Oct 11 2009

45 Outstanding Free Vintage Fonts

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In his famous 1908 essay, ‘Ornament and Crime,’ modern architect Adolf Loos wrote: “The evolution of culture marches with the elimination of ornament from useful objects.” This pronouncement banished many of the frilly, decorative fonts of centuries past from the realm of High Design. Fast forward to the present day: Web 3.0 is awash in enough sleek sans serif and classic roman typefaces to make designers long for the typographic indulgences of yesteryear.

Harness the power of the antique and make your graphics pop with one of these vintage-inspired fonts, which have returned to the spotlight both in print and online. From the Wild West and Victoriana to the Avant Garde and Calligraphy, there are plenty of styles to choose from. Fonts have been grouped informally, with contemporary interpretations alongside (almost) original prototypes. All are available free for personal use, but please make sure to read the license agreements carefully.

Wood Type and Display Fonts

Carnivalee Freakshow
This distressed, wood-type-inspired font has the shabby charm of an old sideshow banner. Equal parts macabre and cheeky, it is appropriate for graphics ranging from the irreverent to the horrific.

Carnivalee

Circus Ornate
Dieter Steffmann’s Circus Ornate captures the spirit of classic circus graphics, but still stands on its own as an ornamental, boisterous display font.

Circus Ornate

Coffee Tin (similar to the Rosewood font)
Inspired by fonts like Rosewood and Ponderosa, which are modeled after the display fonts of the late 18th century, Coffee Tin reinterprets old-fashioned advertising graphics with contemporary clarity.

Coffee Tin

Dirty Ames
This is another beautiful distressed font that draws inspiration from 19th century display types. The Typeology foundry based this font and its name on an 1884 typeface by D.T. Ames.

Dirty Ames

Egyptienne
Another antique beauty by Dieter Steffmann, Egyptienne Zierinitialen turns two-dimensional letters into florid three-dimensional sculptures.

Egyptienne

JF Ringmaster
A vintage beauty by Jester Font Studio.

JF Ringmaster

Nasty
Nasty is Eduardo Recife’s dilapidated “remix” of the Extra Ornamental typeface created by House of Lime. It comes in two styles: Recife suggests mixing them, too.

Nasty

Showboat
Shareware designer, David Rakowski, designed this font in 1991. 17 years later, its balance of monumentality and delicacy makes it a blast from the past that looks memorable in the present.

Showboat

Tuscan
Rick Mueller’s Tuscan is one of his many vintage-inspired fonts, though its combination of sinuous contours and ample weight makes it memorable. This font has the flair of an antique display face without the fuss.

Tuscan

Fusty Saddle
Inspired by Sideshow, from Harold’s Fonts, Fusty Saddle is a hand-drawn, Wild West-inspired font made digital. Bittbox not only provides you with a font but a definition: “fusty,” according to their site, means “old-fashioned in attitude and style.”

Fusty Saddle

Nashville
This digital adaptation of wood-type, with a Wild West twang, was designed by Matthew Austin Petty of Disturbed Type. Like a cowboy’s stubble, rough edges and scruffy surfaces make this font a more masculine antique.

Nashville

Azteak
From the independent digital type foundry, Fountain, Azteak combines traces of the past with dreams from the future. Underneath this font’s embellishments are mechanical footprints, adding a hint of steampunk.

Azteak

AngeGardien
The name of this font is derived from the French for “guardian angel,” and its capital letters are indeed guarded by winged figures. AngeGardien’s combination of daintiness and strength, shared with other great vintage typefaces, might be what makes it worthy of protection.

Bujardet

Antique and Renaissance Fonts

Caslon Antique
Caslon Antique is what an original, 18th century Caslon type might look like now: a little worn around the edges, but no less steadfast. This interpretation of the classic Caslon serif adds age and wisdom to a text without sacrificing legibility.

Caslon Antique

Dominican
Another decayed antique face with loads of personality, Dominican is inspired by the time-battered beauty of antiquarian books.

Dominican

Old Dog New Tricks
An unusual all-caps font, Old Dog New Tricks dips below the baseline to add interest to an otherwise classic serif. Its combination of Deco and antiquarian influence may make its pedigree murky, but remix culture dictates that the offspring of unexpected unions can create truly singular forms.

Old Dog New Tricks

Cardo
Designed by David J. Perry in 2003, Cardo was created for scholarly use in classical and medieval languages. The slight angularity of this font recalls manuscripts and stone inscriptions alike.

Cardo

Blackletter and Calligraphic Fonts

Faith Collapsing
The shaky baseline and faded letters might make it seem disorderly, but this font is strong enough to support any layout that is incorrigible enough to merit it.

Faith Collapsing

Kraut Type-A-F**k
Based on the title typeface for P.T. Anderson’s 2007 film, this font demonstrates the effect that the Wild West can have on a traditional blackletter.

Kraut

Olde English
The Olde English typeface is an interesting example of how a typeface, despite its associations in one time and place, can easily become affiliated with another. Though its forms are inspired by medieval German blackletter types, Olde English is actually named for the Old English language—which was printed in Insular script.

Olde English

Alte Schwabacher
The Schwabacher typeface got its name from the German village of Schwabach, and its appearance from manuscript calligraphy. Though it was used only occasionally in Germany after the 16th century, its legacy is central to the history of the printed book.

Ulte Schawabacher

Fette Fraktur
Fraktur was used extensively in German printing up through the 20th century, and comes in many variations. Fette Fraktur is a heavy, relaxed version that manages to be legible to the Antiqua-trained eye without losing its distinctive appearance.

Fette Fraktur

FLW Script
This font was designed to induce nostalgia for the early years of baseball, when stadiums were still named after neighborhoods and people. In the spirit of vintage baseball jerseys, this script is as jaunty as it is rugged.

FLW Script

Wrexham Script
Wrexham Script is a more condensed and angular sports-inspired font with a vintage flair.

Wrexham Script

ALS Script
With the abundance of handwriting fonts available on the web, it can be easy to forget that the simple script typeface has its precedents in centuries of practiced and often professional penmanship. ALS Script, with its balance and elegance, is a font worthy of this heritage: its forms recall the official handwriting of the 18th and 19th centuries.

ALS Script

Adine Kirnberg
Despite Loos’ warnings against ornament, the decorative curlicues of Adine Kirnberg do not disrupt its readability or its effectiveness. This well-designed cursive, with its delicate hint of the antique, is not mere wedding-invitation fare.

Adine Kirnberg

Ecolier
This upright cursive is as architectural as it is ornate. The Deco-tinged contours of Ecolier seem to draw their inspiration from the delicate curves of calligraphy as well as the towering forms of modern engineering.

Ecolier

Olho de Boi
According to designer Billy Argel, Olho de Boi is a font inspired by the first Brazilian postage stamp released on August 1, 1843. The idiosyncratic scratches and loops make this script seem to come straight out of old letters.

Olho de Boi

Treasure Map Deadhand
There may only be one International Talk Like A Pirate Day, but why not write like a pirate every other day? This font is aptly named: the pirate-inspired scrawl resembles the waterlogged italics of a lost treasure map.

Treasure Map Deadhand

Nouveau and Deco Fonts

Fletcher Gothic
From Casady & Greene, Fletcher Gothic is an Art Nouveau font with clean lines and striking details: use it to bring turn-of the-century style to this century’s graphics.

Fletcher Gothic

Hadley
The curvilinear forms of this font recall the plant-like contours of Art Nouveau. Hadley brings an organic quality to text that allows it to refer to the past without losing its contemporary relevance.

Hadley

Secesja
If Alphonse Mucha had designed a font, Secesja might be it. Sinuous serifs and spiraling ornaments make the letterforms burst with life.

Secesja

Trinigan
In the early 1900s, Charles Dana Gibson’s pen and ink drawings of corseted women with bouffant hairstyles came to be known as “Gibson Girls.” Trinigan, with its undulating arms and hourglass stems, revives this classic figure in typographic form.

Trinigan

Parisian
George Williams’ Parisian font at once evokes a sidewalk café, a theater marquee, and the hushed crackle of a phonograph.

Parisian

Michelle FLF
The geometric winding of this all-caps font almost resembles musical notation. Still, Michelle’s typographic potential is clearly not limited to ragtime and jazz.

Michelle FLF

Bodoni Ultra
Though there are many modern revivals of Bodoni’s orginal typeface that align it more readily with Times New Roman than times past, Bodoni Ultra is a striking exception. The dramatic alternation between thick and thin strokes echoes Chauncey H. Griffith’s 1929 Bodoni Poster typeface, used widely in popular print media.

Bodoni Ultra

Sesame
Jugend magazine, the publication that helped launch the German Art Nouveau movement (“Jugendstil”), was a trendsetter when it came to the graphic and decorative arts of the late 19th century. Sesame is a font in the spirit of a Jugend cover: lavish, distinctive, and eccentric.

Sesame

Conga Line
Betty Boop meets Broadway in a Conga Line: the 1930s charm of this font comes from its blend of cartoonish bounce and cinematic monumentality.

Conga Line

Tall Deco
Another architectural font, Tall Deco suggests the glass and ironwork of modern skyscrapers.

Tall Deco

Modern and Avant Garde Fonts

Engimatic
Enigmatic and Waukegan echo the softened rectangular shapes of Bell Gothic, a typeface ommissioned by AT&T in the 1930s for use in telephone directories. Bell Gothic was and is a highly recognizable typeface that has been used for avant garde as well as popular graphics.

Enigmatic

Waukegan

Waukegan

akaChen (in the spirit of Clarendon)
This font bears a marked resemblance to the Clarendon typeface, which was first designed in the mid-19th century and has been used frequently in display work.

akaChen

Pardoes (echoes De Stijl typefaces)
Reminiscent of De Stijl artwork of the 1920s, such as the paintings of Piet Mondrain, Pardoes is abstract and geometric without being illegible.

Pardoes

Agit Prop
A font in the spirit of Soviet Constructivism, Agit Prop is intended to convey the graphic essence of Bolshevist agitation and propaganda. Whether or not you agree with the politics behind the design, it’s difficult to deny this font’s stark and monumental beauty.

Agit Prop

Further Resources

About the Author

Comments and Discussions
  • Heather, 11 October 2009

    Oooo some lovely fonts here! I can see me downloading quite a few of them.

  • Smair Habib, 12 October 2009

    Thanks for this, great post.

    Can’t wait to use these badboys.

  • LogoBliss, 12 October 2009

    heck, those are some awsome fonts…bookmarked.

  • joyoge bookmark, 12 October 2009

    nice fonts, thanks for share..

  • Impressed, 12 October 2009

    Really impressed by Dieter Steffmann’s work.

    Thanks for this.

  • jenjen, 12 October 2009

    akaChen is a lookalike for Aachen, designed for Letraset in the 60s. Not sure it’s supposed to have anything specifically to do with Clarendon? Excellent collection!

  • madco, 12 October 2009

    it should be Alte Schwabacher not Ulte, great collection btw

  • squareart, 12 October 2009

    This is a great collection of some classics, thanks for compiling – bookmarked definitely!

  • Carlos Alberto Teixeira, 12 October 2009

    Totally amazing. Congrats!

    - c.a.t.

  • Carlos Alberto Teixeira, 12 October 2009

    Very good stuff. Thanks!

  • Morcom, 12 October 2009

    Some really great fonts here which I shall definately be using in the future.
    Thanks for the this useful information.

  • Serkan Gurkan, 12 October 2009

    Thanks for this, great post.

  • Josh, 12 October 2009

    Really nice fonts here. Thank you :)

  • Émilie, 12 October 2009

    Lovely fonts! : )
    Thank you.

  • Sarah Lynn, 12 October 2009

    Great collection! Thanks for sharing. I really enjoy the font named Secesja. Very interesting :)

  • Ben, 13 October 2009

    Great Fonts! thanks.

  • Maidstone, 13 October 2009

    Thanks for the share, some interesting fonts of which i’m sure at least a few will be put to good use at some point

  • arun, 13 October 2009

    nice stuff thanx :)

  • Casey Valiant, 13 October 2009

    Nice! I’m sure a few of those will make it into some upcoming signage projects.

    Thanks for the resources.

    CaseyV

  • Quicken Websites, 14 October 2009

    wow! some nice collection!!! thanks for sharing!

  • InternetHow Blog, 14 October 2009

    Actually I was trying to find some good fonts. Thanks for sharing.

  • jj, 14 October 2009

    Alte Schwabacher, not Ulte

  • Ahmed, 16 October 2009

    Very nice font collection thanks

  • jocelyn, 17 October 2009

    these are great!

  • River, 19 October 2009

    Thanks for these vintage fonts.

  • usuk, 23 October 2009

    oh great some stupid fonts that are barely legible.

  • Jen Ruhman, 26 October 2009

    Love this hand picked selection because these fonts aren’t over used. Nice and tasteful. Thank you!

    • niramala, 09 November 2009

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  • Texas Takeover, 17 November 2009

    These are nice

  • BEN, 27 November 2009

    Awesome list of resources! Thank you for sharing.

    I would just like to add one more set of typography resources and that is the forum of http://www.pilo.me

    It is a private typography forum with an unbelievable amount of free fonts, premium fonts and exclusive typefaces. I think it was voted the best typography forum of 2009. If you are a font lover/addict, check it out. Like I said though, it is either private or invite only. I have never seen a typography site like it with all it has to offer. Anyhow, check it out, pilo.me

    Anyhow, great article, I definitely will be referring to these time to time.

  • Frank Joe, 08 January 2010

    Good fonts are so hard to find. I am sure glad to find some.

  • JustTearless, 07 July 2010

    Thx your Very much. ^^

    Nice front.

  • Taimur Asghar, 30 August 2010

    Awesome vintage fonts, specially thanks for wood fonts

  • Theriaka, 06 January 2011

    Fabulous! I can’t wait to make use of some of these.

  • Damfour, 07 January 2011

    Thank you for the great links. Very cool of you to post. :)
    Ciao,
    DT

  • Giselle, 12 February 2011

    Love the fonts! Thank you so much!

  • Evan, 21 February 2011

    Thanks man! I’m looking for some old fashioned fonts that would look kinda like the old west so these will help immensely. Thank you!

  • Cynthia, 10 April 2011

    These are too beautiful. Thanks for sharing with us! I’m really taken with the font called “nasty”. Grunge is always good in my book .

  • Tonuke, 07 May 2011

    Beautiful example of vintage typography used in a contemporary context

    http://www.betleywhitehorne.com/bwlog/2011/05/live-the-language/

  • madelyn, 11 May 2011

    how do you open these in microsoft word 2007?

  • Mr.Fisk, 27 May 2011

    Hey The font Kraut Type-A-Fuck is not based on PT Andersons movie. I made the font, he found it, he bought it (for a underprice because his assistant lured me into believing it was for a independent film.. Goddammit, I sometimes hate hollywood) and used it for his movie. End of story.

  • flyerboy_uk, 13 July 2011

    Love this collection. Nice to see an accessable ‘rosewood’ copy.

  • JI, 11 December 2011

    AWESOME FONTS :) B)

  • GregK, 19 January 2012

    Thank you for this great selection of display fonts. I’m a fan of the vintage seed packages and want carry on/ revive that look with a contemporary flare.
    Thanks!

  • Michael Folger, 19 February 2012

    Hi. I love this post, but unfortunately (at least to me) most of the links are broken. If this problem is not locally accorded to my computer, please update the links and email me so I can view them. This resource is valuable.

    Thank you,
    Michael

  • Robert Bowen, 20 February 2012

    Not sure why you would have any problems with the links. Yes, the images are for some reason not showing up, but the links still take you to the website where the fonts are located. I tested 6 random links myself before replying.

    Sorry. Not sure what to do for you other than tell you to try again. :( If it still doesn’t work, please do let us know.

    Noupe Editorial Team

  • Amy, 25 February 2012

    The images are what is broken. Not the links….

  • Rachel, 28 February 2012

    I’m also getting broken image links.

  • Heather, 09 April 2012

    It’s too bad the images of the fonts are broken, but this is a great list. Thank you.

  • Joshua Rice, 14 July 2012

    Almost all of the font images don’t work… I would have loved to check out some of these fonts but I just don’t have time to download each one just to see if I like it. Too bad really.

  • Seraphyn, 20 August 2012

    Font Images not working.
    Said since feb 2012
    We have august now
    Plz fix it

  • Rob, 14 September 2012

    I use some of these for my shirts.

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