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Find that Font! Fantastic font sites

July 23, 2006

Fonts - you love them or you hate them. If you work with them often enough, you probably do both.
 
Great fonts bring your work alive. Makes it stand out. Makes it sizzle, pop - if you want it to. Or keeps it subdued, readable. Whatever you want.
 
Standard operating fonts tend to do well for readability: they're the bread and butter of business life. (Still, there are nice alternatives to Arial and Times New Roman. Try Verdana for web text, Garamond, Palatino, Warnock Pro for documents.)
 
For artwork, brochures, postcards and posters, web banners and letterheads, you need something different. If you're a font-hound, you likely have thousands of fonts installed. And still you can't find the one you want.
 
You've seen it, though. In an ad or magazine, on a poster or a book cover, you've seen the font you want. For example, I was recently tasked to find the font used on the covers of Steven Erikson's fantasy book series, the Malazan Book of the Fallen:
 
House of Chains novel, with desired font circled
 
 
You scourge your system. You come up empty.
 
What next?
 
Free is always good. My first recommendation: try a freeware font site. My favorite is at http://www.dafont.com/. Many sites have more popups than fonts, are a pain to navigate, and simply don't have a good selection. This one is great.
 
dafont.com offers over 6000 free fonts. And the site is still manageable - organized very cleanly, with 9 main categories and 73 subcategories. Fonts are displayed 10, 20, or 50 per page, in default text or using as long a line of text as you supply and your screen can display. You very quickly see - often, with a single glance - whether they have what you need. Click on any result, and a full character map appears. Simple, and works great. Would that there was freeware to manage your PC-based font collection as easily, quickly, and cleanly. Anyone?
 
With the example above, though, I still couldn't find the font used. The novel was a fantasy, and the lettering appeared archaic. I tried the Gothic category, subcategory by subcategory, using the custom text string "Steven Erikson House of Chains". Simple.
 
Subcategory medieval, at a glance - no match. Gothic, modern - no match, though some were obviously closer. Gothic, celtic - aha! Some of them very, very close. And while none of them were an exact match (easiest to look at some of the very stylized letters, i.e. the a, the s), I did note that many of the closest matches contained the word "uncial" in the title.
 
Good enough for me.
 
 
Another fantastic site, myfonts.com has almost 50000 fonts. Yes, these cost money - but often very little, and typically less (often by half) of what its competitors charge. Search by category is not as neat as dafont.com, and I didn't know where to start. But the site's search function, using only the word "uncial" - there it was, on the first page of results displayed:
 
 
basic font search: Baldur font
 
 
Click on the font name itself to view the entire font, comparing letter for letter:
 
 
Baldur uncial-type font character map
 
 
An exact match! Wonderful. Mac and Windows font forms available, at minimal cost.
 
Mission accomplished, in far less time than it took to write this article ...
 
Use it yourself, here:
MyFonts    
 
A final note: had this approach failed, myfonts.com offers one more very useful function: the WhatTheFont search. You upload an image, and myfont's server-side font identification engine attempts to identify the font from the submitted image. It didn't work for the example in this article - but - submit it to the WhatTheFont forum and font geeks from the world over will likely get you the answer in very short time.

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