Editor’s Note: Why stop at 10? This post was edited May 2019 to add 10 more free fonts to the list!
Great t-shirt design can accomplish a lot of things. Ideally, your t-shirt should represent your brand well, look fantastic, and clearly communicate a message that makes the wearer proud. When aiming to create a t-shirt design with all of these elements, there is perhaps nothing more important than choosing the perfect typeface(s). Check out our guide to effectively using fonts in your t-shirt designs, plus 10 free t-shirt font downloads.
Unless your around fonts a lot, spending time sifting through all of them to find the right one can be tedious and monotonous. However, it’s absolutely worth it to do, because even the most subtle differences in font can make a world’s difference.
Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, didn’t underestimate the importance of fonts in design. After dropping out from college, he decided to take a class in typography, which he credited with playing a major role in Apple’s success. Jobs on that class: “If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.”
The Importance of Type and Design is also what causes Apple to pour tons of resources and an in-house design team into creating a new custom typeface, San Francisco, to replace the incredibly similar one they used prior, Helvetica Neue.
The takeaway: this stuff matters.
Choosing a typeface is like any other art form; there are best practices and suggestions to follow, but ultimately, it can come down to personal preference. That being said, following some suggestions can help you arrive at your perfect typeface a lot faster. So lets cover the four basic types of fonts, and what each one is good for.
The graphic above shows the four biggest font types: Serif, Sans Serif, Script, and Display (or Decorative). The top two, Serif and Sans Serif, are both commonly used for smaller text in a design because they’re very legible, but not all that exciting. Script and Display fonts, however, typically serve best as the focal point of a t-shirt design. Since they’re unique and exciting, these are often the elements you want to design around.
The shirt above is a great example. The focal point of the t-shirt design is this really cool custom script typeface with some neat texturing, supplemented nicely with an easy-to-read font below. Ironically, this shirt follows all of the rules.
Like we said earlier though (and is reiterated by the design above), rules are made to be broken, and when broken in the right context, can create something really special.
We mentioned that Script and Display fonts are best as focal points, while Serif and Sans Serif are best for support text. The t-shirt above smashes that rule though. It’s a Sans Serif font in black, on a white t-shirt — couldn’t sound more boring. However, it looks great! The straightforward message paired with the no-nonsense feel of this design makes it work really well. So, don’t be afraid to break rules where you see it fit.
Once you know the main font types and what they’re good for, choosing one for your design will be a lot easier. Asking these three questions will help you narrow down your font options.
Fonts used to be pretty hard to come by, but nowadays they’re so easy to find that the volume of choices makes it overwhelming. So, we decided to sift through for you and pluck out 10 of our favorite free fonts for t-shirt design, including the link to download them (click the font name to download).
Need more tools to start designing? All of the above images were created using our t-shirt templates and backgrounds. So, grab all of the downloads and get designing! We can’t wait to see what you come up with next.