Trying to figure out how to identify a font? Whether you’re working on how to identify a font on a website, how to identify a font in a logo, or how to identify a font by image, we’ll help you get started. Learn about font basics and common font traits so you can narrow down your search and find what you need.
Intro to How to Figure Out a Font Style
Before we take a look at some specifics, like how to identify a font in a scanned document versus something like how to identify a font in a PDF, PSD, or other digital file—let’s start at the beginning.
If you’re going to try to identify a font, you’ll need the basics: how to figure out a font style. Perhaps it might be better to explain it as “how to find out a font type”, because we’ll begin with some of the most basic font classifications. Generally speaking, almost all fonts will fall into these basic categories:
- serif fonts
- sans serif fonts
- script fonts
Let’s take a look at an example of each.
Serif Fonts: The Fonts With Strokes at the Ends
A serif is a stroke or extra line at the end of a letter. Times New Roman, for example, is a very common and well-known serif font. Serifs can come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Take a look at this modern example. Notice how, for example, it looks like the letter “n” has “feet”. These extra ends are called serifs. Not every letter has to have visible serifs for the font to be considered a serif font, either. For example, notice how “o” and “e” don’t have visible serifs. We do, however, see them in the other letters. There aren’t necessarily strict rules on this font, especially with modern type design. We’ll take a look at some of the variety of serif styles a little later.
Sans Serif Fonts: There Are No Serifs Here
Sans serif fonts are literally fonts without serifs. Easy, right? Sans serif fonts are particularly popular in modern design. For example, this website’s text is a sans serif font. Microsoft Word’s default font is Calibri, a sans serif font.
Just like serif fonts, you can get a lot of variety in sans serif too. The main point here is to recognize what a sans serif looks like. Take a look at this example. Notice how, at the end of the letters, they stop abruptly. We don’t see “ends” here, like the ones we saw in the serif example.
Script Fonts: Cursive and Connecting Fonts
Then we have script fonts. Technically, this is a sans serif font (as it doesn’t have serifs). However, scripts are often grouped into their own category. A script font has fluid strokes, as we see in this example. They often mimic a handwritten or cursive look.
These three general classifications have sub-categories too. Use this brief guide to help you understand how to find out a font type.
None of the Above?
Then, sometimes, you might just stumble upon a font that seems to break all the rules. Take look at this example, below. Technically, this is a sans serif font. Note the ends of the letters here. No serifs! However, this color font is really graphical and unusual. It’s a display font, and when you’re trying to figure out how to identify a font, it can be good to note this. Display fonts are often quite visual and not suitable for body copy.
How to Figure Out a Font Style: Advanced
Now that we’ve taken a look at some font basics, let’s take a look at some sub-genres. You can use this info to help further narrow down what your mystery font might be.
However, keep the following in mind too: you might not have to find a perfect match. For example, let’s say I’m looking for a specific serif font. I can figure out what kind of serif font it is, and I might be able to find a similar replacement, using that style as my guide. In fact, sometimes, a font might not be easily available or accessible to you, no matter how hard you look. Identify what qualities you like, and then you’ll be able to find a similar or suitable alternative.
Serif Fonts: Old Style
Here’s an example of old style serif fonts. Notice how they have a slightly calligraphic quality. Take a look at the slight tilt or angle we see in the lowercase “o” too. The serifs themselves have a taper to them. Garamond is a popular old style font.
Want to see more examples of old style fonts? Check out this collection:
Serif Fonts: Transitional
Transitionals are kind of a mid-way between old style and modern serif fonts. Times New Roman is a popular example of a transitional serif typeface. Notice that we still see tapered serifs, but we’re not really seeing that calligraphic quality as much anymore. The “o” here is a great example; notice the lack of that slant.
Take a look at this collection for even more examples of transitional and similar fonts:
Serif Fonts: Didone
Didones are really quite visually different. Note the intense contrast in these letters. This means thick versus thin strokes. We also see a very harsh serif. It’s usually blunt, rather than tapered. Bodoni is a popular example of a Didone serif font.
Check out this article for even more examples of beautiful Didone typefaces:
Serif Fonts: Slab
Take a look at this slab serif font. Note the chunky serifs and how blunt they are. There’s no taper here. Rockwell is a popular example of a slab serif font. Note that slab serifs don’t necessarily have to be bold; the key here is that serif.
Want to see more stylish slab serif fonts? Check out this font collection:
Serif Fonts: Modern, Mixed, and More
Modern font design doesn’t necessarily follow type classifications and categories, although they often borrow aspects. That’s why it’s valuable to know what they are. For example, take a look at this fun serif font. It’s has a handwriting aesthetic, but would definitely be considered a serif font—it has serifs.
Sans Serif Fonts: Grotesque
“Grotesque” might seem like an odd name for these sans serif fonts. It was a reference to them “lacking beauty”, back in a time when ornate qualities were more desirable. Of course, this isn’t the case today. They are beautiful, clean sans serifs. Helvetica, for example, is a popular neo-grotesque font.
Want to see more examples of grotesque sans serif fonts? Here’s a collection to check out now:
Sans Serif Fonts: Geometric
Geometric fonts take visible geometric inspiration in their design. Notice, for example, how geometric this example font looks. We see the same circular shape in the “o” and in the “e”. Futura is a popular example of a geometric sans serif font.
Want a look at even more geometric sans serif fonts? Here’s a collection to browse right now:
Sans Serif Fonts: Humanist
On the other hand, humanist sans serifs tend to have a bit more of a calligraphic quality. Notice, for example, how the “a” has a bit of a curvature to it. Still, it does not have serifs. A popular example of a humanist sans serif font is Gill Sans.
Humanist sans serif fonts can be such a classy choice. Check out even more examples here:
Sans Serif Fonts: Modern, Mixed, and More
Like serif fonts, you can get a lot of variety in modern sans serif fonts. For example, check out this awesome modern font design. It has such beautiful curves and accents. There’s some inspiration here that rather looks like the Didones, but without the serifs. It has some humanist inspiration too.
Script Fonts: Brush
Next, let’s talk about script fonts. They come in a variety of popular aesthetics, one of which is brush. Brush fonts usually mimic some kind of paint or ink brush in its aesthetic. However, note that brush fonts do not necessarily have to be scripts.
Check out more examples of brush fonts in these inspiring collections:
Fonts26+ Best Free Brush Fonts (Paint Brush & Script Fonts to Download Now)
Fonts31+ Best Brush Fonts (Script, Paint, and More!)
Script Fonts: Cursive
Cursive fonts are a broad category, and the term “cursive” is often used interchangeably with the term “script”. Keep in mind that a cursive aesthetic typically involves long connecting strokes. The goal here is to mimic cursive handwriting.
Cursive fonts can come in so many different shapes and sizes. Survey some of the possibilities in this collection of cursive fonts:
Script Fonts: Calligraphy
Calligraphy fonts are often considered or described as scripts or cursive fonts, and this description is not necessarily wrong. Technically, a font cannot be calligraphy, as calligraphy describes an artistic writing process. These fonts, however, mimic the aesthetic.
Calligraphy fonts are very trendy right now. There are so many beautiful ones out there to see. Check out this collection for more calligraphy fonts:
Other Fonts: Blackletter
Blackletter fonts tend to look quite dramatic. They are also often called gothic, and are associated with older time periods. They are often a specialty font choice and best suited to display copy.
Want to check out even more examples of blackletter fonts? Here’s the perfect collection to check out right now:
Other Fonts: Handwriting Fonts
Handwriting fonts come in such a huge variety of aesthetics. In fact, many serif fonts, sans serif fonts, and script fonts are also handwriting fonts. This example, for example, is a sans serif handwriting font. Note that the aesthetic is designed to match an organic, hand-drawn look.
Handwriting fonts can come in so many different styles. Find some handwriting font inspiration in this collection:
Fonts40+ Best Handwriting Fonts (Fonts That Look Like Handwriting)
Fonts40 Best Child-Friendly Fonts (Kids’ Handwriting Styles)
Other Fonts: Decorative Fonts
Some fonts are very decorative and can contain all kinds of imagery. This kind of font is often described as a display font. You can find a lot of variation on this. Keep in mind, however, that if the font you’re looking for is very graphical, it’s likely considered a decorative or display font.
Want to learn more about display fonts, and check out more examples too? This article is right up your alley:
Other Fonts: Dingbats and Symbols
Then, we also have symbols and dingbats. These fonts aren’t letters at all, and they aren’t designed to display alphanumeric characters. Instead, you’ll find artwork, flourishes, and icons assigned to each number and letter.
Symbols and dingbats can come in so many different variations. Want a look at the kind of options out there? Check out this collection today:
Using This Info to Identify a Font From an Image
Whether you’re figuring out how to identify a font in a JPG, how to identify a font in Photoshop, or even how to identify a font on a picture, knowing those font basics is a helpful start. But what’s next?
- Start by identifying key parts of the font. For example, does it have serifs?
- How would you describe the style? This can help you find the font and/or find similar font designs.
Here are some methods and resources to help you use this information.
Take a Look at Popular Font Libraries
One great way to figure out how to find a specific font is to check out popular font libraries. If you know the basic attributes of the font, it can be easier to narrow things down. For example, let’s say I’m looking for a specific Didone serif font. You could then check out Google Fonts, Adobe Fonts, or Envato Elements for this style.
Look for a Similar Alternative
Keep in mind, as you explore how to find a specific font, that you may not necessarily need an exact match to achieve a similar look. For example, Times New Roman is a popular transitional font, but there are a number of other transitional serif typefaces that share the same aesthetic. Check out this example alternative.
Try an Image Upload Search
There are also some awesome online tools that can help you figure out how to find a font. This might be helpful if you’re trying to figure out how to identify a font in a scanned document, or how to identify a font on a picture.
Here are some online tools where you can upload an image to determine a font from an image:
Some Fonts Might Not Actually Be Fonts!
Let’s say you’re trying to figure out how to identify a font in a logo or other creative mark. In some cases, this can be tricky, because this might not exclusively be a font. Some logotypes, for example, maybe be heavily customized or even hand-drawn.
Recreations May Not Be for Commercial Use
If you really love the font used in the Coca-Cola logo, you might be able to find a recreation of this lettering as a font online. However, that doesn’t mean you can try to mimic the Coca-Cola logo without potential legal repercussions.
Keep in mind that just because you find it, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for commercial use. This is another reason why searching for appropriate alternatives to a specific style can be desirable.
Use Your Software to Identify a Font From an Image
If you’re in a situation where you’re missing a font, you can often turn to software to help you figure things out. Let’s take a look at a few scenarios you could try.
How to Identify a Font in Photoshop
Keep in mind that this process is for Photoshop native files, like a PSD. This won’t help with figuring out how to identify a font in a PDF or how to identify a font in a JPG.
Open up the Character panel by going to Window > Character. With the applicable text layer selected, the Character panel will show the active font. If you don’t have this font, it will display its name for you.
How to Identify a Font in Illustrator, InDesign, and Other Adobe Software
Figuring out how to identify a font in illustrator and inDesign is a similar process. You can, again, turn to your Character panel.
However, note that Adobe software will often prompt the user when a font is missing. This is another great way to identify a font you might need, but don’t have installed.
How to Identify a Font on a Website
Or let’s say you’re on a website, and you really want to figure out the font in use. Depending on your browser, you can Inspect the website to take a peek at the HTML and/or CSS. You’ll want to search for the
font-family. For example, it might look something like this:
font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
Want to Learn More About Typography?
There’s plenty more to learn about typography here on Envato Tuts+. Check out these free tutorials and start digging in today:
TypographyThe Ultimate Guide to Basic Typography
TypographyWhat Is Expressive Typography?
Typography100 Best Typography & Font Tutorials for Every Designer
Logo DesignTypography in Action: Design Simple & Effective Type Logos
Font DesignThe Basics of Drawing Type & Creating Your Own Handwritten Font
Good Luck Finding Your Font!
I hope you’ve found this font information useful in how to determine a font from an image. Try to figure out the attributes that make your mystery font look the way it does. Then, it’ll be easier to narrow things down or find a suitable alternative.
Looking for fonts? Check out Envato Elements. One low price gets you unlimited access to a library of thousands of fonts. Even better, you can try out as many as you like, without limits. They’re all licensed for commercial usage too.
Love fonts? Looking for even more inspiration? Check out these font collections and find your new favorite fonts today;
Fonts25+ Best Free Sans Serif Fonts (Download Free Fonts)
Fonts20+ Best Free Fonts for Designers (Logos, Packaging, and More)
Fonts45 Best Bold Fonts (Download Condensed, Serif, Sans Serif, & Big Bold Fonts Now)
Fonts20 Most Popular Sans Serif Fonts for 2021
Fonts45 Best Textured Fonts (Brush, Distressed, Grunge, Metal, and More!)