Char­ter was de­signed by Matthew Carter in 1987 as a body text font that would hold up well on low-res­o­lu­tion out­put de­vices of the day—fax ma­chines and 300 dpi laser printers.

Though 300 dpi print­ing is long gone, most of to­day’s com­puter dis­plays op­er­ate far be­low 300 dpi. Char­ter, un­sur­pris­ingly, holds up ad­mirably well as a screen font. (Matthew would go on to de­sign the quin­tes­sen­tial screen fonts Ver­dana and Geor­gia for Microsoft.)

In 1992, Bit­stream con­tributed Post­Script ver­sions of the ba­sic Char­ter fam­ily to the X Con­sor­tium. These orig­i­nal files are still avail­able and can be freely down­loaded and mod­i­fied. But they can be hard to find. So I tracked them down and con­verted them into a new pack­age of OTFs, TTFs, and webfonts.

Why? Be­cause Char­ter is a great font, and eas­ily one of the best free fonts avail­able. So I’m do­ing what I can to put more Char­ter into the world. If your project de­mands a font with­out li­cens­ing re­stric­tions, con­sider it.

Please note:

  1. These fonts can be down­loaded & used sub­ject to the orig­i­nal license:

    Char­ter license

    This is a copy of the Char­ter fonts which Bit­stream con­trib­uted to the X con­sor­tium. This is the orig­i­nal no­tice in­cluded with the fonts:

    (c) Copy­right 1989-1992, Bit­stream Inc., Cam­bridge, MA. You are hereby granted per­mis­sion un­der all Bit­stream pro­pri­ety rights to use, copy, mod­ify, sub­li­cense, sell, and re­dis­trib­ute the 4 Bit­stream Char­ter (r) Type 1 out­line fonts and the 4 Courier Type 1 out­line fonts for any pur­pose and with­out re­stric­tion; pro­vided, that this no­tice is left in­tact on all copies of such fonts and that Bit­stream’s trade­mark is ac­knowl­edged as shown be­low on all un­mod­i­fied copies of the 4 Char­ter Type 1 fonts. BIT­STREAM CHAR­TER is a reg­is­tered trade­mark of Bit­stream Inc.

  2. I can’t of­fer any sup­port for these fonts. The ex­tent of my con­tri­bu­tion is this page.

Down­load Char­ter (238K zip file)

by the way
  • If you run a re­cent ver­sion of Mac OS, Char­ter is al­ready in­cluded as a sys­tem font. So if you only want to use it on your own ma­chine, you don’t need to down­load this version.

  • Char­ter is also avail­able as a full Open­Type font fam­ily (though not for free).

  • Char­ter is the ba­sis of an­other free font called Charis. Charis has a larger char­ac­ter set, so if you need that, you might pre­fer it to this ver­sion. But if not, stick with this one—Charis in­cludes some ques­tion­able de­sign modifications.

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