When is it worth paying for a font?

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?

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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

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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

5 Tools for Choosing a Website Color Scheme

How to Choose a Website Color Scheme

Color is one of the single most important elements of design. Over the past five years of working as a web designer I’ve learned that discussing color with clients early on is critical to success. Whether we know it or not, we all like (and dislike) certain colors. When a client responds well to certain color schemes it tells me a lot about their aesthetic and what they will like in their finished product.

I’ve also learned over the years that people see color in different ways — aqua to me is sea green to someone else. The words we use to describe color are not the same. As such, it’s critical that clients see actual color schemes on their screen and report back about what they liked. I emphasize the on the screen part because a color scheme that you like in print doesn’t necessarily translate well to the computer screen.

There are five tools I generally point clients to so that they can begin thinking about website color schemes.

1. Adobe Kuler: My go-to site. Thousands of color schemes searchable by keyword.

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2. Pinterest: Tons of photo-inspired color schemes. This is great for folks that like to find inspiration in photos or unexpected places.

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3. Colour Lovers: Another great visual resource for finding beautiful color schemes

4. ColorCombos.com: A no-frills, but still great site for finding a unique color scheme

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5.  Pantone: The kings of color. Particularly good when you’re looking for the next big thing in color trends.

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5 Fantastic and Free Sans-Serif Fonts

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You might call me a bit of a font nerd. I absolutely love discovering new fonts and adding them to my ridiculously large (and growing) collection. My favorite resource for paid fonts is Fonts.com, but when I’m searching for free fonts things get a little trickier. Why? There are so many free fonts out there and they aren’t all as high-quality as you might hope. Typically, however, I can depend on FontSquirrel.com and the League of Movable Type to find freebies that also fit the quality bill. In the image above I’ve rounded up my favorite free sans serif fonts. Below are some more thoughts on why I chose each font.

Free Sans Serif Fonts – Raleway

Raleway is one of my favorites because it simply looks special. A few of the letters — the W, for example — have a bit more character than you typically find with free fonts. It’s fun and modern, yet very professional.

Free Sans Serif Fonts – PT Sans

In my mind, great, sturdy sans serif fonts like PT Sans don’t get all of the credit that they deserve. It’s great to have a library full of display or handwriting fonts, but you also need great go-to body fonts, as well. PT Sans fills this space for me.

Free Sans Serif Fonts – Droid Sans

Similar to PT Sans, Droid Sans is a nice body font. It reads well on-screen and has a nice, clean, breathable quality to it.

Free Sans Serif Fonts – League Gothic

I love League Gothic. It’s a bold, smart and modern font that’s perfect for headlines. It’s best when used in moderation when it can really make a big impact.

Free Sans Serif Fonts – District Pro Thin

Thin fonts can be tricky and sometimes hard to read, but not District Pro Thin. It always looks good, crisp and professional. It looks best (in my opinion) at big/headline sizes.

What you need to know about free fonts: Many times, the best free fonts are only available in one weight, typically regular. This means if you want to use the fonts at other weights (bold, light, etc.) that you may need to purchase the commercial version of the font. A good font is worth paying for, so if you find that you really like and use a font it’s worth forking out the dough.