Most fonts are licensed when needed, selected specifically for the job at hand. But when my (less font-addicted) friends are seeking versatile, workhorse typefaces for future use, I send them this list.
- Adobe Originals (via Creative Cloud, Fontspring, or Typekit)
- Commercial Type Webfonts: download for self-hosting
- Dutch Type Library Webfonts: download for self-hosting
- FontFont Webfonts: download for self-hosting or porting to a Typekit account
- Font Bureau Webfonts: via the Webtype service
- Hoefler & Co. Webfonts: via the Cloud.typography service
- House Industries Webfonts: no license currently available
- Lineto Webfonts: download for self-hosting
- OurType Webfonts: web use part of standard license
- Process Webfonts: download for self-hosting or porting to a Typekit account
- Typofonderie Webfonts: selected fonts via Typekit
- Typotheque Webfonts: via the Typotheque service
- Underware Webfonts: self-hosting or via the Webtype service
- Fontstand — This new platform for testing and renting desktop fonts includes a highly selective group of high quality foundries.
There are no webfonts available through FontstandUpdate (Sep 2016): the platform now offers hosted webfonts for most of its catalog.
- Village — This is a boutique retailer with 11 foundries, mostly on the high end of the quality spectrum. Webfont options, downloadable for self-hosting, vary by foundry
- MyFonts and Fontspring — Because these are retailers with liberal acceptance policies, the quality of type available at these sites varies widely. MyFonts is by far the largest and longest-running online font retailer, so it has a much larger selection and better browsing and sampling; but Fontspring is an up-and-coming challenger that offers foundries a much higher percentage of sales revenue. As an entry point into their vast collections, here are my personal recommendations at Fontspring and MyFonts.
- FontShop — The foundries represented at FontShop are more carefully curated, but there is still dreck through which to wade. Here are my favorites as a starting point. The Underused list also features some of the best stuff.
Of course, there are dozens of reputable outfits that make and sell good fonts. It’s almost irresistible to list every little foundry I love, but most of them are available via one of these outlets and a set of links longer than the one above is often more overwhelming than useful. Think of this list as a shopper’s starting point for building a lasting typographic toolset. These sites offer most of the best fonts available, and — crucially — present them well, too.
The focus here is on downloadable desktop fonts for print use, but most of these shops offer webfonts as well, either through a hosted service or as a self-hosted download. Noted next to each provider is the kind of webfont licensing they offer. Other webfont providers include Typekit, Webtype, Fontdeck, and Fonts.com. MyFonts and FontShop also offer downloadable, self-hosted webfonts.
Speaking of typeface recommendations, our very own Typographica.org reviews are also a good introduction to a few of the best new typefaces. After an unforgivable two-year hiatus, we’re wrapping up the 2011 edition now.
July 1, 2013 – Updated with webfont licensing info.
May 30, 2015 – Updated to include Fontstand and other changes.