There are so many places to find cool free fonts on the web that it may be hard to figure out where to start. However, a few particular sites have taken the lead as places to get high-quality, useful fonts that work on multiple operating systems for free.
The Un-Cool Free Fonts
Believe it or not, there are ways that something as simple as a font can be not only uncool but destructive to your project, your computer, and the online community as a whole. How can a bunch of letters have so much power? Here are a few ways that fonts are misused.
- Poor Design: The digital revolution has made it incredibly easy for anyone to create a font - even out of your own handwriting! However, as everyone with poor handwriting knows, that's not the easiest thing to read. The esoteric skill of fontography is both science and art, and there are a lot of things that go into making a font as universally readable as Helvetica. Just because a site claims to have "cool free fonts" doesn't mean they will actually be good and readable - and if you make the mistake of using a bad font for your project, it will reflect badly on you and your message.
- Hidden Malware: The problem with the lure of "free fonts" is that some of them are just that: lures to get you to download and install something on your computer that can be destructive or even use your computer to spread to other machines on your network. While virus protection (or simply using Mac or Linux) can protect you from many of these, they are still annoying.
- Unlicensed Work: On a more community level, some sites distribute really cool fonts that are being given away unlicensed, with their creators not getting a dime back for their hard work. It's the equivalent of taking a DVD for free from someone who has stolen it from the store - while you technically didn't steal it, you aren't exactly being ethical using an unlicensed font on your project. It helps to keep fontographers creating cool fonts when you make sure to only use licensed fonts.
Four Sources for Cool Fonts
One of the prime distributors of excellent lettering resources is DaFont. Aside from having thousands of fonts (some of which are certainly more cool than others) DaFont is also more organized than almost any other font site, especially for a site with free fonts. It provides a very good breakdown of the type of fonts available, from new to classic, including breaking them down based on operating system. It provides clear instructions on how to download and install the fonts as well, and provides links with each font for people to voluntarily donate and contribute to the creators of the fonts.
Another reliable source of good free fonts is the aptly named Fonts.com. While not as well-organized as DaFont.com, this site offers both pay and free fonts, with a clear interface that makes it easy to browse, download and install. With fonts designed by companies such as Larabie and Aenigma given away, this makes finding the perfect lettering for your project almost a surety.
However, for the really cool free fonts, you need to go to one of the design houses that give away free samples. The best example is Chank.com. Created by designer Diesel Chank, this site gives away some fonts for free while charging hundreds of dollars for others - but they all qualify as "cool" simply by virtue of being offered by this well-respected design firm.
Picking Your Font
Unless you're the only person who will see it, make sure you check with multiple people regarding how the font looks, before settling on it for your project. You need to be sure that it is readable by the widest range of people. If you find that you are the only one who can read your message through the curls and angles of the cool font you picked, it may be time to go back to the drawing board.