How to Legally and Effectively Purchase and Use Fonts (Licensing etc.)

You want your brand to stand out with a unique font. Not just any old font that you can find in Canva (which there is nothing wrong with…they have some incredibly awesome fonts).

I also want to note, simple is often better in the font arena.

Maybe you go to Creative Market or some other font foundry and you find ‘the one!’

You go to purchase it and see this…


Which one applies to you? What the hell is e-pub?

This video is a great overview of Font Licensing.

Do you even need to purchase your own font?


Like most creative assets, someone created it and owns it. Their work is protected by licensing. There are a few different types of fonts out there, the most common being:

  • Free fonts
  • Commercial fonts

I’d say most small businesses don’t NEED to purchase their own unique font, but if you find one that supports the brand mission, it can make a real difference. Often, you can find high quality fonts on platforms like Canva and Adobe.

When I’m working with clients, I don’t even think about the font until we have a few things sorted out.

  • Brand Story
  • Brand Strategy

This includes getting clear on brand pillars, values, goals, competitive landscape and much more (internal).

Only after that is established can we talk brand identity (external). Without clarity around your internal branding, you’re kind of just throwing brand sh*t at the wall and seeing what sticks. This will bite you in the a*s down the road.

If you want to build a sustainable, long-term thriving brand, you’re better off setting things up right from the get-go.

Different Types of Licenses and which do you Need?

  • Desktop licenses allow you to install a font on a computer (or multiple if selected)
  • Webfont licenses allow you to embed the font into a website or email
  • Embedded licenses let you distribute fonts in physical products like medical devices, cars, or in software programs
  • Mobile app licenses allow fonts to be embedded in phone/tablet apps
  • EPub licenses cover usage in commercial publications
  • Server licenses enable web or cloud-based services and SaaS use cases.


One of the trickiest things about font licensing is that each foundry and online font shop has slightly different terms and pricing structures.

Generally, though, it all boils down to how you intend to use the font. The license and its cost can differ greatly between using the font on 100 T-shirts and using it on a website with 20 million monthly page views. Source.

You’ll likely need a desktop and webfont license

It’s likely you’ll need the ‘desktop license’ and a ‘webfont license,’ if you’re going to use it on your website. but it’s worth reading the license to make sure you’re respecting the creator and eliminating potential legal troubles down the road.

Who should purchase the Font, you or the designer?

The person who plans on using the font for their brand should purchase the font. So, the client should have full ownership, not the designer.

If you find yourself needing to purchase a font

Here are some steps to follow.

  • Make sure it’s a legal purchase (credible marketplace for example)
  • Select the correct license and license details (ie: webfont, 10k monthly pageviews)
  • Save the location you purchased the font in case you need to update the license in the future
  • Save the font files somewhere for easy use.

I hope this helps demystify an often misunderstood topic.

If you want help building a thriving brand, check out BrandBox.