This is an innocent question that I get all the time from my clients at the end of a project. But, fonts, like computer programs, are pieces of software. When I purchase fonts to use in my designs, I’m purchasing a license for my business only. So, it would be a violation of that license to pass the font along to you – even if it’s just for your reference. It’s actually illegal to share fonts, and there’s a possibility that we could both get fined if I do share fonts with you.

And, there’s actually a good chance that even if I sent the font to you, you wouldn’t be able to do much with it. There are different font formats available for Macs and PCs. So, if I sent you my Mac-based font, and you only have a PC, then it actually wouldn’t do you any good!

A designer’s font license does allow for the font to be sent to a commercial printer, for their one-time use while printing the designed files. But, there’s always a chance of font incompatibilities or conflicts, so it’s often best to avoid doing so if possible.

Oh, no! I don’t want to be a lawbreaker. What do I do?

You have two (pretty reasonable) choices of how you can handle the fonts in the files that your designer turns over to you:

  • If you only have a little bit of a particular font in your designs – say, your logo font or tagline font – you could ask your designer to convert the fonts for those pieces to outlines, or to rasterize those fonts in your document. Or, if you don’t plan to edit your own pieces, you can have your designer outline or rasterize the fonts before sending them to the printer to preserve their appearance.

Outlining fonts is a command available in most illustration programs, like Illustrator and Freehand. It converts the font data in your document to vector shapes. This means that you can no longer edit the fonts by typing, but it also means that if someone opens your document on a computer that doesn’t have the font you used installed, it will still look right.

Rasterizing fonts is the equivalent of outlining fonts for photographic programs, like Photoshop. This command converts the font data to pixels. This will also preserve the appearance of the font on all computers.

  • If you plan to edit your designed materials, or to create additional materials to match, you should invest in purchasing copies of your specialty fonts. Typically, there are only a few fonts in a company’s Visual Vocabulary, and, the average font isn’t that expensive. It’s a good investment to own your company’s fonts so that you can make all your corporate communications look consistent.

Ask your designer what fonts are used in your document. They should be able to tell you the various fonts used in your pieces, and the roles that they should be used in. Or, if you worked with your designer long ago and can’t locate them to ask, you could use the “What the Font” tool to identify your font. It’s a free online tool that’s pretty accurate.

Then, you can buy your fonts online. I recommend myfonts.com to purchase fonts – they have a wide selection at reasonable prices.

Finally, you’ll have to install your fonts on your computer. On a Mac, use the Fontbook application to manage your fonts. If you’re on a PC, ask your computer tech about how to do this step (I haven’t tried installing fonts on a Windows machine in years!)

Happy (legal) fonting!