Where have all the good fonts gone?
Related to the last post, “Book cover design for indie RPG creators,” I wanted to mention a few websites that occasionally offer free or cheap fonts (especially font bundles!).
Good fonts—especially for making book title treatments and logos—can be super expensive if you don’t know where to find them, but you don’t need very deep pockets to start building up a library of good typefaces!
You DO have to be mindful of licenses, especially when you find free licenses, though. Sometimes they are released free for personal use only. Some require attribution (which I think is, in most cases, a little excessive). Sometimes they are cleared for commercial use—but only up to some number of sales a month (which may be a factor for some of you).
I’ll be talking a little more about the functions of typography inside a book in an upcoming post, and what kinds of fonts are best suited for which roles (in other words: what makes a font good in the first place)—but for now, let’s just focus on where to find them:
The Basics (for DMs Guild titles)
Modesto, Scala Sans, Bookmania (the main body copy typeface), Mrs. Eaves (for small caps headers), Dai Vernon (the small hand-written style typeface mainly used for labels), and a mysterious custom typeface for the drop caps.
A fine person named Sobrera made knock-offs of all of these, though—with slightly different names (Nodesto, Scaly, etc.)—and has made them available freely for personal and commercial use under a Creative Commons 4.0 attribution license. They never actually specify how they want to be attributed, but… be sure to give ’em credit if you use their fonts.
One caveat about these knock-offs: The automatic kerning settings (a.k.a. the spacing between the letters) on some of these are not as good as the real deal, so where possible, I do strongly recommend using the authentic fonts instead, if you can get ’em.
A lot of people don’t realize this, but if you have a current InDesign CC subscription (or almost any of the Creative Cloud app plans), you already have access to Adobe Fonts (formerly TypeKit)—which includes commercial licenses. It’s also integrated with the Creative Cloud apps (making font installation/uninstallation super simple), and there are some solid fonts in it. Notably, it includes the actual legit versions of Mrs. Eaves, Modesto, Scala Sans, and Bookmania.
Pedantics will want me to add it’s not really “free,” because it’s part of your Creative Cloud plan—but if you already have a subscription because you use their software on a regular basis, it doesn’t cost you any extra money.
Blambot’s finds tend to skew heavily towards comic books and have a kind of lighter, more playful vibe to them (in my opinion, anyway). Depending on the tone your title is trying to convey that may or may not be a good fit. But! They have a ton of great looking fonts, and have sales semi-regularly. Their New Year’s, “never-to-be-repeated” sale cuts the cost for each of their fonts to the current year × 1¢ (so, you know, they were $20.19 each this year).
They also have some free fonts, but only if you’re making a non-profit project! (Otherwise, their “free fonts” are only free to indie comics creators—not indie RPG creators.)
I love Creative Market. They don’t offer as much free stuff, and at the time of this writing, the free selection isn’t very interesting for fantasy-appropriate typefaces, but if you get on their mailing list, you’ll get something free every week and they offer EXCELLENT, deeply discounted bundles on a regular basis.
DaFont and 1001 Fonts
In general, I avoid DaFont and 1001 Fonts despite the fact that they have loads of free fonts, because most of them are clearly designed by amateurs. (If you have to manually tweak the kerning for everything because the built-in metrics are poor, a “free” font might end up costing you more time than it’s worth.)
But there are a few good fonts mixed in so it can be worth your time to sift through. (Note that many of their fonts are “demos” or otherwise only licensed for personal use, with a commercial license costing a little money. Font designers deserve to be paid for their work, too. Please don’t use their work without a legitimate license.)
Deal Jumbo has a modest selection of freebies that they continually update. They also occasionally have amazing deals of jumbo-sized bundles. (Hey, maybe that’s where they get the name.) I picked up two bundles with a dozen font families in them for $12 the other day, and I use a few of the fonts pretty regularly now. Money very well spent.
I’ve just downloaded several fonts from FontBundles.net myself. They include commercial use up to 10,000 sales per month, which probably covers anyone in DMs Guild and most indie publishers in any industry.
Like a lot of these websites, if you sign up for FontBundles’ newsletter, you get e-mailed about the latest free fonts or heavily discounted bundles. Which is awesome! FontBundles kinda e-mails you a lot, though. (Every day, guys? Really?) I don’t really mind, but you might. Use your burner e-mail address if you don’t like getting a lot of e-mails.
Font Squirrel and Fontspring
Font Squirrel’s selection is limited, but, as its header graphic tells you, they are 100% free for commercial use!
Its sister site, Fontspring, is not. Fontspring’s selection includes professional fonts from (I think) all of the major type foundries. Their licensing tends to be a little more straightforward than a lot of sites, though. Of particular relevance to indie RPG creators, the “worry-free” license includes unlimited ebook or book sales.
(Actually, I’m not really sure if these two sites are related, but FontSquirrel promotes Fontspring on their “Top Font Deals” page so I’m just guessing.)
Thanks to Michael Balla for letting me know about K-Type! I haven’t used them myself, but they have some great looking typefaces in the free fonts section, so heck yeah.
Monotype’s MyFonts.com has a similar selection as Fontspring—but also similarly not-very-cheap pricing. And very few freebies. Sometimes you can get a good deal, though?
They also have the official Dai Vernon if you’re hell-bent on having all the official, authentic 5e fonts for some reason. (Gotta collect ’em all?) It’s not free, though, sorry.
Pixel Surplus sells stuff in Creative Market, but they also have their own website with a lot more free stuff. They have regular bundles that expire after a given amount of time, some of which are fantastic. (The current “Rustic Fonts Bundle” has a lot of great-looking typefaces in it, I think.)
Non-disclaimer: None of these are affiliate links. I’m sharing them because I have used or bought from almost all of these websites myself.