Serif Fonts and Their Peculiarities

Typography obviously belongs to the cohort of the fine arts, where even the smallest details and elements are meaningful and can influence the overall perception of the final creation, whether it is a picture or a text, printed with a particular typeface. In terms of fonts design, serifs are those tiny elements, which add a particular character to a typeface, contributing to the unique feel and look every font is characterized with.

By definition, serifs are the small lines or strokes at the ends of the main strokes of the letters in a particular font. Sometimes, serifs are also descriptively explained as “hooks” or “little feet” at the ends of the vertical and horizontal strokes of a letter. Consequently, fonts with serifs are usually mentioned as Serif fonts, for example, Times Roman, Garamond, Souvenir, etc. On the other hand, fonts, where letters are not supplied with such embellishing elements, are called Sans Serif fonts (“sans” means “without” in French).

serif fonts

It is interesting to note that along with purely decorative function serifs are believed to play a role in the text perception mechanism by the human eyes, making the printed text easier to read. This is why Serif fonts have always been among the primary choices for printing books, newspapers, and magazines. However, in electronic media, due to the specificity of perceiving a text on the computer screen, it is preferred to use Sans Serif rather than Serif fonts, because reading letters without serifs is considered to be easier on the screen.

Stemming out of the ancient Roman alphabet with the letters carved into stone, Serif fonts have passed a long way of development and evolution. As the result, now we have several types of Serif fonts, each with its own peculiarities and specific features.

Old Style Serif Fonts

Dating back to the middle of the 15th century, old style serif fonts are considered to be based on the humanist calligraphy. The key features of the old style serif fonts are low line contrast (when there is only a slight difference between thick and thin lines forming a letter) and diagonal stress (the thinnest parts of the letters are those at the angles). It is believed that the combination of diagonal stress and bracketed serifs in old style serif fonts creates a special positive word picture, which is especially favorable for the ease of reading and perception.

Titus Buzuku old style serif font

Free old style serif fonts

Riven: The Font free old style serif font
RM Typerighter old free old style serif font
BergamoStd bold free old style serif font
Menaion Medieval free old style serif font
Paramount bold free old style serif font

Commercial old style serif fonts

Bembo old style serif font
Dante old style serif font
Garamond old style serif font
ITC Usherwood old style serif font
Columbus MT old style serif font

Transitional Serif Fonts

Everyone knows Times New Roman font, which is commonly used as the default font in computer text editors. This font, created in 1932, is the most vivid representative of the transitional serif fonts, which first appeared in the middle of the 18th century and now stands between old style and modern serifs in the typical font classification. Unlike old style serifs, transitional serif fonts feature higher line contrast with more distinctive difference between thick and thin lines. Transitional serif fonts are sometimes called “baroque fonts”.

KacstPoster transitional serif font

Free transitional serif fonts

Zebraesq free transitional serif font
Itsadzoke free transitional serif font
Aboriginal Serif Bold free transitional serif font
Librarian Regular free transitional serif font

Commercial transitional serif fonts

Adriane Text transitional serif font
Magneta transitional serif font
Goudy Modern transitional serif font
Fleischman BT Pro transitional serif font
ITC Esprit transitional serif font

Modern Serif Fonts

Modern serif fonts first appeared at the end of the 18th century. Also known as Didone serif typefaces, the family of modern serifs fonts has vivid differences from the old style serif fonts. These are the extreme high line contrast, vertical stress instead of diagonal, and long and fine serifs. Vertical lines of the modern serif fonts are usually very heavy, which, in combination with thin and light serifs, makes a text, printed in modern serif font, less readable.

Justus Bold modern serif font

Free modern serif fonts

Achilles Italic free modern serif font
Maenan2 free modern serif font
Zippo free modern serif font
Revive OV free modern serif font
Type3 free modern serif font

Commercial modern serif fonts

Monotype Modern modern serif font
Inflex modern serif font
Normande modern serif font
Fat Face no. 20 modern serif font
Baskerville modern serif font

Slab Serif Fonts

The first slab serif font was presented in the early 19th century by Vincent Figgins under the name Antique. However, in view of public craze in Europe for everything Egyptian at those times, the slab serif fonts were commonly called Egyptian. Virtually no difference between thick and thin lines of the letters is the key feature of slab serifs. With the bold and rectangular shapes, slab serif fonts often have fixed width, which means that every letter occupies the same horizontal space.

TypoSlabserif slab serif font

Free slab serif fonts

Freshman free slab serif font
The Great Thunder free slab serif font
Tiza free slab serif font
Plumber's Gothic free slab serif font
SF Big Whiskey free slab serif font

Commercial slab serif fonts

Karnak Pro slab serif font
Prelo Slab slab serif font
Girder Heavy slab serif font
Museo Slab slab serif font
Rockwell slab serif font

Clarendon Serif Fonts

Clarendon serif font is sometimes classified as the subtype of slab serif fonts. However, unlike traditional slab serifs, Clarendon font has some brackets at the junction of a stem and serifs. Also, Clarendon fonts usually feature heavy and square-cut serifs. This font group was widely used in the Old West in “wanted” posters and later on traffic signs in the USA. Now Clarendon font can be found on the logotypes of many companies with Sony among them.

Grandesign Neue Serif clarendon serif font

Free Clarendon serif fonts

BigMummy free Clarendon serif font
Usenet free Clarendon serif font
TeXGyreBonum free Clarendon serif font
Saloon free Clarendon serif font
FetteEgyptienne free Clarendon serif font

Commercial Clarendon serif fonts

Walken Clarendon serif font
Zapatista Clarendon serif font
Gold Fever Clarendon serif font
Aurea Ultra Clarendon serif font
Cowboyslang Clarendon serif font

Freeform Serif Fonts

Along with the serif fonts, designed in accordance with particular typography rules or tradition, such as old style serif fonts or modern serifs, there are also many freeform serif fonts, developed these days. Designers, inspired by a rich legacy of serif fonts and modern trends in typography, use all their imagination to present serif fonts in a fresh and sometimes completely unexpected way.

Fairies Wear Boots freeform serif font

Free freeform serif fonts

Kingthings Eggypeg free freeform serif font
Pasión Acústica free freeform serif font
Greetings Bold free freeform serif font
Sidhe Noble free freeform serif font
Kawoszeh free freeform serif font

Commercial freeform serif fonts

Summerisle freeform serif font
Tenderfoot freeform serif font
Viva Olivia freeform serif font
Rehwon Roman NF freeform serif font
Fairmont Clarendon serif font
This article is originally published on Apr 09, 2010, and updated on Jul 28, 2020.

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