A Good FREE Novel Font?

fathairyape's picture

I'm about to finish my second novel. I've been using poor fonts that either look good on my Jornada (portable word processor), computer, or when printed out. I'm looking for a great, free font that would be perfect for a novel.

You know, like Times New Roman with a little spunk? Like Georgia but with some changes? Something that's easy on the eyes by oh-so-professional... and free. :) Can anyone help?


Spire's picture

Generally speaking, you get what you pay for. I'll leave it to others to expound on that. (Remember that you're posting on a forum where many of the regulars make their living designing type.)

That said, here are a few faces for you to try:

Si_Daniels's picture

I'm no expert on the publishing biz, but generally doesn't the publisher pick the font (maybe in consultation with the author) and they likely have access to a bunch of quality text faces to choose from. I'm sure they can provide a list.

So as you're picking the font, I can only conclude that you're talking about the font for the manuscript that's being passed to publishers as you tout the work, or that you're self publishing. In either case the requirement of a free font (as opposed to a cheap quality font) seems very strange. I assume you put in many hundreds of hours into the novel, so why not present it in the best possible way? I'm sure people can think of other parallels but to me its kind of like a master brewer, spending many years to prefect a fine ale, only to present it at competition in a discarded milk bottle. Free fonts have their place - quickie projects, rave flyers, birthday invites - but using them for something you poured your heart and soul into just seems a bit sad.

Maybe the subject material requires a free font? I suppose a book on hobo matters or scifi conference attendees may benefit from a 2nd or 3rd rate type.

Stefan H's picture

I agree with sii, Seems like a big waste to "package" your work with a free-font. Her are some classic text faces made for body copy in books... TAROCCO, ANZIANO nad DELICATO all to be found at; http://www.macrhino.com


fathairyape's picture

Spire: I do a bit of designing myself. I felt silly posting this, but I thought you guys could help (which you did). It's just that I have absolutely NO money in my pocket right now.

-- David

fathairyape's picture

Sii: Actually, that's a funny thing. See, the novel is for a book that will be published in my community and distributed at some creative writing fair, for a price. It's kind of like a self-publishing press with few profits, I guess. After that, I'm going to submit the manuscript. Sorry I didn't explain it. Anyway, the community asked ME to make sure it's "ready for the public", and then they're going to print it... I'm kind of lost too, but I know I have to do this. :P.

-- David

fathairyape's picture

Stephan: Thanks!

-- David

fathairyape's picture

Guys: Thanks for the links and the great fonts!

-- David

peterj's picture

Minion Pro (http://store.adobe.com/type/browser/P/P_1719.html) probably still comes bundled with Acrobat Reader and has quite a big character set.

Grot Esqué's picture

Really? What is the licence like?

peterj's picture

the issue has come up before, and there seems to be some confusion since they seem to be covered by the reader license, but that license doesn't say much if anything about included fonts. a general google reveals about as much.

brampitoyo's picture

Just curious. What if the face came with the Adobe Creative Suite that you bought?

I reckon that workhorses like Minion, Adobe Garamond, Jenson and Caslon were included when you buy a CS. What's the license on that?

Bald Condensed's picture

That's a regular* single user license -- the person having purchased the software can use the typefaces for commercial work.

* when bundled with software. Licenses for fonts usually are up to 2 to 5 users.

Thomas Phinney's picture

The Adobe Reader license seems to not allow using the fonts for other purposes such as creating documents (unlike other Adobe licenses).



Si_Daniels's picture

Strange, people have been pointing at the reader for years as a free source for fonts. But it looks like Tom is right - here's the EULA...


Section 2.5 - "The Software is licensed and distributed by Adobe for viewing, distributing, and sharing PDF files."

... but under this strict use definition it doesn't look like printing or searching are permitted ;-)

Thomas Phinney's picture

Heck if I know - "I Am Not A Lawyer." (IANAL)

Which seems like an appropriate acronym for most typographers to adopt, myself included. :)


Si_Daniels's picture

Indeed, I'm going to add that to my business card.

NiceTry's picture

You get what you pay for is absolutely correct. You can get a great typeface for $20 if you know where to look.

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Hi there:

Just a question. What operating system are you using? If you are using a mac, then you don't need to buy fonts perse. You can use Mac OS X's excellent system fonts. Hoefler Text being one of the most elegant type familes ever is perfect for your needs.

But if you are a non-mac user and your system fonts are not so hot then you CAN use a few good free fonts for serious fine typography.

As mentioned earlier, Gentium is a fine choice and it has nothing even close to the feeling of free. It's a high quality font. This font won a Type Directors Club award (very prestigious) and it's a pretty good choice for basic book work. I'm sure of you set a piece in Gentium your collegues will remark how prefessional your work looks.



The Greek Font Soceity has many classic looking typefaces for free that are suitable for book work. Their greek fonts have been recommended in the book "The Elements of Typographic Style"... which is considered the typographic 'bible' by some. So the romans might be worth a try.

And finally, you need to check this website every month:

The fonts that FONTSHOP gives away are high quality (sometimes award winning) commercial fonts- that are can be 'pricey'. You can save lots of money by visting that site every month. In a few months your can build an nice library of type without spending a dime. And despite the negative attitude some have toward free fonts, everyone participating in this forum checks the FontShop site religously to get the goods. Just recently they gave away Meta Book- something I would have NEVER purchased (boring) and Sanuk Fat which I like (quirky and tough at the same time) but probably would not get either. I have since been using them together and I really do love them now. AND NOW THAT FONTSHOP HAS ME ROPED IN, I'M GOING TO BUY MORE WEIGHTS OF BOTH VERY SOON... sometimes free is bad- it makes you poor. :-)

But David, I do recommend you invest in a 'proper' commercial type system suited to your needs. This garantees you have a consistant look that enables you to do anything you want typographically. There are many award winning high quality type famillies for south of $200. (Relato, Atlantica, Alinea etc- I think 170 is the sweet spot) And many less than $100. Tyrnavia is full featured type system great for setting text. Its only $49 comes loaded with ligatures and ornaments... no bold weight but you can get around that.

You can differentiate yourself (your style, your work) by investing a little at time.

Take for example Linotype Really. I love this type familly but I can't purchase the whole thing right now... so what do I do? Since its only $22 a font and there are only four weights sold through Linotype. (BTW... don't discredit the large foundrys as always expensive- they have deals all the time.) I can get one font this week and may be one next week and so on and so on till I have the whole Really collection from Linotype. Or you contrast types the are free and commercial. Lets say I used Gentium for text and Poetica or Penumbra for headlines or subheads.

Anyhow don't feel bad (or let anyone else make you feel bad) that your broke. No one else is gonna take care of you except for you. I think if you plan carefully and use the right combination of types (free or otherwise) your new book will be memorably beautiful.

All my best to you,

Mike Diaz

fathairyape's picture

Thanks so much, Mike!
-- David

fmiles's picture

I personally have a lot of commercial fonts at my hands (some of the favorites are Legacy Sans/Serif, Meta, Calisto and different Garamonds) but I've still chosen to use Gentium in my CV and any of my printed documents.

Palatine's picture

Hehe, clever.

As for quality fonts that won't break the bank (at all),
I recommend:

Gentium (this one's a real beauty, but no small caps . . . yet)


I'm surprised this font is free. Alot of work went into it.

Also have a look at Cardo. I think it sets a bit too light on a laser or inkjet, but have a go with it.


Day Roman is another possibility.


It should be noted, however, that there are a multitide of well-crafted and versatile fonts that are relatively inexpensive, and as such, are entirely worth the money. A good font very likely isn't something you'll use just once. You'll use it over and over again, and if you're truly happy with it, you'll find excuses to use it whenever you can (and whenever appropriate, of course.)

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

David ... no problem. There are lots of free font 'haters' but those people suck :-)


fmiles's picture

Cardo has some problems with some versions of Photoshop. It doesn't conflict with anything, but it has always had technical problems. My version of Photoshop doesn't render Cardo at all (I can only type numerals and some special marks).

fmiles's picture

I recently came across this: JFDooM Flanker's fonts. Some of those fonts seem to have potential and aren't ripoffs of commercial font files.

All the bolds look a little artificially done to me, and that's why I've only downloaded the regular and italic versions. "Griffo FLNK" is especially nice at the first look. "Imperator" is his own design and is a positive surprise for a free font.

It's worth mentioning, though, that they may have some technical problems similar to Cardo.

Anyway, I'd use these ones for display use only. For more display fonts with potential, I recommend browsing through Manfred Klein (can be frustrating at times).

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