So far all the research I've gathered points me to:

1) get pirated ones depending on who you know

2) free fonts-enough said

3) system fonts that you will be scrutinised for being amateurish?

How is a student expected to progress in the art of choosing and combining typefaces when we can't realistically afford type families or don't know anyone with pirates fonts to give away?

Will we be judged for using system fonts because we don't have access to professional ones - down to who you know and how much money you have?

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    As somebody who devoted much energy to creating/improving a free font, I feel somewhat offended.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 6:01
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    @Wrzlprmft The comment about free font is not targeting you but the numerous very bad free fonts available (there's also numerous excellent fonts if you know where to look.) We're lucky people like you share all this for free, don't take this comment too personal!
    – go-junta
    Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 9:09
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    I agree with both these comments - I'd like to add to that, that "system font" does not automatically mean "not professional font"! Granted, not all fonts that come with your system are useful, feature rich, or even 'pretty' - but many others are, and are created by renowned designers. Example: the "C" series in recent Windows (Calibri, Consolas, Constantia, Corbel, Cambria). Amongst its creators are Lucas de Groot and John Hudson.
    – Jongware
    Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 10:08
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    @RadLexus Calibri is a horror of mediocrity and I cringe every time I see it. I don't care who designed it. Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 11:06
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    Also, one should think that students should be offered access to fonts that are licensed by their school to use in student projects, at least if the school offers courses in graphic design or typography. While I agree with go-junta that you don't need 300 fonts to do something nice, it certainly helps to have some choice. My school has a few hundered (probably more than a thousand) typefaces licensed for us to work with, which I think is a good thing. Every year they buy new ones. If you don't have access to typefaces, maybe discuss it with somebody from your school if they could license some.
    – mdomino
    Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 22:48

2 Answers 2


Well, the thing is, you don't need 300 fonts to do something nice. And the issue you mention, all designers face it!

The reason is: when you have 3 paid quality fonts, you wish you had 30. And when you have 50, you wish you have those 10 new ones that look so amazing... ;) There is indeed a big part of investment in graphic design and that goes for stock images, fonts, equipment, office supplies, Pantone book, etc. And there's always something you wish you had. I think most designers are like little squirrels, they gather resources and tools as they work, and over time. You need to start somewhere.

If you don't have a budget for fonts, you can start with the free ones and tweak them, adjust the bad kerning, etc. They're not all perfect but let's be honest, that in itself offers you a great way to practice and develop a keen eye with typography! Sometimes you can use them for your titles and combine them with system fonts for the main body. It's less work and the system fonts are in fact high quality.

There's also very nice fonts that are not that expensive to purchase and that you can use on many projects. When you purchase fonts, look at it as a long term investment and try to stay away from trendy stuff if the investment is big. Some fonts only cost $25-30 for a whole family. That's worth it... that's barely the cost of 5 lattés coffees or 2 meals at a restaurant.

There's open source fonts that allow you to work on any kind of projects. Nice selection there too.

If you have an Adobe subscription, there's the TypeKit fonts that have some nice fonts (but yes, still limited) too.

I wouldn't recommend getting into pirated stuff.

As for using system fonts, I personally love using Georgia (eeek!) and Helvetica but you'll never see any of my design done with Papyrus or Corsiva or the typical system fonts that do look... amateur. There's nice classical system fonts that you can use with other free ones or low cost ones. As a student, you won't get judge by how great your fonts look but usually how clever is your font matching... or how you used something ugly and made something great out of it! I do think at least employers in design firms can recognize this and are aware of the reality of being a student with limited budget.

TLDR: Don't judge fonts by the price or "premium" status.

Some resources:


Where do professional designers "go" to look for typefaces?

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    Thank you I really appreciate your answer as nobody gives anything away on my course including tutors...helvetica, garamond and a few others are quality fonts but i'm guessing whoever is looking at my work will roll their eyes at the use of helvetica since its the most unimaginative option. Anyway heres to hoping employers do understand.
    – Chiara
    Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 2:13
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    @Chiara I used to work with a designer who only used two dozen weights of Helvetica plus one serif. For everything. He was one of the top designers in the shop. Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 11:07

Avoid using amateur fonts for body text since most of them are not so well spaced - use pro ones for body text. (I'm including there fonts released for free but developed by professionals.) If you must use a freebie font to stand out, use it for headings only and manually adjust spacing if you can. Don't use anything gimmicky and don't use anything not intended for your display medium - print fonts won't render well on screen, screen fonts can look too loose on paper since it shows fine detail more.

If you buy a pro font, don't buy it because it was discounted on MyFonts, buy one really good one and use the heck out of it. Use the free Typekit plan - the fonts work in all apps, not just Adobe ones, and you can get it without signing up for any other Adobe product.

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