10 free typography apps for designers

Typographers, this one’s for you – our pick of some of the best free typography apps that can make your font-oriented life a little easier and, in some cases, a lot more fun. Enjoy!

01. PicLab

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  • Platform: iOS (iPhone and iPad), Android

PicLab makes it easy to add typography to your photos, offering lots of fonts and full control over size, positioning, opacity, rotation, and colour. You can also do other things like layer illustrations, ornamentation and other design elements on top of your image.

02. Typecast (Google Fonts version)

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  • Platform: Web

Monotype teamed up with Google to release a free public version of Typecast which can be accessed through Google Fonts. It enables you to select any font on the Google Fonts website and then follow the link to the Typecast app.

From there, you can work with that font on text of any length and use a wide range of type controls to build clear, readable type systems through adjustments such as font size, weight and line spacing. Your work can be exported as production-ready HTML and CSS, or PNG files, to share with others or merge with comps.

03. Fontroid

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  • Platform: Android

Looking for Japanese handwriting fonts? Fontroid is a social font service that allows people to create and share their handwriting fonts with others all over the world.

04. Fonts

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  • Platform: iOS (iPhone and iPad)

Despite its incredibly unimaginitive name, free app Fonts helpfully displays all of the iPhone’s system fonts. The initial list is the font families, then each font (normal, bold, oblique) within the family and finally, details about each.

05. Tiff

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  • Platform: Web

This nifty little web app enables you to compare how letters look in different typefaces. Tiff is described as “a typeface diff tool that visually contrasts the differences between two fonts”. When you first open the page, the letters R, g, h and e are being displayed in Helvetica (‘Font A’). To change the font, click the blue ‘Hide’ button (which changes to ‘Display’) and start typing in the field. A drop-down menu of fonts will appear. Make a selection and the letters below will change accordingly.

To compare with another font, do the same in the ‘Font B’ field and the two fonts will appear next to each other. You can also change the selection of letters at the bottom of the page. And you can see the fonts close up by clicking on the square. At this point, Google Web Fonts is the only source of external fonts for Tiff, but Yu is working on including more font sources.

06. Fontest

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  • Platform: Android

Fontest is a developer and typography tool that helps you quickly preview how your favorite fonts are rendered on Android. Includes six high quality free fonts.

07. WhatTheFont

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  • Platform: iOS (iPhone), Web app

Everyone who works with typefaces and fonts at some point sees a piece of lettering and wonders what font is being used. WhatTheFont enables you to take a photo and – with a little luck – identify the font you’re looking at. Does it always work? No. But when it does, it’s a little slice of fried tech gold.

08. Paper by FiftyThree

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  • Platform: iOS (iPad)

“Ideas begin on paper”, is the slogan for this app, and that certainly used to be the case, but the move to digital’s scuppered that. Paper’s the closest thing on iOS to actual paper, offering a tactile experience via a bunch of bolt-on modules for sketching and colouring, which are useful for getting down font-design notes and ideas, especially if you’ve an iOS-compatible stylus handy.

09. Typefaces

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  • Platform: iOS (iPhone and iPad)

Although web fonts have come on a long way, it’s still useful to know the typefaces and fonts installed on a device. For whatever reason, Apple doesn’t provide a native viewing tool. But free app Typefaces, developed by kanotomo, ably comes to the rescue, listing iOS device fonts and also displaying available characters.

10. Quark DesignPad

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  • Platform: iOS (iPhone and iPad)

Quark’s free iPad app isn’t a typography tool per se – it’s instead a product for enabling you to rapidly wireframe grid-based designs. But given that many people who deal with typefaces and fonts on a daily basis also need to rapidly work up page layouts, we’d say DesignPad could become an indispensable part of your toolkit.

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