Saturday, December 11, 2021

More on Free Fonts

Having said some words on free fonts for publishing (in the previous post), I thought I’d, ah, say some more words. Specifically, I’d mention a few popular choices that have become widely available. Why not in alphabetic order?

Alegreya is a lovely serif typeface that seems a little too ornate for the typical fiction book. I would not however, hesitate to use it for poetry—and have. Moreover, it pairs beautifully with the sans version, also free. Alegreya Sans for headings, Alegreya for body, is a combo that works great.

Century Schoolbook is one of the fonts included in the URW++ Ghostscript package I mentioned before. CS is always a good, workmanlike, and highly legible typeface. After all, it is widely specified for legal documents. For a novel? It would certainly work but might look a little old-fashioned, stodgy even, to some readers. For children’s books, as well as nonfiction, it remains a good choice.

Cormorant is a variant on the ever-popular Garamond style of typefaces, but one a little too quirky for long stretches of text. It lacks the readability for that. Great for titles, though (as is the related sans, Ysabeau), and we used it for a book of quotes once.

Crimson I mentioned before and suggested getting the latest version from the designer. It is another Garamond-ish font (or more in the Granjon vein, actually) and has some similarities to the popular Plantin typeface. That’s a good thing. There have been reports of oddities when it is printed so that is something one must watch for (as with any font). Another good workmanlike font with a touch of elegance.*

EB Garamond is pretty much the cream of the free Garamonds (although we mostly use the URW++ Garamond No.8) and practically identical to the widely used Adobe Garamond. As both are based on the same original type samples, this is not unexpected. Some might claim it is not quite as refined as the Adobe offering in terms of kerning and such, but it looks every bit as good to us. One could certainly use this typeface exclusively for text and forget the rest.

Gentium has been around a long time and is thoroughly tried and tested. It looks pretty good, too, less stodgy than many popular choices but not overdone. It does suffer somewhat from the same problem as Times New Roman; that is, it can look too closely packed in long lines. We’ve used it for poetry and it works there. It would not be a bad choice for a magazine, used in narrower columns.

The same is largely true of Linux Libertine, another font that has been around a while.

PT Serif was designed for the Russian government. It has more than a passing resemblance to Microsoft’s Constantia, probably the best of those ‘Clear Type’ fonts they brought out as a package some time back. Of course, any and all those Microsoft fonts included for ‘free’ with Windows are off-limits for publishing, but PT is a quite adequate and usable typeface.

Which brings us at last to the very popular Volkorn. As much as I like this font, I’ve never seen it as working that well in a novel. Maybe it could but I’d be more likely to use it for nonfiction. It is a solid, readable font—almost too solid.


Some others I might mention: Fanwood, which is based on a ‘standard’ typeface for fiction, Fairfield. The same designer, Barry Schwarz, has also crafted OFL Sorts Mill Goudy, based on Goudy Old Style. Both certainly look good but are perhaps not quite as time-tested and refined as some other offerings. Schwarz has some other Goudy-based offerings too; one might or might not find them useful.

Libre Baskerville and Libre Caslon are both projects that might not be completely perfected but might provide what one needs for a self-published project—especially if one wants that classic look such fonts provide.

Literata is a Google font originally designed for use in e-readers but one needn’t limit it to that. There is a version for print, in a large variety of weights. I’ll note that it looks somewhat like Adobe’s Minion.

Lora is also available from Google and is, again, intended more as a screen font than a print one, but doesn’t look bad on a page.

All these typefaces may be found readily enough online. Search the names. Perhaps I’ll write a post on a few of the commercial fonts we like and use, down the line, but this is enough for now.

*An addendum: There is now a Crimson Pro that is an even better choice, and available in a number of weights. If you wish to try out Crimson, this is the way to go (and it may be downloaded from Google Fonts).

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Free Fonts for Publishing

Allow me to make clear before proceeding that I intend to discuss typefaces for the interior text of books. Display fonts for covers are another subject. One can get away with type there that would be entirely unsuitable for text.

So—free. You may have been warned about low quality ‘junk’ fonts. This is not as much the problem as it was in the early days of desktop publishing. There are many quite good and quite free typefaces out there. We use some ourselves at Arachis Press. Let me begin with a familiar name: Adobe.

Back in the early days of personal computers Adobe developed a rather nice typeface named Utopia. This is a slightly simplified (for the low resolution printers of the time) take on something similar to Baskerville. Utopia was intended as a sort of Times New Roman killer, a font suitable to all-around office use. It didn’t displace TNR but it proved to be a quite nice font that eventually was made free. One may see quality novels and nonfiction from the big publishing houses printed in Utopia. Though they undoubtedly use the paid version, the free font is completely acceptable.

More recently, Adobe released their free Source Serif. This typeface has roots in the 18th Century Fournier designs and looks quite professional on the page. Not as ‘formal’ as Utopia—use whichever suits the mood of your book. One could probably get by with just those two fonts. There is also a free Source Sans; less useful as text but one could employ it effectively for chapter titles and such.

Which brings us to Charter. This is also an older design from Matthew Carter and created for much the same purposes as Utopia. Moreover, it is based on the same original typeface as Source Serif; there are differences, to be sure, but they are very similar. Which one is preferable is entirely a matter of personal taste. Charter also has a free version (more than one, actually). When I say free, I mean completely so: no cost and free to use however one wishes.

I could mention the widely available Deja Vu (aka Vera) fonts here also. They too were crafted in the early days of computers for much the same reasons as Utopia and Charter. Honestly, I do not think highly of the way they look on a printed page. Not that there is anything wrong with them; they are simply not very attractive to my eye.

There are loads of other acceptable free typefaces out there and I am not going to list them. There is all the stuff from Google Fonts, of course. Some are adequate, but be warned many are better suited to screens than printed pages. Some are not the latest and best versions, also—Crimson, which can be a pretty decent text typeface, is best downloaded from its designer, not Google. Be warned too that some of these typefaces can become problematic when sent off to a printer, with characters not printing properly and so on. Still many free fonts one may find are well designed and look good; just be sure to give any print proofs a very thorough going over!

I must mention the URW++ free package. These were the fonts donated to the Ghostscript project way back and include quite usable and professional typefaces. In particular, the Garamond No.8 and Palladio, which are our ‘default’ choices for, respectively, novels and poetry. Palladio is a variant on Palatino, and designed for URW by Zapf himself. Garamond No.8 is essentially Stempel Garamond. There are several other good fonts included. One can find the packet for download online. They may be ‘old’ designs but they hold up.

Now we at AP do not use just free fonts. We have a license for a package of Bitstream typefaces and those are every bit as likely to show up. But we could get by on free, if need be, and so could anyone else out there wishing to publish on their own. I would suggest starting with time-tested fonts like Charter and Utopia, and the URW++ package, and taking it from there.