Something I struggled with for years was whether or not to fork out the money to buy commercial fonts. Now more than ever it is super easy to find beautiful fonts for free — but sometimes, the font that really speaks to a project/client/brand simply costs money…sometimes lots of money. So, the question arises: when it is worth actually paying for a font?
Let me turn this question around for a second and tell you what a commercial font typically offers that free fonts typically don’t:
Glyphs are alternate characters available for you to use. Glyphs are what can take a font and really make it look special. Glyphs are particularly handy for letters that look awkward, unfinished or disconnected in certain capacities. For example, I purchased Rosarian a few months back. Lets take a look at two images using this font.
In this first image, I use only the standard version of the font:
In this second image, I use some of the glyphs available to me to spice up the type. Now, I’ve overdone the glyph usage to illustrate my point, but you can see that the text has gone from pretty run-of-the-mill script to something special.
If you don’t have the cash to have a logo created for you, buying a nice font with good glyph coverage can be a way to make a text logo look a little fancier and custom without breaking the bank.
Swashes & Decorative Elements
Particularly on script fonts, one of the big benefits of commercial fonts are lots of “extras,” which are often called swashes and/or decorative elements. These elements allow you add image-esque elements to your text treatment quite easily — and, they match. As a font nerd, I can totally tell when I visit a site and someone has used one font and then plopped random design elements from other fonts right next to it. Having a commercial font with swashes included gives you a more cohesive look.
Complete Symbol & Punctuation
One of the hardest lessons that I’ve learned with free fonts is that you can’t always depend on them to have a complete set of symbols or punctuation. Case in point? One of my faves, Courtney Dorkling, didn’t have an apostrophe for the longest time. Can you believe that? It stinks to fall in love with a font — particularly a unique font — but not be able to use it often because it’s missing critical pieces. A paid font typically comes with bonus symbols, like TMs, Copyrights, etc.
So, when is it worth paying for a font?
When you really need a high-quality, beautiful and flexible font. Most of the time, free fonts do the trick. But, when I can’t find what I really need I always go right for commercial fonts. I have yet to regret a font purchase.