Google Fonts: how to choose and download free online fonts

Google Fonts: how to choose and download free online fonts

Editorial team Published on 3/22/2023

Whether you are building a website or designing your business card, at a certain point one question is bound to arise: which font should you use? And, most importantly, where do you find it and download it (preferably without having to pay for it)?

If you’re looking for an online archive full of fonts you can download for free, allow us to introduce one of the best-known and most popular ones around, used by designers all over the world: Google Fonts. Read on to find out more!

What is Google Fonts?

Google Fonts (once known as Google Web Fonts) is a large library housing an incredible 1,464 families of open-source fonts (i.e. with no copyright protection) that you can take and use in your designs. You can access the archive free of charge and browse, sort, test out and download all the typefaces that take your fancy, all designed by professional designers. Icons were also added to the catalogue in 2021.

Without further ado, let’s have a look at all the things you can do in this large library.

How to search for fonts in the archive

It really couldn’t be simpler. Simply go to the official Google Fonts website and follow the various items on the menu, which allow you to:

  • select the name of the typeface family you are looking for, if you already have a font in mind;
  • choose the language;
  • identify fonts with the features you’re looking for, such as the number of styles available in the family, thickness, slope or width;
  • refine your search to locate fonts suitable for creating custom styles or coloured fonts.

The results that come back will be based on the criteria you set and ranked based on the following factors:

  • web use of the font;
  • the number of styles in the family;
  • the date the font was added to the archive;
  • the font’s suitability for use in your selected language.

You can also use custom criteria to organise your results: trending, most popular, newest or alphabetically by name. Once you have created your collection, you can also share it with your team, so everyone knows which font families to use in each project.

How to download fonts from Google Fonts

Once you’ve identified the font you want, simply click on it to access a data sheet that acts as a kind of ID card for the font. Here you can:

  • view the individual glyphs;
  • read all the information about its origin, creator and the background to its creation (allowing you to use it consistently);
  • view the licence information;
  • find out how it is used in different geographical areas;
  • test the font on a passage of text to get a preview of the overall effect.

Once you’ve made your choice, simply click on the ‘Download family’ button and a zipped file will be sent to your desktop containing the full family of fonts, ready to be used in your project.

How to discover the name of a font used on a website

As we saw above, Google Fonts allows you to search by name. So if you spot a font you like on a webpage and want to use it yourself, you can simply search for it in the library.

But what if you don’t know its name? No problem. In this case we recommend using WhatFont, an extension for Chrome, Firefox and Safari that tells you the typefaces found on webpages: simply turn it on and use your mouse to hover over the font you’re interested in to get all the information you need. Very handy!

The best fonts of 2023

In January 2023, Typewolf created a list of the best 40 fonts on Google Fonts. Fancy a sneak peak at the top four?

1st place: DM Sans, a geometric sans-serif font designed by Colophon Foundry, commissioned by Google Fonts and released in 2019.

2nd place: Inter, an open-source sans-serif font designed by Swedish designer and programmer Rasmus Andersson.

3rd place: Space Mono, a font with a geometric, fixed-width design created by Colophon Foundry, which was added to the Google Fonts archive in 2016.

4th place: Space Grotesk, a sans-serif font designed by Florian Karsten in 2017, with a design that takes inspiration from Space Mono but with variable widths.

If you want to explore the other highly ranked fonts, you can browse the list here. Remember, however, that choosing a font is not just about what it looks like or its popularity…

Choosing the right font

The first thing to say is that choosing a typeface is not just about aesthetics. There are lots of other factors to take into consideration, first and foremost the personality of the brand (which should also be apparent in your visual identity, and therefore your font), the personality of the font (because fonts have their own identity too), the context it will be used in, the target audience, and the font’s readability.

We don’t have space to teach you how to master all these aspects here: instead, we’ve got some recommended reading material for you. Here’s our mini bibliography:

  • Fonts Knowledge is a Google library that contains various guides to typography: everything from the basic principles to an in-depth look at the most technical aspects of the craft.
  • Two mini-handbooks written by Pixartprinting: ​​Typography and page layout: a small handbook with some great advice, which offers advice on choosing fonts and how to pair them, and Fonts for apps: choosing the right one.
  • Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton is a guide that teaches you how to handle text, from its smallest element (letters) to its most complex structure (layout). The handbook is packed full of exercises, examples and mistakes to avoid.
  • Just My Type. A Book About Fonts is a book by Simon Garfield on the history of typography. It tells the story of the over 100,000 fonts and typefaces in the world, including plenty of interesting and unusual facts.

Now you have everything you need to make the right choice. Good luck!

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