Font choice can make or break your book cover design. There are just too many typefaces out there, and without years of training and the time and money to experiment, it’s probably safer to go with traditional styles for most book publishing projects.
There are other things to consider, too, like commercial licenses if you’re selling a book. Then you have to confirm that the font is designed properly. We’ve all seen fonts where the spacing between the letters (tracking) is uneven, but if you’re only using a font for a title, it’s often easy enough to manually make a few adjustments by kerning (adjusting) the space between the letters or adjusting the baseline (the invisible line text sits on). It’s not something you’d want to do for an entire block of 12 pt text, though.
You also have to make sure the font you choose is available in all the styles and weights you may need, like bold, italics, small caps, etc.. Using “faux” styles is not a good idea and often doesn’t work. And make sure the font includes upper and lower case letters, all the punctuation, and numbers. There’s nothing more frustrating than working for hours on a project only to discover there’s an accent glyph (letter or number or shape form) or punctuation mark not available.
With all that in mind, many people have embraced the ever-growing list of awesome free fonts offered by several designers, as well as Google Fonts and FontSquirrel (still, read the license). There are a few of my current favourite fonts, in no particular order. Most have multiple weights and styles and all have full character sets. (Click on the font name to get to the download page):
- Goudy StM is the font I used on Lady Sophia’s Choice, shown below. Nice serif font that would have lots of purposes. Regular and italic versions available.
- Oswald Bold is a font family I’ve fallen in love with. It currently has 15 weights and styles to choose from, so I can use it for the title, quotes, back cover text, pretty much any place I’d like something to stand out a bit. It even has a stencil version! I used Oswald Bold on Working Musician shown at the end of this article.
- Cinzel is a super popular font that is in danger of becoming overused and going the way of Papyrus and Scriptina. I see it everywhere. However, I still really like it and used it on a few covers (before the rest of the world discovered it). I like to mix both the Cinzel regular font, with the Cinzel Decorative, because I find the Decorative is just too ornamental if used on every letter. I mixed the two for The Boundary Stone, below.
- Open Sans is the font I used most often these days. As a Google font, it can be used on websites, print materials — you name it. Open Sans is the font used on Building Twitter Community, displayed below. It has 10 weights and styles, and an additional three styles available with it’s sister project, Open Sans Condensed. I’m often looking for condensed and narrow fonts when book titles have long words.
- Cormorant This massive font project currently downloads with 45 files in five different styles, with nine weights. Two of my favourite things about this font are that it has a small caps style in several weights, which is really important to me because there’s nothing worse than the uneven letter weights you get trying to fake small caps, and Cormorant offers several decorative display versions, such as Cormorant Upright, that I’m currently experimenting with on a book cover design project. There’s also a Cormorant Garamond.
- Kenyan Coffee by Typodermic Fonts is a typeface I’ve been using for years. He describes it as 1960’s inspired, but it has an Art Deco feel to it, when using upper and lower case. And, maybe it’s just me, but I think it also has a sci-fi vibe. I almost always use it in only uppercase, and it’s not a generic font that will work for all projects, but it is definitely worth owning. It’s now for sale, but it you scroll down the sales’ page, you’ll find four weights/styles are available free.
- League Gothic is a font most designers have. It’s a nice, heavy font that offers an alternative to Impact, which has been overused in the market. League Gothic was designed in 1903. Proof that a well-designed font is timeless.
- Steelfish is another Typodermic font. Since it’s release in 2001, it’s moved up in the world with expanded styles which are not free. However, if you go to the link and scroll down, you’ll find the seven free versions still available. It’s another font with an Art Deco feel to it, but it can be used creatively for various book genres.