Shop Talk

How to Navigate the World of Fonts

Our latest artist in residence – Kirsten Winkelbauer aka Winklebeebee introduces us to the world of fonts. Read on to learn her tips for getting started.

“If you’re going to download and use fonts, it’s your responsibility as an artist and designer to make sure you research what the rules and guidelines are for how you can use them legally and respectfully.”

If you’re just getting into graphic design or other art that involves working with text, one of the most intimidating things can be learning to work with fonts.

The best way to learn about fonts is to practice with them, which brings many people to their first roadblock – where do you find fonts, do you have to pay for them, and how do you know which ones are okay to use commercially?

There are endless resources for fonts online, and it can be overwhelming at first. But with a little research, you can find plenty of options for little to no cost so you can start building up your font library.

Where Can I Find Fonts?

A quick Google search will give you thousands of hits for font downloads, so there’s no shortage of resources. There’s a brief introductory list of some great options:

Font Squirrel
Design Cuts
Font Bundles

While they certainly aren’t the only websites available, they’re useful places to start because they offer a large selection of commercial use and public domain fonts, as well as other graphic design elements like vector packs, textures and template packs.

Why Do You Keep Saying “Commercial Use” and “Public Domain”? What Does That Mean?

Something really important to keep in mind when working with fonts – not all fonts are created equal in terms of how you can use them. Remember – fonts don’t just appear. Someone had to design and make them, and therefore they are the intellectual property of the creator. Many people allow their fonts to be used freely, while others have rules or guidelines.

Commercial Use fonts are ones that can be used on products that you plan to sell and make money off of – if a font creator says their font is only for personal use, this means you cannot put them on products or designs that are for sale, but you can use them privately for yourself. Oftentimes this means it’s still okay to share the work on your websites with – just check with the license to make sure, and to see if you need to give credit to the font creator.

Fonts that are listed as Public Domain are also free to use, as they are considered to belong to the public and are not subject to copyright.

License Example

License Example

On websites like DaFont, you can filter your searches to only include fonts that are public domain and free to use, which helps take out some of the guesswork for you.

If you’re going to download and use fonts, it’s your responsibility as an artist and designer to make sure you research what the rules and guidelines are for how you can use them legally and respectfully. If you don’t see a blatant label that states the font’s usage policy, don’t just assume it’s okay to use – dig around a little and almost every time, you’ll find a clearly written license description.

Trust me – know one wants to spend hours on a design for a product, then find out you’ve used a non-commercial use font by mistake! It’s always worth taking the time to read a website’s FAQs or do a little research so you can be sure the fonts you have can be used worry-free.

Personal vs. Commercial

Example of Public Domain Use

Wait – So Do I Have To Pay For Commercial Use Fonts?

Not always! While some people charge for their fonts – and you may want to consider those options as you grow as a designer – there are still thousands of free options to choose from. DaFont and FontSquirrel, for example, offer fonts that are almost always (if not always) free.
Others like Design Cuts and Font Bundles have “Freebie” sections on their websites where they regularly host limited-time only downloads; font bundles that normally cost money will be free for a short period, anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks. It’s a good idea to check back often, and to also sign up for their mailing lists. These sites, as well as many others, send out weekly newsletters that link directly to the free products of the week, as well as flash sales they might be having.
You can build a huge font kit without spending any money; but if you don’t mind spending a little, you can also find deals for massive graphic design bundles for under $20 – so why not invest a little bit?
I know, I know – fonts can be pretty overwhelming at first. But with a little time, research, and practice, you’ll start to feel more comfortable and confident in how they can be used. And that’s when the real fun can start!

Share what tips you’ve learned for finding awesome fonts in the comments below.