Imagine you're strolling down the street and come across a poster with a typeface that catches your eye. It's exactly what you've been in search for, or it's a style you know would work perfectly in a personal or commercial project.

The problem? You have no idea the name of the typeface or any way to identify it.

Fortunately, a number of resources exist to help you detect the name of an unknown font or typeface wherever you may spot it – a signpost, shop front, in a book or even a food label. These websites and apps such as Adobe TypeKit scan the text via a picture and sort through the thousands of styles to lead you to your desired font – so either find the typeface straight away using a mobile app or take a picture and discover it when you get home, or back to your studio. 

It would be difficult and almost impossible to find an unknown font manually, so save yourself the trouble and check out our round-up of the best font matchers available for iOS, Android, Mac and Windows.

Desktop and mobile apps

Adobe Typekit

Adobe TypeKit has adopted a new visual search tool, released during the Creative Cloud 2018 announcement at Adobe Max where, similarly to searching for images based on another image in Adobe Stock, you can search for similar typefaces by using an image you have taken of a typeface you like. The search tool uses Adobe's artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, Sensei, to do this. 

To use TypeKit on a web browser for free, you may drop a file (.jpg, .png, .gif format) into the site’s search box, where it will scan its type library for a similar font. Users may also search manually based on typography collections, font families or by style. TypeKit maintains a simple licensing policy so users can easily find and make use of the wealth of typefaces. 

Another option is to download the free Adobe Capture app where you can take a photo of a desired text and Adobe Sensei technology will recognise character shapes to find the closest font match. The fonts may then be synced through the Creative Cloud and used with Illustrator CC, InDesign CC and Photoshop CC.

Download Adobe Capture free for Android or iOS.

WhatTheFont

WhatTheFont by Monotype's MyFont is a brand new AI visual search app for both desktop and smartphone. Much the same as Adobe Capture, you can take a photo of a font you like and submit it to the company’s database. WhatTheFont then scans the image and finds the closest match to the submitted font.

Upload images directly from the WhatTheFont’s website in PNG, GIF or JPEG. Tips for optimal results include trying to match the height of the text to 100 pixels, using characters that have a distinct shape, making sure there is space between the letters and uploading horizontal text.

WhatTheFont now offers a free trial and live preview of webfonts, a selection of specialised offers and curated bundles for purchase.

Download WhatTheFont free for iOS or Android

WhatFont

Developer Chengyin Liu has designed a desktop and mobile app to download, confusingly called WhatFont, not to be mistaken with WhatTheFont.

Select the text you're after and activate WhatFont for more than 300,000 identifiable fonts.

Using an iPhone and iPad supporting iOS 8 and later, app-holders can find out the font family, font weight and more. WhatFont even reveals which font is being used verses just showing the stylesheet’s value.

The best part? The app is yours for iOS at no cost.

Desktop apps only

Font Matcherator

Upload an image or image URL to Fontspring’s Font Matcherator visual search engine and find the matching font.

You can browse Fontspring’s extensive database of fonts,with categories such as bestsellers, newly added, on sale, user favourites and more. There's also the option to tag results in a search based on classification of blackletter, hand-drawn, geometric, multilinear and typewriter - to name a few.

Though Fontspring doesn’t offer an app for on-the-go font searching, it offers features distinguishable from WhatTheFont and TypeKit because has opentype detection, an image editor, glyph detection, an advanced mode and tag refinement.

FontGenius 2.0

FontGenius 2.0 from FontGenius differs from visual search tools because it's a desktop application you can download to your Windows or Mac computer. While many online services cannot identify a font unless it's sold on their website, FontGenius 2.0 searches your computer for an existing font - if you do not happen to have the font, it will provide you with a list of websites that offer the font you're looking for.

To begin using FontGenius 2.0, purchase a programme for either Mac or Windows. You can choose from a variety of software packages that help to identify fonts used in digital images.

Next, open an image (.psd, .tiff, .jpeg, .gif) in FontGenius, drag a rectangle around the text, and the application will identify the characters and font for your. The results will display what FontGenius believes to be a match - either available within your computer or from a list of websites that offer a similar font.

FontGenius also offers tools to help the system better identify your font, such as cropping, rotation, two sample colours, a colour eraser and brightness and contrast slider.

Single users can buy FontGenius for US$39.99 for Windows or Mac.