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Hot on the Web

Finding free, low-cost fonts online

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on December 16, 2005
(Issue 2350, The Last Comic Standing)

Last week, we looked at a quick history of digital typefaces and fonts – and promised lots of links to free and low-cost TrueType fonts this week.

Here goes:
With more than 70,000 typefaces from some of the top design firms, this is one of the top font destinations on the 'Net.

With fonts in all the main formats – TrueType, PostScript and OpenType – and very usable search and browsing tools, has typefaces for just about any possible use. Prices range from $30 on up – meaning the site is geared for most font users, too.

Advertising itself as home to more than 45,000 fonts, this is certainly one of the larger type collections online. Fonts here are usually about $20-$40 each, although there are constantly sales (as low as fonts for a dollar apiece) and sometimes even free downloads (I got a nice Bank Gothic-style font for free this way).

The site is well laid out so that you can either search or browse for fonts. Browsing is easy as they've organized the fonts into different families – serif, sans serif, decorative, engraved, etc. When you see fonts listed, you not only see a sample of the font displayed, but you see the font used in an artistic setting as it might be used in the real world. Gives you a better feeling for how the font would really be used. Many of the fonts are available in multiple formats – TrueType for Mac or Windows, PostScript for Mac or Windows, and OpenType.

They also have a "What the Font" tool where you can upload a scanned image of a typeface you've found elsewhere, and they'll find the closest matches to it. (This seems like it would be pretty darn useful for designers trying to keep clients happy – "I want my flyer/ad/brochure to look just like this.")

With 45,000 fonts, you figure there have to be quite a few that are virtually indistinguishable from one another, but browsing through the "Starlets" list (the current 50 best-selling fonts), every one looked distinctive and of high quality design. There may well be some dogs in this collection, but you also are likely to find even more winners.

As a font retailer, MyFonts also sells CD-ROM collections from design houses as respected and well-known as Linotype and Bitstream, as well as many smaller indie outfits.

The Font Pool
Listing more than 25,000 fonts from a variety of design houses, The Font Pool is nearly as key a destination as the above site. Similarly organized, The Font Pool is easy to navigate and find fonts on.

However, The Font Pool tends to charge a bit more for a typeface – $40 seemed about the average. Still, if you need a typeface for a project, $40 may seem a small price to keep a client happy.

P22 Online
If not as large as many of the other font sites, P22 seems to have all quality fonts with no throwaways or duplicates. And it has well over 100 high quality typefaces, most priced from $20 to $40. The emphasis, or at least tendency, here is on arty, classic style fonts.
This German font haus is worth visiting for two very good reasons:

  • A free font is offered each month
  • They sell the MegaFont XXL collection – 10,000 fonts for $50.

Match Fonts
This is a unique font purchasing model – rather than buying individual typefaces, you buy sets of fonts by theme. For instance, you can get a collection of 53 decorative fonts for under $30. They also have sets of engineering fonts, text fonts, calligraphic fonts, monospaced and foreign language fonts, all for roughly the same price.

Divide by Zero
This collection by Tom Murphy offers a couple dozen completely free TrueType fonts for download – you're free to use them in any way you like, even commercial uses. Just don't re-sell them.

The fonts are all quirky, artistic sorts – with a fun, whimsical sort of feel to them. Nothing you might use for a serious environment, but if you need a hand-written script-style font or something off the wall, this is worth a visit.