One of the coolest things about modern computers is how well they handle type – at least, if you’re a typography nerd like yours truly, of course. A virtually infinite number of fonts are available across the web, both from free websites and subscription-only font libraries.
So what is the ‘best font’? Is there even really such a thing? I’d say no, but there is such a thing as the right font for your particular project.
An elegant serif would probably send the wrong message when used on a flyer for a rock concert, even though it would make a great book. Trying to use a handwriting font for the user interface of an app will probably drive your users crazy, but it would look great when used for a different project.
That being said, there are a few fonts that are useful time and time again, both design classics and trending options that you’ll want to use in lots of your work. If you’re not sure what makes one particular font the best, then I’ve got you covered!
We’ll start with the list of great fonts to use for your project, but if you want to learn more, I’ve also included some important info about typography and some places where you can find new fonts to expand your creative horizons later on in the post.
- The Best Fonts in GIMP
- A Few Typography Basics
- Finding More of The Best Fonts
- A Final Word About Fonts In GIMP
The Best Fonts in GIMP
Before we dive into the list of the best fonts you can use in GIMP, it’s important to point out that there are tens of thousands of fonts out there for every possible situation and personal style.
In other words, these are just some of the best fonts in GIMP that appeal to me, but I’ve tried to choose some that will look good across a range of projects and styles.
When choosing a font, make sure you go through and check out each letterform that you’re going to be using, especially if it’s going to be used in a logo or other similar situation where the visual focus will be on each letterform.
It’s also worth pointing out that not all of them are free – some require purchasing from the type foundry, or a subscription to Adobe Fonts.
Originally inspired by the street signage in the Montserrat neighborhood of Buenos Aires, this beautiful font has an impressive range of weights for any occasion. The Thin and Black fonts shown below at the extreme ends of the weight spectrum are worth special note.
2. Proxima Nova
If you like the modern sans serif look but you want even more variations than Montserrat offers, Proxima Nova might do the job. 16 different weight options for the main font are nice enough, but there are 16 more for the Condensed version and yet another 16 for the Extra Condensed version.
Text samples sourced from Adobe Fonts, where you can also grab any of the 48 different available variants.
Designed by the well-respected Adrian Frutiger for the Linotype font foundry, Avenir is another great sans serif that offers a nice range of weights for any project.
Unfortunately, Avenir is only available from MyFonts, which prices each variant individually.
4. Brandon Grotesque
The last few typefaces have been very big on geometric influence, but Brandon Grotesque has nicely rounded corners that give it a bit of a softer look. You might even recognize this one from The GIMP Tutorials images used around the site!
5. Museo Slab
This typeface belongs to a class of serif fonts known as ‘slab serifs’. As you might guess from the name, the serifs aren’t delicate flourishes but instead are solid slabs that hold a lot of the font’s visual weight.
6. Garamond Premier Pro
For setting more text or a more classical look, it’s hard to go wrong with Garamond. There is an astonishing number of different attempts to recreate the work of 16th-century type designer Claude Garamond, but Garamond Premier Pro by Robert Slimbach is a great option.
7. Playfair Display
A wide variation in stroke width can create a nice flow and tone throughout your text, and Playfair definitely fits the bill. A very florid italic continues the tradition of extreme contrast within the strokes.
Another popular serif font, Plantain shares design roots with the popular Times New Roman font, but it’s much nicer in my opinion (and many other typographers feel the same!).
9. Freight Text
Freight Text is perfect for setting large amounts of text. It also highlights the fact that many fonts are available from multiple sources. If you can’t find it with one service, try another!
Last but certainly not least, we come to Amasis. While many serif fonts offer a significant stroke width variation, Amasis has a certain solidity that some other fonts lack.
Those are just some of the best fonts you can use in GIMP! But if you really want to get the most out of your new font collection, read on for more info about the wonderfully weird world of typography, and find some great spots to find even more of the best fonts for GIMP.
A Few Typography Basics
The best fonts in the world are no good if you don’t know how to use them, so I’m going to discuss a few typography basics in this post to make sure that you get the most out of your fonts in GIMP – or if you prefer, out of your typefaces.
Fonts vs. Typefaces
For most people, the terms font and typeface mean the same thing – but for a graphic designer there’s a specific difference, so it’s worth explaining it quickly while I’ve got the chance.
A typeface is made up of a whole family of different fonts. For example, Helvetica is a typeface, but Helvetica Bold 40pt is a font. Helvetica Thin 12pt is a very different font with a very different appearance, even though it’s still a part of the Helvetica typeface.
If you want to learn more, here’s a great explanation of how we got here by Claire Green. So while it’s useful to know the difference between the two, there isn’t much reason to get snippy about correct usage, and so I use the two terms interchangeably in the more modern style.
What’s A Serif?
Many font websites divide their collections into categories for easy searching, so some basic typography terms will help you choose a good font for your project in GIMP. Perhaps the most basic distinction between fonts is whether or not the letterforms have serifs.
Serif fonts are a classical style of type design where each letterform has small flourishes that help your eye move along a line of text as you read, as you can see in the comparison sample below.
Sans serif fonts are a much more modern invention that does away with the added flourishes – ‘sans’ simply means ‘without’, so ‘sans serif’ means ‘without serif’. These fonts became very popular with the advent of computers because serif fonts can be very difficult to read on low-resolution screens, but they were invented long before computers.
As I mentioned earlier, choosing the right font for your project is essential – but in most projects, you’ll want to use more than one. It’s not usually a good idea to include too many at once either because it can be visually distracting, but a couple of well-chosen fonts that work together well can make your design a success.
A classic strategy is to use one font for headings and another font for your main areas of text, which are also known as ‘body copy’. These pairings often match a serif font with a sans serif font, but you can pair any fonts together that create the effect that you’re looking for.
Of course, it all depends on what you’re working on! Choosing the right font pairings can be a work of art all by itself, so be sure to explore and experiment with as many different options as you can find.
There are a number of sites dedicated to good font pairings, and some of the sites that host a lot of fonts also provide pairing advice.
Finding More of The Best Fonts
Since GIMP can use any font that’s installed on your computer, you’ve got a huge number of websites and font collection services to choose from, each filled with thousands of different typefaces. No matter what quirky thing you’re looking for, you’re almost guaranteed to find the perfect font for your project in one of these resources.
DaFont is one of the oldest free font resources on the web, and it has built a huge collection of fonts covering every possible style you could imagine. The collection is a bit haphazard, so you won’t always find the same degree of quality and completeness in these typefaces – don’t expect complete glyph sets or even bold/italics for most of them – but there is an endless supply.
Be careful about following any licensing requirements when using fonts from DaFont, though. There’s very little oversight to ensure that the person sharing the font on the website actually has the licensing rights to do so, which might cause problems if you’re using them for a commercial project.
If you’re making money with your type projects, it might be worth sticking to the curated collections from Google, Adobe, Monotype, and the rest.
Google Fonts is one of the best free font collections available today. It offers a curated selection of modern and classically-styled typefaces, and you’ll never have to worry about missing glyph sets or other issues that plague the fonts from more chaotic sites like DaFont.
But perhaps the best thing about Google Fonts is that it’s all free! You can easily download any or all of the fonts for use with any program or project, which makes them perfect for use with GIMP – especially if keeping your entire workflow free and open-source is important to you (or if you’re just on a tight budget).
Adobe Fonts / Adobe Typekit
This service can’t seem to make up its mind about its name (perhaps in part because of the ‘font vs. typeface’ debate), but it has a truly impressive collection of typefaces from some of the most popular and famous type designers in the world.
Most of these are only available to those with a Creative Cloud or Typekit subscription, but there are also a number of freely available fonts if you dig deep enough. If you do a lot of work with typography, I think it’s worth it to pay for access to this constantly expanding collection.
MyFonts is owned and operated by Monotype, one of the larger type foundries from back in the pre-digital days. They have a large collection of typefaces, but their licensing requirements are often quite strange. For example, they allow you to use their fonts when creating websites but then price their licensing fees on the number of page views your site receives.
The pricing is also quite steep for each typeface in my opinion, although you receive a perpetual license to use the font. This may appeal to users who dislike the Adobe Fonts subscription model where you are effectively renting the license to use them.
MyFonts does have one very useful feature the others lack, though: a font-detection service called ‘What the Font?’ which helps you track down which font is being used in a particular project.
You just upload an image containing some text, and it tracks down the likeliest matches from the database – all for free!
A Final Word About Fonts In GIMP
GIMP is an excellent image editor, but it’s not really intended for doing a lot of typesetting. As a result, its typographic options can be a bit frustrating to use, especially when compared to some other programs that are more type-friendly.
If you really love typography and open source software, I strongly recommend that you think about using the free vector editor Inkscape for your next typography project. It’s got a much more capable typography system with more options and a much smoother user experience for this kind of work.
If you’re really determined to use GIMP for your typographic project, then you have everything you need to get started. You’ve got some of the best fonts, you’ve got some basic type knowledge, and hopefully, you’ve got a creative vision of your masterpiece.
Do you have a favorite font that you’d like to have included in the list? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll consider it!About Thomas Boldt