Twelve Free Fonts Make Custom Valentines Easy

Feeling used by the merchandising nightmare that is Valentine's Day? Fight back by surprising anyone and everyone in your circle of friends with some custom font love and a little valentine savvy. With PCWorld's free font downloads, a little novelty sourcing, and a few nights of affectionate attention before the big day, you can set the table for a love banquet.

Don't forget the sweethearts at home, but do print out some love for the folks who stand by you in the daily churn of work and play. Here are twelve tips and twelve fonts to point the way.

To simplify your access to this batch of fonts, we've created a downloads collection that contains links to all 12 of them.

Tip 1: A valentine does not have to be a card.

Doris Day: A quicker perker-upper.
My editor has access to a great copy desk at work, but I keep Mr. Brian, ace trivia buff, on speed dial for moments when my font reviews need solid attributions. The man has a massive library and he always comes through, especially with important facts about starlets of the '50s--that illustrious lineage from Debra Paget to Sandra Dee. To capture the spirit of the age, I'll be using Doris Day, Mario Arturo's demure brush script, to make a valentine that my friend is sure to file under fun. Miss Day's best lines from her starring role in The Pajama Game, tastefully printed on pastel bookmarks, are bound to make his day extra-perky.

Download Doris Day

Tip 2: A valentine can open doors.

Champignon: La gloire d'antan.
It's not the velvet rope I fear, it's the young woman clutching menus to her chest and pursing her lips as she mans the podium of my favorite restaurant. Yes, my maître d' is a maître diva--but not for long, because I'm handing her a valentine seating chart made using Champignon, a classic script font by by Claude Pelletier. Voilà! Pelletier's digital update of Spencerian script dips and swirls with fanciful abandon, and the designer has thoughtfully provided a set of swashes, the better to embellish my date's desire to be escorted to the coveted corner booth. Then again, twenty bucks folded into the shape of a swan isn't a bad idea either.

Download Champignon

Tip 3: A totally unexpected valentine is not out of the question.

IronManic: Heavy metal love.
Another year and my 2002 Mazda is still running smooth, thanks to the crew at Don's Auto Service. To this talented troop of grease monkeys goes a six-pack of frozen banana pops and a little bundle of valentines emblazoned with IronManic, a homage font to Marvel's master tinkerer, created by Gene Buban. For once I'm happy that a font is in all caps, because shouting is the preferred form of communication over the din of repair work. To wit, I'll adjust the point size to massive when I heat-transfer DON'S LOVE GARAGE on a half-dozen red cotton wipe rags. Hey, that should get those engines started!

Download IronManic

Tip 4: A valentine can practice tough love.

Ariapenciroman: A numberless font for moments out of time.
Let's imagine that a roof repair was scheduled to be complete last November. At least that's what the contract promised--the contract you had such faith in. But here it is February, and you're still gazing at the stars as you pile on the blankets. To make a tardy vendor's heart beat a little faster, print up a valentine calendar using Ariapenciroman, Christoph Windmueller's sketchy mashup of Arial and Times New Roman. The penciled-in quality of Windmueller's characters makes it a good match for a work-in-progress; and since this font doesn't have numerals, you can spell everything out--starting with the day the repair was due and spreading the love all the way to now. Carpe diem, people, by penciling in a contract review date with your lawyer present on February Fourteen.

Download Ariapenciroman

Tip 5: A valentine can provide a gentle push.

Bandung Hardcore: Slab serifs with batik overtones.
To the aspiring musicians on our block goes a valentine dialed all the way to 11 with Bandung Hardcore, the traditional slab serif font by Indonesian designer Gilang Purnama. I'll point out the font's roots in West Java's underground music scene as the neighbors and I present the band with a stylin' stack of branded bumper stickers to hand out at their Valentine's Day gig. The dudes will be mega-impressed. I wish they'd go by my nickname for them--"The Bryant Street Death Rays"--because the words look especially awesome set in Bandung at its most hardcore. Hey, maybe bumper stickers will encourage the lads to tour. Listen for our neighbors yelling "Bon voyage!" as the boys in the van roll away.

Download Bandung Hardcore

Tip 6: A valentine can wear its heart on a sleeve.

Sorts Mill Goudy: Pensées American style.
Mrs. Nina hasn't met my partner, but she knows his tie collection. She has exorcised gum crud from Egyptian cotton and ketchup splats from Irish linen. The pristine condition of the rehabbed haberdashery owes more to her than our Visa card allows, but a timely verse shows our appreciation. Such a valentine is a job for Sorts Mill Goudy, Barry Schwartz's revival of the classic American text font Goudy Old Style. Hence my gift: a lab coat with a heat-transferred haiku dedicated to the queen of stain removal:

Gone like morning dew
at noon: egg yolk from my tie.
Mrs. Nina cleans!

Download Sorts Mill Goudy

Tip 7: Some valentines need a touch of magic.

Gypsy Curse: I don't care if you don't want me--I'm yours.
The morning commute has me wishing I were a pitch-perfect singing bus driver. I would be the one operator bold enough to wail Screamin' Jay Hawkins's "I Put a Spell on You" at the teenage fare jumpers streaming in through the back doors. Instead I'm just a scold with an attitude. To show this crowd how much I appreciate their riding for free on February 14th, I'm handing out valentine flyers with Hawkins's lyrics so they can sing along during our morning crush. Gypsy Curse, part of the Sinister Visions Font Quartet by horror mogul Chad Savage, will definitely capture my mood, especially in red. Savage's creation has the perfect hoodoo-like-you-do vibe, and it comes with a lowercase that's bold enough to let my fellow riders know how much I'd love to see them "stop the things they do."

Download Gypsy Curse

Tip 8: A valentine may require a big statement.

Capture it: Stenciled for no-nonsense authority.
For a long time I've had a secret crush on the San Francisco Department of Public Works--the folks who make the byways more inviting than the highways. SFDPW is so hip, I follow them on Twitter! This year my love dares to speak its name with an 8-foot-high valentine poster made with Capture it, Koczman Bálint's stencil font. The guys and gals in reflective vests are sure to identify with the spray-down cred working through Bálint's characters. Two decisions remain: Should we set SFDPW COMPLETES US in Capture It negative (which prints as if cut out of a stencil sheet) or positive (the letter alone) and should we specify safety-cone orange or roadwork-sign yellow for the background?

Download Capture it

Tip 9: A valentine can make for a better connection.

High Voltage: Crackling good.
Now that I've found a slew of custom embroidery houses on the Web, I wish my Cable Guy were a Cable Gal. If my provider had a Cable Gal scaling poles, running wire, and never breaking a circuit, I could order up an electrifying valentine with the words "Cable Goddess" styled in High Voltage and embroidered on a hot-pink ball cap. Typographer Tobias Sommer's FontStruction wires classic black letter to calligraphic script for characters that sizzle when outlined in metallic thread. Surely, my idealized Cable Person would like the ziggy embellishments--and the fact the sun wasn't in her eyes--almost as much as I liked finally getting to design a ball cap. She wouldn't even mind being called Shirley.

Download High Voltage

Tip 10: A valentine can be edible (and we're not talking about conversation hearts).

Sniglet: Soft and fluffy.
My little niece looks to me for clever design solutions. Who am I to disappoint a favorite client? I'll be applying the kyuuto! factor to Little Miss Sunshine's classroom valentines using Sniglet the ultra-buoyant font by designer Haley Fiege. After discovering that edible frosting sheets can roll out of a home printer, I know that this assignment will be a breeze. As quickly as I can set "I dough so luv U!" my littlest client will have perfect embellished decorations for the two dozen shortbread hearts she cajoled her mother into baking. My niece is working my inkjet overtime, but with Sniglet I've got this deliverable covered.

Download Sniglet

Tip 11: A valentine can be temporary.

Tattoo Lettering: Delibly stamped.
What can one do for a friendly barista who is fond of stylized koi tattoos but squeamish about needles? This kind of valentine is made to be brewed using Daniel Gauthier's Tattoo Lettering font. Looking to font folklore, Gauthier has drawn and digitalized two sets of characters that match classic parlor lettering. With a little Photoshop shading, Tattoo Lettering Open is the perfect foil for the free koi tattoo clip art I found on the Web, along with a painless tattoo article netted from PCWorld Business Center. Her morning patrons will be all a'Twitter when I hand over a big valentine tip and a letter-size sheet of Water Slide Temporary Tattoo Paper filled with fishy flash made just for her.

Download Tattoo Lettering

Tip 12: A valentine is all about hope.

Riddle: Romance with a Rat Pack twist.
The most important valentine of all is the one that lands closest to home. To handle that crucial task, I turn to Riddle, Mario Arturo's '50s-inspired brush script font. Riddle serves up romance with a Rat Pack twist--long-stemmed yet delicately curled. Though some prospective users may find Riddle's lowercase-only letter set limiting, I think it will establish the perfect tone when I light the candles, pour the Manhattans, and present a customized sheet-music valentine for the Rodgers and Hart song "Spring Is Here." Sinatra sang this ballad in full melancholy mode, but I'll counter that by making hopeful puppy dogs eyes as my Significant Other belts out the lyrics in his best karaoke tenor.

Download Riddle

Ah, love in the digital age! No matter who's on your list, twelve free fonts can make for twelve heartfelt moments. Beat back the February 14 blues. All it takes is a quick download and the courage to say "I adore you" with style.

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