Why would a designer want to purchase a typeface instead of using free ones?


This isn't just a nagging question. It's to help designers (such as myself) to understand the importance of paid for fonts.

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This question is mainly based on my curiosity to why we should pay for fonts (not meaning we should get them for free) when there are a vast number of adequate fonts out there on the interwebs!

I understand that the fonts you have to pay for are (usually) very high quality but I'd rather use a free font from lets say, FontSquirrel that to me, looks just as good as most of the paid for fonts out there, instead of paying £30-50 for just one font family, and sometimes that's not even all styles (bold, italic, etc), just the original font.

I'm probably being narrow-minded (I hope) and I have never really had the need to buy a font so I was wondering apart from owning the license to use a font or to support the font creator, is there any other reason to actually use purchased fonts?

8/1/2014 3:39:00 PM

Accepted Answer

To scoop up all suggestions in the comments and add my own reasons, here goes:


Paid fonts are higher in quality, on average than free ones. Remember that saying: 'Pay peanuts, and you get monkeys'? It applies to fonts as well. Paid fonts most probably have more features than free ones, just like most other software. Examples are

  • lowercase;
  • glyphs like €, æ, å, ç, ß, Ł et al;
  • proportional small caps;
  • lowercase numbers;
  • a decent kerning table;
  • ligatures;
  • the availability of many different styles and weights.

Also, as user568458 mentions, there's probably more experience worked into a paid font than a free one—experience in creating legible and readable type. It will be subtle or even invisble, but the differences are there.


We all make stuff, and some of us even do so for a living. Wouldn't be great if we could actually make that living? If I see something I really like and want to use it, I'd like the creator to know and I'd like to support them. The easiest way is to buy their product.

Permanency & security

If I buy a license for a font, I can use that font practically forever. I also know that if I lost the font file (say, my computer bricked), I could re-download it from the foundry and play on.

I'm also somewhat surer that the font is legit, that it's not some kind of rip-off font that is based just a bit too much on an existing, commercial one and is liable to create legal problems because of that. Of course, I'm never 100% sure, but getting an expensive font from one of the big foundries gives a lot more security than a cheap or free one from a backwater site.

2/13/2015 9:45:00 AM

Why should someone pay for your designs? Because you have talent, knowledge, invested time and you can create something unique that someone else can't. The same is true for type designers and their product.

They don't give away their quality product for free because the invested a lot.

Most free (gratis) fonts are very low quality. Imagine doing an identity for a startup with a gratis font, but soon they will expand into other countries. Then you discover that the free font you picked doesn't have the language support your client needs. What will you do? Hire someone to design the missing glyphs for you? Edit the font yourself? Most free fonts are still licensed and often editing isn't allowed. Maybe you can redesign the company's identity for £30-50? Now you regret not buying a proper font in the first place.

There are very few good, free fonts. By "good" I mean: big glyph sets, multi language support, hinting, spacing, kerning, range of weights, true italics, small caps, table figures, fractions, ligatures, swashes, etc. If a font like this exists, it will be overused.

You seem to understand difference in quality. "Looks just as good" is the wrong comparison. Some fonts are display fonts, used to draw attention, and they are applied in big sizes. Then you have the workhorse typeface for setting text which should work well in all situations. Legibility is also important. The requirements of these two are very different. Most free fonts are very useful but only "look good" to draw attention; they aren't workhorses.

You say never to have bought a font. Thats probably not true. Most systems and a lot of applications come with fonts. A lot of these fonts are not free have a licence. If you paid for software that bundles fonts, than you also paid for those fonts.

Like Scott said: "You really do get what you pay for." If you can't see the value in paid fonts, then you should stick with free fonts.