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Our best modern serif fonts, including free fonts

Modern serif fonts have a geometric frame that’s rather squarish; the counters are more open, strokes have a slight handwritten quality with more expansive terminals.

What’s a serif font?

A typical classification of fonts is serif vs. sans-serif, and sometimes also slab-serif, an in-between version of both featuring short serifs. Briefly, serifs are the little feet at the endings of letter stems.

During the Roman times, these little feet made it easier for stone carvers to carve letters into stone so they could have a smooth finish on all ends. In contrast, sans-serifs only started to become popular in the 1830s.

serif vs. sans-serif font

 

Serif vs. sans-serif font (right).

What makes a serif font modern?

Serif fonts generally have a more classy, older feel than sans-serif fonts. Serif letters are all we see when we look at old inscriptions, historical books, and images of old writings. Even nowadays, they’re still more often used for text in classic books.

Similar to sans-serif fonts, modern typefaces feature a geometric frame that’s rather squarish than an elongated rectangle; the counters (inner forms of letters) are broader and more open, strokes have a slight handwritten quality with more expansive terminals; x-heights (height of lowercase letters) are often taller than in classic serif fonts, contributing to a more open, generous feel.

old-style serif font examples

 

Old-style serif font. Shown here: Garamond, Jenson, and Caslon.

letterforms from old to modern

 

Letterforms from old to modern.

Classic old-style serif fonts feature serifs that are either rounded or have a quill-like quality. They are often fonts for long texts, meaning their contrast between thinner and thicker strokes is less pronounced.

The serifs of modern fonts can be more experimental. They are sharp and pointy (like in Rozi), they are overemphasized (like in Edde), or overly short (like in Quil). Modern serif fonts are open—compare the wide letters o and e from the Bauhaus Mod font.

Modern serif fonts can also relate to the entire typeface and feature a specific characteristic, like the italicized letters i and j in Kijs, giving this font a natural look. Another example is Bauhaus Soft—these serifs are round and voluptuous, especially in their bolder font weights.

A list of our best modern serif fonts

Edde—Strong serif font for craft & heritage

Edde strong serif font

 

Bauhaus Soft—Organic serif font

Bauhaus Soft, organic serif font

 

Bauhaus Kijs—Nature font with serifs

Kijs, natural serif font

 

Bauhaus Quil—Bold serif font with cool twist

Quil, cool serif font with rounded shapes

 

Rozi—Modern, elegant font with sharp serifs

Rozi, sharp serif font

 

Bauhaus Mod—Modern serif typeface

Bauhaus Mod, modern serif font with open forms

 

Here’s the complete 2024 collection of serif fonts.

Best free serif fonts with a modern look

While Google Webfonts has a lot more sans fonts in the modern category, here’s my top list of free modern serif fonts, ordered by most modern first:

1. DM Serif Display (also has a text version)

DM Display, free serif font

 

2. Newsreader

Newsreader, free serif font

 

3. Kaisei Opti

Kaisei Opti, free serif font

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Modern serif fonts have a geometric frame that’s rather squarish; the counters are more open, strokes have a slight handwritten quality with more expansive terminals.

Read more

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