Any business needs fonts. They are a part of your branding strategy. You need fonts to use on your website, social media, newsletters, and a multitude of other things. But which ones are you allowed to use for commerical purposes, and how can you get them for free? Read on to learn more about font licenses and where to get free fonts for commercial use.
Disclaimer: I am no lawyer and I merely summarize my understanding of licenses. Any and all information in this article is for general informational and educational purposes only.
This post contains affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.
In search of a font, you might google “free font”. As a result, you’ll find plenty of fonts you can download for free. That’s great, right? You have plenty of fonts now. Well, that’s not how this works. The fact that you have the font file now doesn’t mean you have the permission to use the font for your business. It’s the same with pictures on the internet. Only because you can download them doesn’t mean you have the permission to use them. What you need is a font for commercial use, or even better, a free font for commercial use.
But let’s take a step back for a moment and look at the three most common license types you will see for fonts.
A brief overview of common font licenses
- Personal use
You can often download free fonts, the license saying “Free for personal use”. Many fonts are free for personal use. Personal use means you can create a greeting card for your aunt with that font. You can write a recipe using that font and print it for yourself or a family member. You can print a t-shirt for yourself with it. But you can’t sell anything you create with that font. You can not use that font on your monetized blog. It’s not allowed to use it in a PDF and sell the PDF. You can not use it for an e-book you sell. You can not create a t-shirt design using that font and sell it on t-shirts.
If you can’t find any information about the license type of a font, you can either ask the font creator or choose a different font. I only use fonts with clearly defined licensing.
- Commercial use
Very generally said: You can use commercial use fonts for things that make you money. But there are many layers of what commercial use means. Thus you always have to check the specific license in detail before you buy a font. Different types of commercial use licenses come with different kinds of usage restrictions. However, most commercial use font licenses have in common that you are under no circumstances allowed to share the original files. Some commercial licenses will not permit you to use the fonts for print on demand or limit the number of items you can sell.
Unless you paid someone to create a font for you and get all rights to it, then you DO NOT own the font after buying it. If you buy a font, you pay for the license to use it.
- Open font license
This is really great. Open source fonts are free for everyone to use with almost no limitations. You will find plenty of free fonts for commercial use in the open source space. The tricky part here is to make sure that the font has been indeed published as an open source font. Check several sources to make sure of that. Find the font creator’s website or social media and see if they agree with the license type.
Try to find fonts with a SIL open font license or Apache license. You can use these, copy and change them free of charge. Remember, I said there are ALMOST no limitations, so make sure to read the full license text to double-check your use. But what’s the drawback? Why are these fonts free for commercial use? Well, often the quality is a bit lower than with paid fonts. Also, for some font styles, it’s hard to find a good open source font. For example, so far I’ve found no beautiful, handwritten fonts in the open font space. Therefore, depending on your business, you might not find enough variety of open source fonts to cover all your font needs..
Now, let’s get to the part you are actually here for.
How to get free fonts for commercial use
All online marketplaces send newsletters. Most will include some freebies in there. Of course, you’ll also see a lot of non-freebies in the newsletters, that’s how e-mail marketing works.
Here are the best marketplaces with freebies in the newsletters:
- Design Cuts(affiliate link) provides superb quality assets and the license terms are great. They will offer you the most extended license for the least money – you can use all their assets for more than one project. Also, If you buy multiple assets together, you can get a huge discount. I haven’t bought any fonts here, but I have bought illustration packages and tools. Their support staff is very friendly and answers quickly. They also have a lot of live stream events and Youtube videos where you can learn from the artists selling on the platform. Of all the marketplaces in this list, they offer the most value alongside their products. I really love them.
Design Cuts sends a “Freebie Friday” newsletter which offers one weekly freebie. It’s not always a font, but most times it is – and it’s always a high-quality asset. Best free fonts for commercial use you can get!
Their freebies come with the same license as paid assets – the extended, single user license
- Creative Fabrica (affiliate link) is an awesome source for high-quality commercial use fonts. I’m almost exclusively using their platform to get fonts because I have a subscription. For $9 a month, the subscription lets me use EVERYTHING on their marketplace – a nice black friday deal I got there. Go have a look, Creative Fabrica has a ton of assets, and not just fonts. My subscription provides me with more fonts than I will ever need. In need of a mermaid font? Creative Fabrica has you covered. Cat font? Got it. Childish scribbling font? Done.
Creative Fabrica newsletter will provide you with at least one weekly free font, and the freebies always come with a commercial license.
- Pixelsurplus heavily focuses on handing out freebies. Their newsletter freebie links usually send you on a detour over Behance, but you’ll end up on the Pixelsurplus website eventually. The license can vary by freebie but is always indicated on the freebie download page.
Besides irregular freebie offerings during the week, they send out a weekly “freebie roundup” newsletter with several great free assets. Make sure to check the freebie license, usually not all of the newsletter freebies will have a commercial use license.
Freebie sections of design asset marketplaces
Many design asset marketplaces have a freebie section with free items. Here are some links to get your free commercial fonts library started.
- Design Cuts – I’ve already mentioned that one above, they also have a great freebie section! (this is an affiliate link, if you decide to buy anything on Design Cuts, I will get a small commission at no extra cost for you!)
- Creative Fabrica freebies (this is an affiliate link as well, if you decide to buy anything, I will get a small commission at no extra cost for you!)
- Font Bundles: As the name says, you can get bundles of fonts here. There are also one dollar deals. What I like most about Font Bundles is that with every download, you get a license PDF. This is great because if you find the font later on your computer, you can check the license to see what you are allowed to use the font for. Also, at any time, you can prove that you have the license to use this font. I’ve only grabbed freebies from Font Bundles so far, which also come with a premium license. Head over to the Font Bundles freebie section here.
- Pixelsurplus freebies
Open source fonts
And a word of advice at the end
Licenses vary by marketplace. Each platform has a detailed license page, listing everything you can or can not do with the downloaded items. Sometimes they also offer various commercial licenses for different uses. Also, marketplaces change their license model every once in a while, which makes it’s time-consuming to keep up with all the licensing stuff.
At first, I collected freebies wherever I would get them. In the end though, I found it easiest to stick to a few marketplaces. I read and dissected the long license page for all of them. I even contacted support with additional questions to make sure that I fully understood the license. Now I have a license overview for the marketplaces I use and what they allow for all the types of font usage that apply to my business. I don’t stray from the marketplaces on my list unless I’m really desperate to find a specific asset.
So if you want to make your life easier, stick to only a few sources for your commercial use fonts.
Using the links in this article, you’ll have a huge and varied library of fonts for commercial use in no time – and for free.
Happy font collecting!