We all love the looks of some of the most popular fonts, but we may not always afford it. That’s when we move towards cheaper or free font alternatives! Even though there are many free fonts online that might be similar to popular fonts like Helvetica or Gotham, only a few of them get close to their quality. In this article I have made a collection with the best replacements I have found for fonts like: Trajan Pro, Bodoni MT, Gotham, Adelle and more. All of these are similar in style and aspect with their premium version, only that they’re all available to use for free in personal and commercial projects. Take a look at each and one of them, as they’re all worth trying!
All of the fonts you’ll find alternatives for in this article are: Helvetica, Gotham, Trajan Pro, Bodoni MT, Museo Slab, Adelle, Clarendon, Dax Pro, Neutraface and Gotham Rounded.
01. Helvetica vs Arimo
The first font family I’m gonna start with it’s also probably the most popular typeface at this moment, and that’s Helvetica. Helvetica is a sans serif font family, created and released in 1957 by Max Miedinger, based on a font from the end of the 19th century called Akzidenz-Grotesk. Due to its great and clear style, the font rapidly gained popularity, making it today one of the most used sans serif fonts, its usage expanding from branding to signage and advertising.
Thanks to its great composition and design, the font is liked and desired by many designers these days. But, due to its $35 per style, the font isn’t that accessible to everyone, especially to a designer that’s just starting his design journey. Therefore, one must settle for alternatives, mostly free ones. After I’ve done some research and browsed through sites full of free fonts – like Font Squirrel and Google Fonts – the best match that I’ve found that could be at least near to Helvetica, it’s called Arimo. Designed by Steve Matteson from Ascender Fonts type foundry, even though it wasn’t thought as a Helvetica alternative, Arimo fits the role. Thanks to its clean and clear design, it works perfectly with custom logo designs and branding, typography, advertising and mostly every type of projects. Arimo it’s also available in four styles: Regular, Italic, Bold and Bold Italic.
02. Gotham vs Montserrat
Coming next is “Gotham“, another sans serif font family that is gaining lots of popularity. If you’re not familiar with it, you may have seen it in the last 8 years as part of President Obama’s campaigns. Gotham became the official typeface of President of United States during Obama’s presidency. It was a great choice, as this is a strong and bold typeface, perfect for making a statement. The font was designed by Tobias Frere-Jones and it was released in 2000.
Even though its a great font, I have managed to find an alternative to Gotham that will fit the role perfectly! The typeface in matter it’s called Montserrat, a sans serif font family created by Julieta Ulanovsky. A great thing about this font, that I just found out during my research, it’s that the font was actually made available for free thanks to a Kickstarter campaign. It seems like its designer, Julieta, created a campaign to get funds to help her finish the font and make it available on Google Fonts. That’s a great idea and it was well done!
Beside the great design of Montserrat, the typeface also comes in 9 weights, plus an alternative style. Weights available are: Thin, Extra Light, Light, Regular, Medium, Semi Bold, Bold, Extra Bold and Black.
03. Trajan Pro vs Cinzel
Third font pair catches two quite popular fonts, both the premium and the free one. This time we have Trajan Pro, which is a premium font designed by Carol Twombly for Adobe in 1989, and Cinzel, a completely free and open source font created by Natanael Gama in 2013. They’re both quite similar and quite different at the same time, each having its unique touch. Both fonts have an old roman/latin style, Trajan being inspired from inscriptions found at the base of Trajan’s Column, and Cinzel most probably being inspired by Trajan.
The slight differences in style between Trajan and Cinzel are that the first one has a more rough and raw style, while Cinzel is more clean and stylish. In this case I might say that the free replacement may be better than its premium lookalike.
Trajan Pro, first released as Trajan, is available in two weights: Regular and Bold at a price of 35$ per style. There’s also an updated version called Trajan Pro 3 that comes in 6 styles: Extra Light, Light, Regular, Semi Bold, Bold and Black, priced at $30 per style at Typekit.
Cinzel comes a free font for both personal and commercial use and it’s available in 3 weights: Regular, Bold and Black. Beside that, Cinzel comes in two styles, the second being called Cinzel Decorative with a unique and decorative approach to each letter. This one’s also available in three styles: Regular, Bold and Black. Overall, this is a well designed replacement and it’s a must in every designer’s font library.
04. Bodoni MT vs Playfair Display
Bodoni MT or Monotype Bodoni is a typeface based on an old serif font known by the same name – Bodoni – created in the late 18th century Giambattista Bodoni. It falls in the Didot style, being one of the first and oldest fonts from this category. This typeface comes in 24 weights and styles, at a cost of $35 per font. You have probably noticed so far that these are the main prices of these fonts, but good thing we have replacements for when we can’t afford to buy the premium versions. In this case, our great replacement comes by the name of Playfair Display, a typeface available in 3 weights, 6 styles and an extra small caps typeface called Playfair Display SC.
I couldn’t find an exact release date for Playfair Display, but it might’ve been somewhere around 2015. It was created by the Danish designer and typographer Claus Eggers Sørensen and released as a free font for all of us to use. The font is available on a numerous number of sites, but the most popular ones are Google Fonts and Font Squirrel. Below you’ll find the link towards the Google Fonts download page.
05. Museo Slab vs Fauna One
You’re probably familiar with the Museo typeface, released in 2008 by Jos Buivenga which was a huge bestseller. Even though that one has some slight serifs to it, Museo Slab is a more accentuated version making it a slab serif typeface. This a great one, craved and liked by many, and it’s actually not THAT expensive, at $16.50 per font, and it comes in 6 weights and 12 styles.
Now it’s time to meet it’s free font alternative! The closest and best one I could find is called Fauna One, a great slab serif font designed by Eduardo Tunni with unique and great looking touches (like a nicely rounded “b”, good looking terminals for “c” and “s”, a great “g” and more). Even though this is a perfectly designed font, it also has a bad thing – it’s available in one weight and style only! IF that weren’t the case, I would’ve loved this one more than Museo Slab, but using font contrast among designs is a great feature, which this one can’t offer. Maybe we’ll have some updates in the future! In the meantime, find the link below from where you can download Fauna One.
06. Adelle vs Roboto Slab
Sixth font of the list is called Adelle, and has nothing to do with the great artist Adele. Only that they’re both awesome! Adelle, the font, was designed by Veronika Burian and José Scaglione in 2009 and it comes 7 weights, each with an italic style. That’s 14 fonts! The bad thing: $49 per font. That’s where we think at alternatives. This time I’d wish to present to you to “Roboto Slab”, the slab serif version of the Roboto typeface, which can easily be a free replacement to many serif fonts, not just Adelle. Roboto was designed by Christian Robertson for Google, and it’s used as the system font for the mobile operating system Android. With a base design as Roboto’s, the slab serif version its surely a good one.
Roboto Slab is available in four weights: Thin, Light, Regular and Bold, but unfortunately it comes without italic styles. Even though Adelle has 6 weights, each with italics, for a free font, Roboto Slab can easily cover your needs with its 4 weights typeface. Find below the download links directly from the sources, Google…
07. Clarendon vs Trocchi
Clarendon, even though a serif typeface, it’s classified as a slab serif. Created in 1845 by Thorowgood and Co. of London, was later refurbished by Edouard Hoffmann and Hermann Eidenbenz at Haas, over a century later. Even though this is also a great looking typeface, it’s a bit expensive, priced at $29 per font. And the whole typeface is made out of six fonts.
It’s free alternative it’s called “Trocchi”, and it’s the closest I could found. Even though it’s not available in six styles, as Clarendon, Trocchi has two styles, regular and bold, which can help you create contrast in your designs, when needed.
08. Dax Pro vs Ubuntu
Designed between 1995 and 2000 by type designer Hans Reichel, Dax Pro is available in 36 weights. Even though this typeface is suited for advertising, packaging, publishing, branding and similar domains, it’s price is quite the biggest so far. So far we had premium fonts ranging between ~$17-$49, this one is the most expensive with a whooping $79 per font/style. That’s $79×36, if you’re interested in the whole typeface. In my opinion, that’s quite a steep price, given that Helvetica is about $35 per style. But I’m not writing this article to compare prices between fonts, but to offer free alternatives to pricey fonts. The closest one to Dax Pro is Ubuntu, an Open Type font family, designed to be a modern, humanist style typeface.
Ubuntu font was created in 2010 by London-based type foundry Dalton Maag, one of its designers being Vincent Connare, the creator of the infamous Comic Sans and Trebuchet MS fonts. It comes in 4 weights, each with an italic version, making it a great replacement for the premium version, Dax Pro. This typeface is available on Google Fonts, link available below.
09. Neutraface vs Josefin Sans
The next typeface is called Neutraface, designed by Christian Schwartz for House Industries and released in 2002. Neutraface is a geometric sans-serif font, influenced by Richard Neutra‘s design principles, one of the most important modernist architect (Wikipedia). Even though it’s an amazing font and it comes in a bunch of weights and styles, this typeface is quite expensive, being priced at $75 per style. But they do have an offer (at the moment of writing this article) where you can buy the whole 29 fonts at just $299. It is indeed worth it, but it’s not as accessible as a free font. Therefore, we come with a replacement!
Meet Josefin Sans, a modern and interesting sans-serif typeface, with a geometric structure. Designed by Santiago Orozco which had as inspiration typefaces as: Kabel, Memphis and Futura, Josefin Sans is available in 5 weights, each with an italic version. Beside that, this typeface also has a sister family called Josefin Slab, a slab serif typeface. Best part is that both Sans and Slab versions come as free fonts, for both personal and commercial use.
10. Gotham Rounded vs Nunito
Last font combination is related to the second font of the article, as the premium typeface is the rounded version of Gotham – Gotham Rounded. Giving it a soft style, while still keeping its imposing personality, the round edges make the popular Gotham font expand its areas of uses. An amazing font indeed, but at a steep price as well. For the complete Gotham Rounded typefaces, made out of 8 font styles, you would pay $179. While of it’s free alternative.. well, it’s FREE!
Meet Nunito – a well balanced sans serif with rounded edges and a soft style – the perfect replacement for Gotham Rounded. It was designed by Vernon Adams and extended to a full set of weights by Jacques Le Bailly and also to a non rounded sans serif font called Nunito Sans. Both Nunito and Nunito Sans are available in 14 styles, 7 weights each with an italic version.
Overall, we have covered some of the most popular and most used premium fonts and found its most suitable free replacements. Bear in mind that I did this one myself and spent a good amount of time to write this article, so if you would like to share it or post it on your website, don’t forget to link to this article. And as there is an incredible amount of fonts available at this moment, there might also be more suitable replacements than the ones I found, so feel free to leave a comment if you find something better. As well as suggestions for a second part of this article, in case there are premium fonts you might want to find replacements for. Enjoy!