The best free serif fonts are useful to have on hand if you're looking to add some gravity to your designs. Serifs are often considered the elegant, sensible wing of typography. They have a look and feel that we automatically associate with authority and class.
That doesn't make the serif fonts boring, though. There is a huge variety of serif fonts available. Some of them are suited to quietly maintaining readability in lengthy body text, while others are visually arresting and can make good choices for display text. They also create plenty of potential for exciting font pairings.
Below, we've chosen 11 of our favourite new serifs; they're all free to use on personal projects, and some can be used freely in commercial work too (always check the licence information). For more fonts of different types, see our post on the best free fonts and the best fun fonts.
The best free serif fonts available today
Starting our list of the best free serif fonts is Grenze, created by Renata Polastri and Omnibus-Type with a name that derives from the German for 'frontier'. It's a useful typeface system consisting of nine weights, from Thin through to Black, with matching italics. It's designed as a cross between Roman and blackletter fonts, combining visual impact with classical readability, and while it's envisaged as a font for magazines, it could be put to all manner of creative uses. It's published under the SIL Open Font Licence, so it's free to use in all projects.
02. Isle Headline
A clear and sharp serif type family in four weights plus italics, Isle Headline was designed between 2018 and 2019 by Måns Grebäck. It's intended for large-scale use such as headlines and titles; if you want the same look for body text then look no further than its sister font, Isle Body, which uses the same basic structure but with a softer look. Both fonts are free for personal use; head to Måns' website for commercial licences and to see his other fonts.
For those projects that require a luxury look that positively drips class, get a load of Saonara, designed by Maxim and Denis Schepin of MADE Type. Inspired by the world of fashion, it's a gloriously elegant font with strokes that veer between whip-thin and super-chunky, with razor-sharp serifs to finish off the look. It's free for personal use, while a licence for commercial will cost you from just $14 at fontspring.com.
Another serif font from MADE Type that's free for personal use, Coachella is a contrasting serif font family in six weights from Thin to Black. In the heavier weights, the contrast between line widths across the font is even more extreme than in Saonara, but the look's a lot more approachable; we love its quirky touches such as the terminal on the lower-case 'a' and the triangular tail on the upper-case 'Q'.
05. Red Delicious
Dan Zadorozny is a designer who's been creating fonts for over 20 years, all of them free for personal use and available for commercial use in return for a $20 donation. His Iconian fonts site is well worth looking through for typographic goodies; a recent offering that caught our eye is Red Delicious, Zadorozny's take on the classic varsity font often used on sweatshirts and the like. It features slightly rounded serifs to give the characters a full-bodied feel and weight, and comes in 25 different versions, each with an extended Latin character set.
06. Melisande Sharp
Serif fonts are often used as a visual shorthand for authority and gravitas, but Melisande Sharp, a hand-drawn serif by Brittney Murphy, is one that's a lot more fun to be around. It has some really eye-catching touches to it, such as the pot belly-shaped bowl on the lower-case 'a' and the incredibly high crossbar on the 'f', all of which combine to give this font a fantastically lively feel. It's free for personal use; for most commercial uses there's a standard licence that'll cost you just $8.
07. Halibut Serif
There's nothing fishy about Halibut Serif, an open-source display and paragraph font from Colllettivo. It's another lively free serif font that comes in three weights – Regular, Expanded and Condensed – each packing in 234 glyphs. We particularly love Halibut's sharp, toothy serifs, which look like they could bite your hand off. Like all of Colllettivo's fonts, it's free to use on any project.
08. Libertinus Serif
Linux fans will have doubtless noticed the resemblance between Libertinus Serif and Linux's Libertine and Biolinum fonts, and there's a good reason for that. Libertinus Serif is a fork of those fonts that addresses some of their bugs, and it's a classic-looking serif font that comes in 14 styles to suit all manner of uses. Published under the SIL Open Font Licence, it's good for all applications.
09. Adega Serif
Created by Brazilian designer Anísio Dega, Adega Serif is a print-focused font designed with books, newspapers and magazines in mind, and shaped to give maximum comfort to the reader. Coming on like a softer alternative to something like Book Antiqua, it features wonderfully tall ascenders and some beautifully hand-drawn quirks, and it comes in regular and bold weights with matching italics. It's available as donationware; if you get good use out of it then be sure to donate.
Afterglow is a modern and classic serif typeface by Vintage Voyage. Full of contrast lines and with plenty of stylistic alternates, it's just the thing for retro-looking headlines with a bit of a 1970s feel, and it's free for personal use while a commercial licence is available for $14.
11. Playfair Display
We'll finish our round-up of the best free serif fonts with this fairly common but not-to-be-overlooked option available from Google Fonts. Designed by Claus Eggers Sørensen, Playfair Display is a transitional serif font inspired by the work of John Baskerville and Scotch Roman designs. It suits headings that need a touch of a class. You can freely download the font for all uses, and it includes a set of small caps, common ligatures and discretionary ligatures. It comes in 6 different weights, each accompanied by their italic versions and also as a variable font.