensing, contact each individual owner of the font or look to see if licensing info is provided. This site features fonts that work well on book covers and posters.
FontFreak has one of the largest collections of fonts online with more than 9,000 different free fonts and 125,000 additional commercial fonts for purchase. There are 400 designers featured on the site, so any style you need is found on FontFreak. You’ll find calligraphy, graffiti and even cursive fonts. If you have a big design project and aren’t yet sure of the tone or style, this is a great place to shop for a free commercial-use font.
9. Font Library
Font Library is another open-source type project with a lot of free fonts for both personal and commercial use. Under their Guidebook, Font Library lays out the types of licenses they support. They state that they support the free use of fonts for any reason, including commercial use, and they list some of the free license agreements they support, such as Aladdin Free Public License, Freeware and GNU General Public License. There are numerous fonts on this site that are suitable for use in website design.
Keep in mind that just because you can download a font without charge doesn’t mean you can use it any way you want. Be sure to read licensing agreements carefully and pay any fees needed to use the font commercially, such as on a book cover. Most font creators add additional restrictions, such as not allowing anyone to resell their fonts or add them to part of a package for sale.
These are only a few of the best free font sites available on the web. Which free commercial font sites do you like? Where have you had the most success finding free fonts? And what’s your favorite free commercial font? Share in the comments below!Buffer