Font resources are often neglected on projects, leaving designers with a clear problem. Free font families help bridge that gap allowing you to bring a unique design to life until you're ready to commit to a premium font family.
Typography has always been a fundamental tool for marketing. The only significant drawback is that there is an assumption among the general public which ignores where fonts come from. We've all been spoiled with our default Arial & Helvetica and forgotten that fonts are complicated design features that can make a huge difference in a designs' overall aesthetic. Much like stock photography, clients are often confused by the cost - which is where free font libraries come in. By having a few free font sources we can integrate a quality font family into any design while delaying (or avoiding) the added cost. Having a few of these resources bookmarked can make a massive difference in your process and result in a better finished product for everyone.
Top 10 Sources for Free Font Families
It's easy to forget just how amazing Google Fonts are, but with 700 incredible fonts (and growing) this should be one stop on your search. The preview display feature is an added time saver, it's nice that everything is "onsite" so you don't need to worry about security, and the added ability to serve websites easily through their API have made Google Fonts a game-changer. Frankly this site should already be bookmarked, but in any case this really is an invaluable source of free font families for veterans or aspiring designers alike.Google Fonts
Being from the "City of Oaks" makes me predisposed to loving squirrels, but even if I wasn't - I'd love this site. Font Squirrel does a great job of compiling scattered freebies throughout the web. That means that the best free fonts won't always be hosted on-site, but they do a great job of manicuring their selection and can also be a useful tool for finding other collections on the web that you'd normally have a tough time finding.Font Squirrel
Dribbble is one of the best sources for following design trends worldwide. It's basically a break-room where design nerds can discuss projects and showcase recent work. Nothing is really hosted onsite, so you will occasionally see fonts listed as free just to be linked over to a "paid" site. That risk is usually negligible though, because these are usually high quality selections and if you find one with a workable license - pocket it ASAP!Dribbble
Font Shop is one of best sources online for premium font families, but their free font libraries are also growing very steadily. You are required to setup an account, but that grants you access to 100+ free fonts and the quality of each is absolutely impeccable. The styles offered are fairly conservative, but if you're looking for something top quality - FontShop should be one of your first stops.FontShop
You may need to dodge a few paid ads, but the collection that lies underneath is worth the hunt. This site and DaFont are my two favorite locations for finding odd-ball fonts - you'll find a wide selection of fonts built to replicate famous movies and tv-shows. I'll admit the legality of some of those are questionable, but if you are a competent web surfer you really shouldn't have a problem and there really is a wide assortment to browse.1001 Fonts
Like Dribbble, Behance is a great community for wandering through top quality design. Everything is hosted off site so questionable links are a possibility, but most of the best free fonts are simply freebies offered by talented designers. Be sure to check the licenses and integrity of the site they forward you to - thats more of a universal precaution though. A little effort spent on Behance can warrent some incredible tools - just be sure to show a little support for the designers if you like what they've created though.Behance
Font Spring is pretty new to the game, but they've already compiled a solid collection of offerings. They seem to be geared more towards the "budget" end of premium fonts, but after setting up an account you can sort through 200+ freebies in quick time.Font Spring
The design of the actual site is questionable (which is a little disconcerting), but there are plenty of odd-ball selections here that are available without needing to setup an account. Sweet!!FontSpace
DaFont is notable for it's size alone. That does mean that there is some junk out there, but if you're willing to hunt I think it's safe to say that DaFont has more free font families then any other site online. If they did a little manicuring this site would be incredible, but as it stands it's still a top-ten selection.DaFont
You likely won't find any unique fonts on this site, but they have cleaned up the riff-raff quite a bit. The structure of the site is solid too, so if they chose to grow they'll quickly become one of your top optionsUrbanfonts
How Did We Pick Our Favorite Free Font Libraries?
We've pulled together our favorite free fonts sources with a few basic criteria. Websites should have a decent history (at least 2 years), a selection of high quality fonts, and offer them with no licensing restrictions. We have also looked for websites that don't deliver font families as ZIP files (for security reasons) and we've also avoided any sources that require additional software too utilize fonts.
Looking for a premium font foundry?
Sometimes it's difficult to even know where to start. We've attached a dozen of our industry favorites below (in no particular order). These are all companies that we know and trust, but the style that you need really depends on the project. Have a look at the each premium font foundry we've selected and if you have any questions don't be afraid to ask. A large majority of these companies are staffed with typographers with an absolute passion for their work.
If you think another source of free font families belongs in the top ten, please feel free to send it this way. We'll certainly keep it into consideration on updates. If you're a typophile, drop by our Design Heros post on the sensational typographer Jessica Hische. As always - Thanks for stopping by & if you've found this post helpful, please feel free to share!
Matthew Haeck - Lead designer and resident full stack web developer at Haeck Design, Matthew spends a majority of his time creating beautiful logos, websites, print design, & staying up to date on all the tricks of the web development trade. (About Matthew Haeck)