With tens of thousands of fonts in circulation, it’s hard to identify a specific font from memory when you see it. Fortunately, you don’t have to: there are free websites and an iOS app that can identify sample fonts on the fly. The process is easy and a lot of fun.
How to identify a font from a printed sample
Whatever resource you use, identifying a font from a printed sample works the same: scan or take a photo of the text, upload it. After the characters themselves are correctly identified, the resource tries to find the font.
For best results, use a crisp, straight image of the sample text. Ideally, look for a large printed example of the font, then scan it. Text at 18 points or more works best because the edges of the characters will be sharper. If you don’t have a scanner, take a careful photo with your smartphone or camera. Hold your camera steady so that the text does not tilt horizontally or vertically. If you are working with a crooked image, you can straighten it in an image editor.
The most graceful way to identify a font in the wild is by using the free WhatTheFont Mobile app. Simply launch the app, then take a photo of the text wherever it appears: on paper, road signs, walls, a book, etc. The app prompts you to crop the photo to text and then identify each character. The likely fonts then appear in a list below the photo you uploaded, using the letters in your sample text (which helps you determine the best match). Tap any font from the list to view more details.
Here are the steps to identify iPad box font using WhatTheFont Mobile app on an iPhone.
If you don’t have an iOS device (!), Try using one of these websites instead:
Each site reviews an image that you upload and then asks you to enter the letters that appear in your image. The website then does its best to identify the font for you. Again, the better the picture, the better your chances of finding the font.
How to identify a font from a web page
Fortunately, it’s much easier to identify fonts on the web than it is on paper. If the font you want to find is used in live web text, as opposed to an image, just use WhatFont, which is available as a bookmarklet, as well as an extension for Safari and Chrome. Once installed, the extension adds a small f? to the left of your browser’s address field. Click the button, point your mouse over some text, and the font information magically appears.
With the WhatFont Safari plugin, you can identify the fonts you see on web pages.
Clicking on text while WhatFont is active pins a font detail panel to that text. This panel not only shows the font name and size, it also shows the font alphabet and color (as a hexadecimal value).
To learn more about a font using WhatFont, click on the text to call up this handy panel.
Identify a font from an image on the web
If the font you want to identify on the web is actually inside an image (for example, a logo or an advertisement), you will need to use one of the printed fonts resources mentioned earlier. However, instead of uploading your own image of the text, just drag the image from the website to your desktop and then upload that image to the Police Identification Service.
That said, Firefox and Chrome users can automatically download images using the WhatFontIs extension. Once installed, just right click on an image and choose Use this image on WhatFontIs.com. The WhatFontIs.com site opens in a new tab with your image prepared and ready to be tagged.
Ask the pros
If none of the above resources can identify your font, try uploading the image to one of the following popular font ID forums. Ideally, your policy will be identified within minutes. Otherwise, it may take a few hours or even several days.
This article was written by Lesa Snider and has been updated since its initial publication.