Font identifier tools continue to become more accurate and efficient, but some are better than others. Without the right tools, font selection can become a time-consuming task. Improve your design and streamline your workflow with these font identifiers.
The best font identifier tools:
- WhatTheFont is far and away the fastest, most accurate font identifier by image.
- Fonts Ninja and WhatFont tie for best browser extensions for analyzing web-based fonts.
- Identifont is a great tool for honing in on the perfect font by style and other letter-based criteria using a questionnaire format.
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How Font Identifiers Work
Web-based fonts can be identified using extensions that recognize highlighted text on a page by accessing the site’s code. Pretty straightforward. Other characteristics like size, style and color are also easily identified.
Image-based font identifier tools work by recognizing certain attributes of the text in an image and matching it with a font in the tool’s database.
The following resources are browser extensions or web apps meant for anyone who needs to identify a particular font. Once upon a time this was an arduous task which required hours of research and tedious letter matching. But now you can find the exact font family (or at least related choices) in a matter of minutes.
Image-Based Font Identifiers
Tips for sampling text for an image-based font identifier
Most likely, you will be using a picture or a screenshot for your font sample. For the best results, you’ll want to consider:
Your image should display the lettering fairly large. Since differences in fonts can be a bit so slight, it helps if the tool can identify a specific flourish or swash in a certain letter. But don’t value size over clarity. The font identifier won’t work well with blurry or pixelated text. If the text isn’t easy to read to your eye, it’s not clear enough for the font identifier. Black text on a white background in a horizontal orientation is preferred.
Get a high-quality sample of the font at the highest resolution possible. Most font identifiers have a text detection feature, so you shouldn’t have to do much cropping, unless there are multiple typefaces present.
Single out just a few letters. If some of the letters appear blurry or just too generic, they could skew the results. Try creating a separate image with 3-5 distinct letters and then analyze both. It’s not a foolproof trick but sometimes it can yield different results.
Try desaturating and/or upping the contrast on very colorful images.
If you’re using a smart phone to take the photo, make sure to line up the camera square with the text. If the photo is taken at an angle, it will skew the results. Because smart phone cameras use a wide angle lens, the edges will be slightly distorted. Try zooming in at around 1.2-1.5x to combat this distortion and get a more accurate shot.
WhatTheFont has been in the game for well over a decade and is at the top of most lists, including this one. They claim a 90% success rate and I personally consider the user experience and efficacy of this app unmatched.
Simply upload your image (jpeg or png) and select the appropriate text when prompted. If some of the letters are ambiguous then you’ll be asked to manually key in their values. The site will put together a list of related fonts based on letter height, kerning, shape, and some other related properties. Going one step further, What The Font will refer you to the font’s download or purchase page, saving you a few steps.
There are options to rotate within the web app, it was much easier and faster to rotate on my phone or computer before opening it in the app. If the image is very colorful, you could go ahead and desaturate and up the contrast a bit while you’re at it. I used Levels in Photoshop to get a good light and dark balance.
What The Font in action
Here are my results from testing a few different images of text in What The Font
The image is a photo taken with an iPhone of a page in a book. I knew from the publishing info that the typeface was Bembo. What The Font got this one right away. I didn’t even have to alter my image. The app recognizes and isolates groups of characters and you click on which box to use as the sample text.
This photo is from a children’s book with multiple fonts present and a patterned background.
What The Font had no problem with the patterned background. I didn’t have to alter the image at all. I chose the curly font to identify. Something I found helpful was adding characters to the Change Text box. Since the app draws from a small sample of letters in your photo, it will show you matches based on just that sample, for example, the word “She”. I added a few more words to the sample text to reference by eye how close the results were with the original text.
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Tip: Variations in fonts are often more apparent in letters like P, R, S, Q, G, K, or symbols like the ampersand (&). Inspect these characters when comparing similar fonts.
This ended up being one of the hardest one for the app to identify. Perhaps because this font is similar to many others
What The Font took a sample of text that was horizontal in the photo. I think the multicolored letters and phot angle threw off the top result, but further down the list the suggestions were much closer.
I altered the color and contrast of the image, and I rotated it so that the letters I wanted matched were displayed horizontally.
Again, highlighting a couple letters for the app to analyze and adding other characters to the sample text to eye reference was really effective for me. Having said that, What The Font was not able to correctly identify this font from my sample image. I actually has success simply searching for “Pantone font” in Google. If you happen to be identifying a well-known font, this might be your solution.
If you’re having trouble or want to ask about a particular font you can post a topic onto What The Font’s forum. Also worth checking out is What The Font Mobile app which allows you to identify fonts with your phone’s camera.
Font Spring Matcherator earns a spot on the list below What The Font. The match rate isn’t as high, but I really like the design and user experience of the app. With this font identifier tool, you manually select the text block you wish to identify. It seemed to work best with a small sample, highlighting one or two words of text might yield more accurate results than if you select a whole block of text.
Some close suggestions, but no matches.
Another test run on Font Spring Matcherator and this time the results were right on target.
I love that it shows the original text sample as you scroll down the possible matches, but it struggled with some text samples that What The Font identified easily, and in some cases not even recognizing the shapes as glyphs at all.
Font Spring Matcherator does boast OpenType Detection and tag refinement features, which What The Font does not have.
What Font Is
What Font Is is another oft sited image-based font identifier, but the flow of the page is hindered by ads.
It also requires much more user input than What The Font or Font Spring Matcherator.
The tutorial video for using What Font Is is 9 minutes long. After using What The Font and Font Spring Matcherator, it just didn’t make sense to keep this app on the list. There are some other cool features from What Font Is that are worth checking out, though. Their search tool for finding similar or alternative fonts is helpful and easy to use, as is their free webfont generator.
Web-based Font Identifiers
Fonts Ninja and What Font are my top picks, but there are a few options that work very well. Scroll through to see which one best suits your visual or feature preference. What Font is best for directly comparing multiple fonts’ characteristics on screen. Fonts Ninja is best for testing your own sample text with the found fonts.
Fonts Ninja is a browser extension available for Chrome, Safari and Firefox that lets you identify, try, buy, and bookmark fonts on a webpage. The extension installs easily and is a breeze to use. After install, just click the Font Ninja icon and it will analyze the website and give you the list of fonts used on the site. Hover over text to identify not only the font, but style, spacing, and its HTML color code.
You can bookmark the font, get more information and a free trial right within the extension. After selecting a font, click the “Abc” icon in the main window for some entertaining sample sentences.
In short, Fonts Ninja works like a dream. You can even toggle between light and dark appearances and choose from a variety of extension icons.
What Font is a browser extension extension to identify fonts on web pages. Simple and elegant. A small box identifies the font you hover over and you can click to extend the box for more information.
The advantage here is if you want to compare font properties of different fonts on the same page. What Font allows multiple information boxes to remain open at the same time. There is no sample text area for typing your own text, though.
What Font supports Typekit and Google Font API. It is recommended by Wired WebMonkey, Lifehacker, and SwissMiss.
Fontanello is a Chrome extension. Click the icon and all the fonts used on the current site are displayed in a drop down menu. It also lists the size, spacing and HTML color codes.
Fontanello often needed the page to reload before it could analyze the site, which never happened with Fonts Ninja. In terms of functionality and design, Fonts Ninja has the edge.
Visit Type Sample and drag the icon to your bookmark toolbar. Simply click the Type Sample bookmark and as you hover over text a little box appears with the font name and text size.
Click to text to sample. Whenever you’re finished analyzing text, click the icon again and the floating box is gone.
Type Sample has a utilitarian feel, it’s simple and effective, no bells and whistles, it just works.
Questionnaire Font Identifier
Identifont offers a few different ways to identify or find specific fonts. One is a questionnaire style identification in which you answer a series of questions based on the font’s appearance.
This method requires more time and effort on your part, but as a result, you will be more observant about font styles. It’s a great learning tool that could make you better at identifying and choosing fonts in the future. Identifont can help you really hone in on the type of font your design needs, getting into the nitty-gritty details beyond simply serif or sans serif.
You can also search by name and similarity to one you already know. Learn more about a font, like who originally designed it and its current popularity and get links for purchase or downloading. You can even search for font containing particular images or symbols, or by designer/publisher.
Identifont might not be your first choice if your goal just to quickly identify a mystery font, but it is a great resource for designers.
Other resources for font identification
When you’ve exhausted all these resources there is still one last option you can try.
Font and typography communities
There are online communities dedicated to font identification, some are more popular than others. Lurk around the community for a while before posting, since there’s a chance your question has already been asked and answered in a previous post.
However it seems that a lot of members are willing to help just for the sake of helping. As long as your text sample is easy to view and offers some level of detail it’s feasible that a member could have the perfect solution to your typography conundrum.
Among many social news communities, it’s fair to say that Reddit is perhaps the most diverse and heavily-trafficked. The website is made up of mini forums called subreddits that each focus on a particular topic. One such forum is named Identify This Font and I’m sure you can guess the community’s purpose.
What I like most about Reddit is the variety of fast-paced topics. Most subreddits with over 89k members tend to be quick and snappy with new posts. If you throw up a question for font identification or ask for related fonts you’ll typically have a few responses within hours.
Quora is a Q&A type website that allows people to ask questions from all areas of business, economics, marketing, design, or just regular life. One particular category is dedicated to typeface identification and has some very knowledgeable members. Although you may not find an exact typeface matchup, it’s highly likely that you will find a couple of similar options.
Font trends and features
While not a font identification tool, Linotype is a rich resource for all matters font-related. Extensive how-tos, designer interviews, font management tools and more.
The parent site for Type Sample, Type Wolf has guides, resources, look books and a new site featured each day focused on what’s trending in type. Frequenting sites like these will help in making you an informed and inspired designer.
Typeface identification tools continue to become more sophisticated with more designers around the world coming together to solve this problem. It’s fair to say that the design community has made great strides in this area since it’s now easier than ever to inspect and identify digital fonts. Keep these resources in mind for future reference and never give up on achieving personal mastery over font identification techniques.