Finding suitable fonts for a web project is not always easy. Many fonts have a very individual character and therefore do not fit always and everywhere. However, there are a number of free fonts that are very generic and therefore can be used on almost any web project.
“Source Sans” and “Source Serif” by Adobe
With the “Source Sans” and “Source Serif” Adobe has released two font families as open source for the first time. Both families are available as so-called pro-fonts. This refers to scriptures that support all European languages – including Eastern European languages as well as Turkish. They are therefore suitable for international use.
There are also numerous ligatures, as well as small caps, old-style numbers, proportional and tabular numbers, and fractions. Although Adobe has developed the font as open source, it is comparable to Adobe’s commercial fonts in terms of aesthetic quality and expanded character set.
The “Source Sans” are available in six different styles from “Extra Light” to “Ultra Bold”, each of which is additionally available in italics. The “Source Serif” comes in half as many cuts. As for an open source font, Github (“Source Sans” and “Source Serif”) also includes the source files for editing and developing the font.
Otherwise, you will find the typeface on both Typekit and Google Fonts, as well as downloadable from Font Squirrel. Incidentally, there is the third family still the “source code” for the presentation of source code.
“PT Sans” and “PT Serif” by ParaType
Similarly well developed are the font families “PT Sans” and “PT Serif” from the Foundry ParaType.Zwar these two families are available as a pro version, but then pay. The free version therefore does not support some languages. Nevertheless, a variety of European and Asian languages are available.
Since the “PT Sans” is based on a Russian sans-serif of the 20th century, it is mainly many minority languages of Russia that are supported. But also the Western European languages are all there.
On small caps and other alternative rates you have to do without the free variant of the families. There are both families in the common cuts, so as “Regular”, “Bold” and “Bold Italic” cut. There is also a caption section for large headlines.
In addition, there is a thicker font with the “PT Mono”, which is suitable, for example, for the presentation of source code. All three families are available as desktop and web fonts from ParaType. You can also find them on Typekit and Google Fonts.
“Roboto” and “Roboto Slab” by Google
Once developed for the Android operating system, the “Roboto” is also available as a desktop and web font. With six cuts from “Thin” to “Black” – each as well as italics – you get with the “Roboto” a well-developed family. It supports numerous Western, Central and Eastern European languages.
Matching the sans-serif “Roboto”, there’s the “Roboto Slab”, which is less bulky with four cuts from “Thin” to “Bold” but a perfect complement to the sans-serif “Roboto”.
With the “Roboto Condensed” you also have a variant available, which is cut particularly tight. It is available in three cuts plus italics. All three fonts can be downloaded from Font Squirrel.
Incidentally, there was a revision of “Roboto” in 2014, in which some letters, such as the big R, were redesigned. The original family as well as the 2014 revision are available. You will also find the fonts on Google Fonts.
All three featured font families are characterized by the fact that they are rather restrained in their design. The well-developed character set and the variety of cuts make them universally applicable. In addition, all families have cuts with and without serifs. You can combine them so well together.
Especially those who are unsure which fonts fit each other will find ready-to-match families in great variety.
(This post first appeared in spring 2017 and has been kept up to date since then, with the last update in May 2019.)