Pardon the singing. Fonts make me happy. Beautiful fonts that are free for COMMERCIAL USE (and can therefore be used for branding purposes!) make me very happy. They are unicorns among an Internet of font horses. So with no further ado, here are links to my top ten favorites (in no particular order) . . . .
Fonts. Oh, how I love fonts. They can make the simplest design unique and elegant. With the right font, your company name can transform from mere words to a professional and striking logo. So, how does a small business owner make best use of their branding budget (mine is usually $0/mo) to obtain the fonts that are perfect for the job?
The obvious answer . . . you can search “free fonts” on google and see the results. Unfortunately, the majority of the fonts in those search results are “free for personal use,” meaning you can use the font for a decoration for your son’s birthday party but not to create your business’s logo. However, “free for commercial use” fonts do exist, you just need to dig a little deeper for these gems . . . or simply view the list below, because I’ve already done the digging.
A favored resource, I’ve recommended this site many times. About a thousand *free* fonts are available, and they’re presented in a wonderfully searchable format (it is google after all). You’re able to type in your sample text, select the size you want to preview, and choose your desired font characteristic(s); then, your search results populate accordingly. According to google, “You can use [the fonts] freely in your products & projects – print or digital, commercial or otherwise.”
While this web site does have fonts for sale, hundreds are also available free for commercial use (as they promote right in their company tagline). Fonts are organized by category (i.e., san serif, serif, display, etc.) as well as by other useful attributes (i.e., language, number of font styles included in font family, etc.).
Another site in which most of the free fonts are for personal use, you have to look a little closer to find the free commercial fonts. Click the “Font Categories” at top and within the “Special” section, you’ll find “Free Fonts for Commercial Use.” At the time of this writing, the count of free commercial fonts was over 12,000, so the choices are still plentiful.
I will provide a disclaimer that web sites from this point down are probably only recommended for true font enthusiasts (like myself). The casual font appreciator will probably not appreciate needing to create an account (albeit free) for access to the free font selection . . . or the regular emails that result (though you can unsubscribe to those; I personally enjoy seeing what’s new in the world of fonts from week to week, but that may just be me). Now that I’ve mentioned the inconveniences, the benefit is that these types of sites usually have nicer options available. If you decide to go this route, Font Bundles gives you access to everything in their “free fonts” section, including a new font added every week.
Another site requiring a free account for access, this source is actually one of my favorites. They have a “Freebies” section of their web site, in which you’ll find a rotating selection of hundreds of free fonts. However, my favorite membership perk is their daily emails, each linking to a free font – only available that day. I enjoy having a free digital treasure delivered to my inbox each morning. Well, sometimes, the freebie isn’t a treasure, but I can just delete those; no hard feelings.
Similar to Creative Fabrica described above, you need an account for freebies, and they are regularly emailed to you. At Creative Market, however, you get one email per week letting you know about six available free goods, which can include fonts, graphics, stock photography, templates, etc. I would say in general half of the six free goods are fonts. One nice aspect of this site is that every time you download one of their free goods, its saved for you in your “Purchases.” If you download your free goods every week like I do, hundreds of fonts will be available in that section – all with a nice sort feature and large, graphic preview.
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Do you have a favorite source for free fonts (for commercial use) that I missed? Let us know in the comments section below!
Special Note: Brand Building for Small Business has been identified by Feedspot (www.Feedspot.com) as one of the Top 100 Branding Blogs. Feedspot provides “the most comprehensive list of branding blogs on the Internet” so we are pleased to be part of that group. To learn more, visit https://blog.feedspot.com/branding_blogs/.
So . . . where do you find those free pix?
The preparation of branding materials involves a strong visual element — both your own carefully designed logo AND very often a context-specific supporting image. While customized artwork is almost always best (whether you are talking about a photo taken to mark an occasion or a specially designed illustration), such efforts typically involve so much time and effort that supporting “stock” pix and drawings are often the only practical alternative to satisfy time-and-financial constraints.
I remember my feelings of panic the first time I had to complete a project without the benefit of a corporate stock image subscription and had a deadline but no budget – and just a single question to be answered for myself:
WHAT DO I DO?!?
Ever Explore Wiki Commons?
Wiki can very often provide a great alternative place to find supporting A/V files – both audio and visual. As the illustration below suggests, these 50 million plus images are stored in well-catalogued and easy to find locations at various technical specifications.
What you need to know . . .
“Wikimedia Commons is a media file repository making available public domain and freely-licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips) to everyone, in their own language. It acts as a common repository for the various projects of the Wikimedia Foundation, but you do not need to belong to one of those projects to use media hosted here. . . .
Launched on 7 September 2004, Wikimedia Commons hit the 1,000,000 uploaded media file milestone on 30 November 2006 and currently contains 58,541,226 files and 57,473,117 media collections. . . .
Unlike traditional media repositories, Wikimedia Commons is free. Everyone is allowed to copy, use and modify any files here freely as long as they follow the terms specified by the author; this often means crediting the source and author(s) appropriately and releasing copies/improvements under the same freedom to others. The license conditions of each individual media file can be found on their description page. The Wikimedia Commons database itself and the texts in it are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License. More information on re-use can be found at Commons: Reusing content outside Wikimedia and Commons: First steps/Reuse.”
While much free content is available, you need (as mentioned above) to familiarize yourself with copyright or attribution issues that could be relevant to a specific image. Often, the creator will allow usage at no charge but will very reasonably want to be given credit for authorship. To be safe and in full compliance, study the licensing information made available at the Wiki site.
Other Places to Look
Frankly, the Internet provides access to an unbelievable wealth of image resources. For example, I recently searched for the term: “Best Free Images of 2019.” The following list was produced:
As you can see, a combination of “stock” photos, illustrations, videos, and sound files are available, and the resource can be more than adequate in addressing your needs. (You can also find that some paid stock sites offer some very reasonable terms, especially for single images that might be the most suitable for a specific situation.)
While I have not had a chance yet to explore all of these sites at great depth, the very first resource I (gratefully!!) stumbled upon was “Unsplash,” which I highly recommend and found to be quite extensive and well organized with a good search function. While free, optional attribution is appreciated but not required. The images themselves are of an excellent quality and professionally prepared to meet most technical specifications you’d encounter. As I go through others on the list, I expect to find many of them capable of meeting and/or exceeding your typical requirements.
A visual element is always an extremely useful tool in almost any activity involving branding. Images contain content that reinforce your message to your target audience . . . while artistic aspects of the image offer a message of their own about your style, expertise, and sensibility.
Note: The criteria you use for selecting images is sufficiently important to your brand to become part of your “Style Guide.” That portion of the document should spell out image do’s and don’ts to be sure pictures reinforce the brand message you are working to create.
That said, never overlook the opportunity to incorporate custom artwork by taking photos (your phone likely has a great camera always available for that purpose) or even building an illustration of your own!!
Since I’m writing this post during that unique period in between Christmas and New Year’s . . . when you have no concept of whether it’s Tuesday, Sunday, or even still December, I figured I would write about something that brings me great joy. Fonts. I am a collector of fonts. I have ones that are beautiful, ones that are classic, straightforward, jovial, and downright odd. I learned today I have 1,266 of them to be exact. Most I know I’ll never use, but hundreds of them MAY get used . . . one day. I am a font hoarder.
As a Christmas present to myself, I decided I would find a good utility for browsing my collection. When I am trying to decide on the perfect font for a project, this very common, teeny tiny, one-font-at-a-time preview is not nearly sufficient:
I went out seeking a utility similar to google’s font viewer . . . where I could type in my desired preview text and then browse the available options in an easy-to-see size and easy-to-scroll format.
If you are in the beginning stages of forming your brand, having a tool like this — to see your company name and test out body copy in all your currently installed fonts — would be a wonderful luxury. Once your brand has solidified a bit, you’ll still have instances in which you’ll need to choose a different font for a specific need . . . whether you’re creating a Happy New Year graphic for social media or a “clearance” sign for display in your store.
So I went looking for the best available font viewer. I read a number of articles reviewing the options, and I sampled a select few of them based on the reviews . . . .
CPS Font Viewer This program was my absolute favorite, checking all the essential boxes on my font viewer wish list, excepting the very important fact that my computer would freeze for about a minute every time I interacted with the program, which is designed for a 32-bit version of Windows. (I’m guessing this is an important fact.) Frustration prompted my uninstalling the program before even taking a screen shot for you, but I was able to grab one from the software provider:
If your computer is a rare gem running 32-bit Windows, this program is a great choice.
I initially really liked FontBase, performing the requisite job in a clean and modern interface. I also like that you can easily switch from your fonts to Google’s selection of 2,533 free fonts as desired. However, I really wanted to better utilize all that wasted screen space and increase the number of fonts I could peruse at a time. Unfortunately, the ability to switch from a row view to grid style, along with a number of additional options, requires an upgrade and at a pretty hefty price tag at that. Many seemingly functional buttons annoyingly transport you to this screen, where your options are $3/mo, $29/yr, or $180 forever.
Since I try to resist the low-price allure of ongoing subscriptions whenever possible, I was left with the $180 option, which was about $100 more than I was willing to spend. Goodbye, FontBase.
If you don’t mind the free row layout and can quickly learn which buttons to avoid OR you’re willing to pay for the upgrade, this program is a solid choice.
Another modern and clean interface that can also easily switch from your installed fonts to google’s free fonts, this viewer is a big step up, providing a grid layout entirely free of charge. In fact, this is the only utility I sampled that is browser-based and didn’t need to be installed. Your only required payment comes in the form of one font block dedicated to an advertisement every other screen or so – a very reasonable price to pay in my book. However, this utility scans and previews your installed fonts using Adobe Flash Player, outdated software that Adobe has announced will no longer be supported as of December 2020. I noticed a bit of a lag on the web page itself and even more inconveniently in my other software while accessing Wordmark.it. (So going back and forth from discovering a possible font option on Wordmark.it to trying out the font in my project was not a smooth flow.) Hopefully, the company will find a more current way to make this utility available, because it’s pretty slick otherwise.
This program has an old-school feel. The installation process and program interface are reminiscent of the good old days . . . Windows 97, 56k modems, and floppy disks. I almost immediately wrote the program off as a result.
Upon browsing all the options in the program’s menu, I found that the view is almost completely customizable, and I was able to scroll through my 1,000+ font options with ease.
Unlike the outdated Flash Player, this program’s age adds to its allure . . . not modern and clean but user driven and quick. I happily declare my unlikely victor!
Do you have a favorite font viewer? Let us know in the comments below. Did you have an opportunity to try out one of the reviewed options? I would love to hear your experience.