How to Use and Install Your Fonts

One aspect of graphic design that isn’t discussed enough is the use of Fonts and Typography within our designs. If used correctly, type can be used as a powerful means of expression. We are going to forgo speaking about Typography today, instead we have listed over 200 free font websites below. However, don’t worry, we will be discussing the art of Typography soon in another blog entry. The reason that I decided to create this huge free font sites list is because I have been getting rather frustrated recently with all of the old free font sites lists that I normally use, such as this fonts list which used to be great, but now most of the links are dead. Even I am to blame since my old list of free fonts sites is in desperate need of updating. Yikes, I figured that I would make up a new list that I could use as as a reference, hopefully you can make use of it as well. I would also appreciate if you would send us links of sites that we have missed, or that I have made mistakes on.


Before I list the free font sites for you, lets discuss the difference between freeware fonts, shareware fonts, and commercial fonts. The difference is in the licensing.

Freeware Fonts

Freeware Fonts are fonts that are free to use as long as you follow the font designer’s licensing restrictions. An example of a common restriction is not being able to distribute or sell the Freeware font.

Shareware Fonts

Shareware Fonts are fonts that are free to try and download, but then if you plan to use the font, you agree to pay the appropriate licensing fee for the font. Shareware fonts are free to download, and for this reason many designers, without realizing it, download the font thinking that “Shareware Fonts” are the same as “Freeware Fonts”. In other words, If you decide that you do like the font, you should pay the fee after deciding to use it.

Donorware Fonts

Donorware is a new term that I have seen out on the net lately. Basically Donorware fonts are just like shareware fonts without the extra ‘umph’ behind the ‘pay me’. In other words, the Font designer is hoping that after you use the font and decide that you like it, you will send them a donation towards the font, but it isn’t enforced.

Commercial Fonts

Commercial Fonts are fonts that you must to pay for. Commercial fonts can be use for either personal or commercial use. Unlike “Shareware Fonts”, with “Commercial Fonts” you need to pay for the font up front.


There are many reasons that you might want to buy Shareware of Commercial Fonts instead of downloading free fonts. However, quality isn’t always the reason. There are plenty of wonderful font designers out there who are providing quality free fonts. Personally, I’ve had problems with some free fonts, but I have also have had problems with some Commercial Fonts as well.

There are a few reasons that you might prefer Commercial Fonts over Free Fonts, and here they are:

(1) Some free fonts are missing the complete character sets.

(2) Some free fonts have spacing problems that make them unusable (however, I have had that same problem with a few commercial fonts.)

(3) If you run into trouble with a free font, you are *** out of luck. However, if you purchased a commercial font and you are having a technical difficulty, the font foundry will most likely offer you technical support. This might be a lifesaver if you are working on a rush job and you are getting calls from the Service Bureau about an unusable font.

(4) Many Free Font sites only offer Truetype fonts which have a reputation of causing printing problems.

(5) Original Designs. Free fonts are downloaded so frequently that having a font that has been downloaded and utilized much less might be beneficial.

If you do decide to purchase Commercial Fonts, I would make sure that the font company has a good reputation and technical support. I would also only purchase Postscript or OpenType fonts, since this seems to be one of the only benefits of Commercial Fonts.


TrueType Fonts (.ttf)

The benefit of Truetype fonts is that all versions of Windows support TrueType fonts as a standard. Although TrueType is also compatible with Apple Macs, a separate TrueType font file must be created in order to run on a Mac properly. It is very simple for PC users to install TrueType fonts. In fact, all that a designer needs to do is download the font, unzip it, and then drag and drop that font into the WindowsFonts folder. It really can’t get any simpler than that. However, there are some down sides to TrueType fonts, such as causing problems at Service Bureaus. There are two reasons why TrueType fonts cause problems with printers and Service Bureaus. First of all, Truetype Fonts are great on your monitor because the font is installed on your computer. However, if that same exact font is not installed on your printer, than your printed page may differ from how that same page looked on your monitor. Another reason that TrueType fonts cause printing problems is that they were only designed to print up to 600 dpi, which is the dpi of an average desktop laser printer. However, Service Bureaus normally print documents at 12000 – 2400 dpi. If you try to print your TrueType fonts on the Service Bureaus 12000 dpi printer, the results will be fuzzy fonts that might be difficult to read.

Postscript Type 1 Fonts / ATM (.ps)

PostScript font technology makes it possible to scale fonts. Postscript’s Scalability option allows all point sizes from that font to be created without losing any font quality. One of the reasons that Postscript fonts are preferred to TrueType fonts is that your printer doesn’t need the equivalent font installed in order to print your documents correctly. Also, Postscript Type 1 fonts are designed to print at 2400 dpi which creates a smooth, crisp font when printed. There are a lot fewer problems when taking a file to the service bureau when using PostScript fonts than there are when using Truetype fonts. However, with older versions of Windows, you will need an extra program called Adobe Type Manager (ATM ) in order to use Postscript fonts.

TrueType fonts very easy to use, however, Postscript Fonts create nothing but headaches. As we speak, many ex-designers are probably sitting in Psychiatric Wards mumbling and ranting about font problems. I exaggerate a bit, but I kid you not when I say that Postscript Fonts are a headache. One of the reasons that there are so many problems with Postscript font management is because every Adobe program has a separate folder for their fonts. This means that you need to install your fonts in every Adobe application folder, otherwise you will have fonts missing and font substitution problems. I feel my teeth grinding and my blood pressure going crazy as I write about PS fonts. I recommend purchasing a font manager such as Suitcase to help you handle font installation and management. We will cover more about this topic in another blog.

Bitmap Fonts (.bdf)

Bitmapped fonts are made up of a matrix of dots (pixels). The bitmap for each character indicates precisely what pixels should be on and off. When a Bitmap font is printed, it is literally just printing the pixels that were left on and only prints 75 dpi. With this particular approach to fonts, resizing a font can create significant quality loss and the fonts might appear pixelized or jaggedy (my own word invention). However, one benefit is that shading and color filling is easier to do with Bitmapped Fonts (although I never use them). With the invention of Truetype fonts,Postscript Type 1 fonts, and OpenType fonts, there are not many uses of Bitmapped fonts. They are fine to use on the web, but awful for printing. Never use Bitmapped fonts when sending a file to print.

OpenType Fonts (.otf)

Adobe and Microsoft developed the OpenType font that combines Postscript and Truetype fonts together. Basically OpenType fonts are really TrueType fonts that include Postscript data. The wonderful thing about OpenType fonts is that they work on both Macs as well as PCs. OpenType font technology offers extended character sets and typographic controls. And just like the TrueType font, each OpenType font includes bitmap, metric, and outline data. But the best part of OpenType fonts is that they install much easier than Postscript Type 1 fonts. Additionally, Since OpenType works with both Macs and PCs, and they include Postscript Data, you won’t have the same problems that TrueType fonts have with service bureaus and printers. However, be careful, some applications such as QuarkXpress, have not been coded for OpenType compatibility yet so there might still be some problems using OpenType fonts.

Pixel Fonts (.ttf)

Pixel fonts were designed to be used on Websites and Multimedia Interfaces, and that is why they are also called ’small screen fonts.’ Although they are in TrueType format for both Macs and PCs, they are optimized for screen usage. However, make sure that you don’t change the size of Pixel fonts or they will distort. Pixel fonts were primarily used on Macromedia Flash until the release of Flash 8. Until the release of version 8, Pixel fonts had the advantages over other font types because Pixel fonts didn’t blur, whereas other fonts did. However now the opposite is true. According to Macromedia:

Text created using vector-based pixel font emulations (sometimes referred to as “pixel fonts”) looks blurry when published using Macromedia Flash 8. This text is notably blurrier than in previous versions of Flash. Vector-based pixel font emulations are fonts designed to look like pixels, although they are actually created with vectors. They are specifically designed to remain aliased when viewed with Macromedia Flash Player. Aliased fonts improve legibility by having increased contrast, especially at small sizes. Pixel font emulations are usually designed to look best when placed on an even pixel in Flash. However, the new Flash 8 FlashType text rendering engine can render pixel fonts blurry. To display pixel fonts at their best quality in Flash 8, adjust a text block using the font to not use the Flash 8 FlashType text rendering engine. To do so, select each text block and choose “Bitmap text (no anti-alias)” in the Properties Inspector’s Font Rendering Method pop-up menu.


How To Un-zip PC Winzip Files To A Mac

Most Macs already have Stuffit Expander. This program is capable of unzipping PC WinZIP files. Use ZipIt if you don’t want to use Stuffit Expander.

Use the following directions to unzip the files using ZipIt:

1. Download and save the stuffed / zipped file you downloaded to a folder that you will remember.2. Double-click the ZipIt application icon.3. Drag the font file icon to the ZipIt icon4. Then ‘Select All’ from the ‘Edit’ menu 5. Extract (command ‘e’) from the Zip menu6. Save All

How To Convert PC Fonts For Use On A Mac Using TT-Converter

You will need TT-Converter (or another font converter…I have listed some below). TT-Converter converts between mac and pc formats, NOT between font types, in other words, It will convert back and forth from PC to Mac TrueType and from PC to Mac PostScript, It can not convert between TrueType and PostScript formats.

Follow These Instructions for Converting a PC font into a MAC font with TT-Converter:

1. Open TT-Converter2. Open the .ttf file you wish to convert3. You will now see a dialogue box.4. Type the font name of the font that you downloaded in the “Save Converted Font As” box (unless the font name is already typed in automatically).5. Click “Customize Font.”6. You will now see another dialogue box.7.Enter the font name into the ‘Font Name’ box.8. Click OK in the dialogue box.9. Click ‘Save’ in the next dialogue box.10. You have now converted a PC font for use on a Macintosh.

To Install Your Newly Converted font onto Your Mac

Turn off the software application that you wish to use this font in. Now, Drag the font to the ‘Font’ folder within your ‘System’ folder. Click ‘OK’ on the dialogue box that pops up. You may now load the application back up and use your new font. If the font doesn’t work, you might need to restart the computer for the font to work.

Since most PC users could care less about converting a mac font into a PC font, I won’t go into how to do it within this blog. However, if you wish for me to update this blog entry with a tutorial for this, please let me know and I will add it. For help with installing PC fonts, take a look at this comprehenive page from Microsoft. Also, if you look below, I listed a few freeware, shareware, and commercial software available on the net for font conversions. If you use fonts a lot, I suggest that you pick up Fontographer. It is expensive but worth the price. Here are a few Font Converters below :

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TransType Converter – This font converter features a font utility to convert Mac TrueType and Type 1 fonts to PC platform, convert PC TrueType and Type 1 fonts to Mac platform, convert TrueType fonts to Type 1 fonts, convert Type 1 fonts to TrueType fonts, auto-hinting of the converted fonts, and ability to multi-convert many files at once. Free Demo and the price for purchasing is from $87 – $179. (MAC AND PC)

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TT-Converter (Link to .sit.hqx file)TT-Converter converts between formats, NOT between font types. It will convert back and forth from PC to Mac TrueType and from PC to Mac PostScript. It can not convert between TrueType and PostScript formats. Once you have downloaded and installed TT-Converter, follow these directions. Free (MAC)

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FONmaker – A powerful bitmap font creator for Windows. You can convert existing outline and bitmap fonts into Windows screen fonts, Windows font resources, HP Soft Fonts, and BDF font files with it. Free Demo and the price for purchasing is $99. (PC ONLY)

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FontFlasher – With FontFlasher, our pixelfont creator, you can turn any font into a pixelfont giving crisp appearance in Macromedia Flash. Free Demo and the price for purchasing is $27.79. (MAC AND PC)

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FogLamp – This Fontographer source file converter turns Fontographer 3.5-4.1 database files (.fog) into FontLab VFB files (.vfb) that are compatible with TypeTool, TransType, FontLab (Studio) and AsiaFont Studio. With this solution, you can make OpenType fonts using Fontographer or salvage your old .fog projects. Short: FogLamp sheds some light onto the opaque Fontographer file format! Free Demo and the price for purchasing is $79 – $499. (MAC AND PC)

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Font Clerk – A font convert for converting True Type fonts from one platform to another. $20. (MAC)

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Fondu – A set of programs to interconvert between mac font formats and pfb, ttf, otf and bdf files on unix. Free. (UNIX ONLY)

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TTF2PT1 – TTF2PT1will convert most True Type Fonts, as well as the other font formats supported by the FreeType library, to an Adobe Type 1 PFA file, and other options.

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Cross Font – Convert TrueType and PostScript Type1 fonts between Macintosh and PC platforms. Runs under Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, 2003 and XP. Price is $45. (PC ONLY)

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TT Converter 1.5 (link to .sit file) – This is a nifty little utility for Mac users. You can convert a PC font to Mac format using this little tool. Free. (MAC ONLY)

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Dfontifier – Dfontifier is an application that can convert Mac OS X-style Datafork TrueType fonts (.dfonts) into ordinary Mac OS 9-style TrueType fonts and vice versa. Free. (MAC ONLY)On the Next Post, there is a huge list of Freeware Fonts Sites

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[tags]fonts, font articles, freeeware fonts, shareware fonts, donorware fonts, commercial fonts, truetype fonts, postscript fonts, mac fonts, pc fonts, pixel fonts, bitmap fonts, opentype fonts, install fonts[/tags]

This entry was written by All Graphic Design Staff