A good font collection is one that has you covered for all eventualities. While you doubtless have your own set of dependable serifs and sans serifs that you can rely on for most design projects, some commissions are going to require you to pull out something just a little bit different for that added visual impact.
You're unlikely to need comic fonts very often, but when you do – say if you're working on children's books or an illustration project – you'll be glad of a good selection to experiment with, and thankfully there are thousands of free fonts out there that will do nicely. Here are 12 of the best free comic fonts that have turned up this year; they're all free for personal use so that you can try them out, and most of them can be used on commercial projects for a very low price.
01. Happy Markers
For big, friendly and rounded lettering that doesn't carry the stigma of Comic Sans, Joseph Dawson's Happy Markers could be just the thing you need. Its all-caps characters look like they've been drawn using a chunky round-tipped marker pen, and for emphasis there's an italic version too. Both are free for personal use; a commercial licence will cost you $10.
02. Nias Bird
Created by Indonesian designer Ryal Docallisme, Nias Bird is a fun and distinctive comic font with some fantastically top-heavy characters. It's probably best suited to titles and maybe headlines, and it comes with a special trick up its sleeve: rather than a lower-case set it features a slightly heavier weight with more of an art deco look. It's free for personal use; contact the author for commercial use.
03. Reality Check
Hand-drawn by font designer Hanoded at his kitchen table, Reality Check is a big and chunky comic display font, and uses the lower-case set for subtle variants on the all-caps characters to keep things interesting. This is a demo version of Reality Check for personal use; head to Hanoded's site for the commercial version which includes kerning, embedding rights and all glyphs.
04. The Labothings
For a quirky, handwritten look, The Labothings by Kotak Kuning Studio could be a great choice. It's a playful script font with plenty of energy and both upper and lower-case characters; the only drawback is a lack of punctuation and other special characters, but you could easily substitute in suitable-looking characters from another typeface. It's free for personal use only.
05. Tootle Play
Perfect for lettering comics, Midfont Studio's Tootle Play also has one of the most adorable names we've come across. Free for personal use, it's a simple but lively hand-drawn caps-only affair, complete with numbers and all the punctuation you're likely to need.
06. Comic Comoc
Inspired by comics and designed by Dumadi Studios, Comic Comoc is a cute and fun display font with some quite wonderfully fat strokes going on. Its designers say that it'll put an adorable twist on any design project, and we're inclined to agree. It features both upper and lower-case sets, plus symbols and accented characters, and while the free version is for personal use only, a full licence will set you back just $5.
07. Comic Marker Deluxe
Another font that perfectly recreates the look of hand-drawn letters done with a fat round-tipped marker pen, Comic Marker Deluxe by Darrell Flood is just the thing for all your comic lettering needs. It's free for personal use, while a licence will cost you $20, and it comes in both standard and italic weights.
08. FishFingers Outline
Fishfingers Outline by Brittney Murphy is part of her larger FishFingers font family, a set of tall and top-heavy hand-drawn fonts that also includes a standard and light weight. It features both upper and lower-case characters, and they look their best when you mix them up, giving any text a delightfully quirky look. Personal use is free; you can find licensing options on Murphy's site.
09. Super Bad Font
We love the wonderfully blobby style of Eli Shore Productions' Super Bad Font, not to mention its name. Comic-inspired with a weighty, handwritten stroke, it's another font that's caps-only but with the lower-case set at a different level so you can combine upper and lower for a bouncy, unlevelled effect. A basic licence covering most uses is just $8, but the free version is good for personal use.
10. Go Speeds
Feeling the need for speed? You'll be wanting to avail yourself of Go Speeds, another free (for personal use) font from Kotak Kuning Studio. Ever so tall and top heavy, and slightly italicised, it's a comic font with a real sense of urgency to it.
11. Kids Magazine
If you're designing for a younger audience, here's a headline font that's just the ticket. Big, bold and packed with energy, Kids Magazine by Imagex is the ideal font for grabbing people's attention, with fat, lively strokes and plenty of definition. It's free for personal use; contact Imagex about licensing for commercial projects.
12. La Gilda
Want that little bit of extra depth? Get a load of La Gilda from Woodcutter Manero. It's a fantastically tall and skinny comic font, but with a dirty great extruded edge to it, so it's guaranteed to stand out in any setting. And yes, you've guessed, it's free for personal use only.