Have you ever felt the frustration of needing to find a font for a specific client or project.? Or maybe you’ve experienced the excitement of seeing a font and suddenly blurting out “That’s perfect for my brand!” If you’re like me it happens at least once a day. So raise your hand if you’re addicted to fonts too.

It’s ok to admit it.

You’re in a safe place in which we know that choosing the right font can be just as important as the photos and textures that they’re paired with. And we all know that it’s sometimes hard to find the perfect font that conveys the look and feel of our message.

But how do you know what font it is if you happened to find it out “in the wild?” How can you identify fonts and typefaces if you only have a photo?

Continue forward my foraging font fanatics to discover all the ways you can analyze even the most mysterious fonts.

1. Automate It!

As you know, our team at RELAY is a huge fan of automating difficult or repetitive tasks. While automating typeface identification may not work every time, these free services are certainly some of the most accurate ones available. And even when they can’t find the exact font they still do a great job in recommending close alternatives.

In addition to being fun to say, WhatTheFont! is one of the best places to start your journey. This easy to use tool, developed by MyFonts, is paired with one of the largest font databases available. Start by uploading (or adding a link to) any image and the system will do it’s best to display relevant matches. You can also check out their Font Forum to get feedback from other font experts.

Here’ s a few tips to get the best results.

  • When the font is a script font or if the letters are connected, separate them in any image editing software before uploading.
  • Images that include gradients or transparency (like .png files) are harder to diagnose. To fix this problem, flatten images onto a white background, and add threshold as seen in this video.
  • If the image is blurry or pixelated or blurry, try to trace the image and cover the font characters with fly, bold shapes.
  • When the images is too small, do a reverse image search with Tineye Reverse Image Search to find a larger version.

A few other options to try are Fontspring’s Matcherator as well as the website WhatFontIs. Here’s a fun explainer video that explains the process. They have smaller font libraries but do a great job with the recognition of shapes when WhatTheFont! doesn’t provide a great match.

2. Search By Sight

If you need to identify a font that’s printed on a magazine, sign, or even a neon sign at a bar you’ll need a little more control of the identification process. These are also great options when you want to keep your image private.

Identifont  and Fonts.com “By Sight Tool are powerful tools that provides more interaction and can yield better results.

These sites asks series of questions about your font to attempt to identify it. As you provide more information about the basic features (such as whether it has serifs) you’ll be able to refine your search based on the characteristics of particular letters. There’s a few newer sites that also streamline the process a bit at Bowfin Printworks

[twitter=“So many fonts, so little time!”]

Knowing just a few letters can even be a good thing because Identifont provides the option to enter the letters you do have, or even give the specific year if you know it. In both options you’ll be presented with a list of fonts that best match the descriptions that you provided.

3. Use Browser Add-Ons

For a truly interactive experience right within your browser check out these Chrome and Safari extensions. I just found out about Fount and TypeSample which are a few of the easiest bookmarklets that I’ve installed and used. All you have to do is install the bookmarklet and then click on the type you want to identify. Fount in particular tells you which web font in your font-stack you are actually seeing – not just what is supposed to be seen. It also tells you the font size, weight, and style.

I’ve also found WhatFont to be easy to use. After installing it, just click the extension button and hover over the font you’d like to learn more about. If you further click the text, an information panel will appear with the size, height, color and even the font family.

If browser add-ons aren’t your thing you can also try FontEdge. It works a bit more like a web application and serves as a great resource.

4. Be A Code Digger

If you don’t might rolling up your sleeves and getting a little nerdy, one of the the best ways to identify a font online is to use Google Chrome’s “Inspect Element” option. Select the text to be examined & then right-click to display the right-click menu. Click “Inspect Element” in the menu to open a docked window below (or a separate window) containing the HTML code of the page. In the right tabbed window, under “Styles” tab, locate the first entry for font-family which isn’t striked through.

The font-family entry will look something like: “Helvetica Neue”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif

In that example Helvetica Neue is the primary font that is used and is most preferred font. The alternative fonts are also listed and the last entry in the list is the generic font family. This shows the text using a font of the same family if none of the specified fonts are available on the computer displaying the page.

You can look up tags such as font-size & font-weight (first non striked through entries) to exactly replicate the text style.

[twitter=“Be bold or italic. Never regular.”]

5. Ask Font Communities

When all else fails sometimes the best way to identify a font is to ask the web. You’ll often be surprised at how quick and helpful others will be. Here’s a few of our favorites to use.

  • As far as font identification communities Reddit’s IdentifyThisFont Subreddit is one of the busiest.
  • Not only does the DaFont have an incredible library of free fonts but their preview tool and forum bak it an amazing place to identify and download your favorite fonts.
  • TypeID (aka Typolphile) is an excellent bulletin board community to post an image of the font you’re looking for. There are over 150 pages of archived threads filled with font experts that are happy to help.
  • flickr has a smaller group called Fonts in Use which that’s dedicated to identifying fonts.

In summary

Before we part ways it’s worth mention that many of these options provide outbound links to sites that want you to but single fonts or entire font families. Some of the libraries even exclude the free versions in an effort to encourage that purchase. There are a lot of free alternatives if you find yourself on a budget.

With these tips you will almost always be able to find the font, or at least a very similar font. If you’re still hungry for more knowledge or inspiration you might find the following links useful as well.

Additional Resources

Search Pinterest for “fontspirational boards” – https://www.pinterest.com/search/pins/?q=fonts
The History of Typography – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOgIkxAfJsk

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