Big, Bold (And Sometimes) Beautiful Serif Slab Fonts

SlabSerif Bold and Slab Serifs have become popular again, maybe as an antidote to the digital perfection of some newer, cleaner fonts. Slab Serifs work extremely well when mixed and matched with lighter typefaces and that’s something we’re seeing in web design now. Big, bold headings and logos used alongside “web-safe” body copy. Slab Serif typefaces offer a huge amount of variety and are excellent for providing contrast and drawing attention both to graphic design and web design work.

The term “Slab” actually covers a multitude, so it should be noted that within that umbrella term, there are several sub-categories such as Clarendons, Contemporary Text Faces, Classic Text Faces, Standard-Bearers, and Massive Display Examples. Basically everything from the old Playbill style lettering to electric typewriter style falls under Slab.


A (very) short history.

1916proclamation-1In the nineteenth century, wood type became very popular for advertisements and posters. Engravers carved individual letters out of wood. Naturally enough, it would be difficult to cut the very fine and thin lines which were achievable with metal type, and from this came big, bold typefaces. Slab Serif fonts were particularly suited for this method of creating fonts. This was the start of development of typefaces for “display” purposes.

Slab Serif fonts were sometimes referred to as “Egyptian” fonts because in 1809, Napoleon returned from an Egyptian expedition and published a book called Description de l’Égypt. It seems like everyone went bananas for the look and feel of Eqypt, and typographers used the term because it was in vogue. The term does not have anything to do with Hieroglyphs.

They were used frequently on the “Wanted” posters of the American West and some still convey that sense of the Wild West. Initially, the typefaces were created as all-caps, with lower-case letters appearing later. On the right you can see the famous (in Ireland!) 1916 Rising Proclamation using this style of font.

Free Slab Serif Fonts
I’ve picked out ten examples of Slab Serif typefaces which are free to download.

All of these fonts are free for personal use but it’s a good idea to check the license terms for commercial use.

Fette Egyptienne

fette

Acknowledgement
acknow

Alexandria

alex

Broadcast Titling – A nice 3D variation of a slab.

broadcast

Shadowed-Serif
shadowed

Chunk

chunk

All Star

all-star

Nilland

nilland

Trashed – A somewhat distorted heavy slab.
trashed

Museo – 300, 500 and 700 weights are free.

museo

Five Websites Using Slab Serif Fonts

Big Omaha

bigomaha

E-Sytems Organisers

e-systems

Carsonified

carsonified

Edgepoint Church
edgepointchurch

Pallian Creative

pallian

Another company that I’ve come across which makes use an interesting use of Slab Serif fonts in their work is Made In Hollywood. They don’t use it on their website, but rather in their designs which are made entirely from foam.

Would you use this kind of typeface in your design work? Have you seen other Slab Serif fonts you really like?

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  • http://bloggingcafe.net bdude

    You should also include Museo, one of my favourite (and partially free) Slab Serif fonts.

  • beeboy

    yet another informative and interesting little article – thanks very much.

  • Lauren

    Okay, normally I hate it when people comment with “How could you not include ‘such-and-such,’ but how could you not include Clarendon? It’s like the inspiration for several of the fonts on this list. It is THE quintessential Egyptian slab-serif. Good post though, sans is so popular it’s good to see some sans-serif alternatives and ideas.

  • http://www.crearedesign.co.uk TomBradshaw

    Thanks for the free fonts – I like how they combine their history wand weigtht with the modern medium of the intenet.

  • http://www.laughingliondesign.net Jennifer Farley

    @Lauren LOL! Believe it or not, I did think of and look at Clarendon, it is lovely but it’s a commercial font. http://new.myfonts.com/fonts/bitstream/clarendon/ I was listing free stuff in this post.

  • Lauren

    Ohhhh, duh, sorry, I neglected to read/didn’t pay attention to where you described the fonts you were displaying as free serif font options. He he. My bad :P

  • just_passing_by

    Nice article. Unfortunately, Amasis does not seem to be free…

  • http://www.anistock.com anistock

    I second museo, maybe Slab Serif fonts are back in vogue

  • http://www.laughingliondesign.net Jennifer Farley

    @bdude and @anistock thanks for the museo tip off. It’s lovely.

    @just_passing_by thanks, you’re right Amasis was not free, I’ve replaced it with museo.