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Adding fonts to X (and GIMP)

How to add fonts to X

News flash: There's an excellent program that automates this whole process called "type1inst". It's available from the type1inst home page. It is much easier and nicer to use than this hand-tweaking.

(Note: I am not a font expert. I am telling you what works for me. If something here is total tripe, let me know and I'll update the information on this page.)

(Note 2: There's another great font page at the comp.fonts homepage.)

Everyone loves to see great fonts incorporated into graphics. Unfortunately, the only fonts that work well at large sizes with GIMP are Adobe Type 1 fonts, and by default, Slackware Linux only installs two (Charter and Courier). So how do you get (and install) new fonts to use with the GIMP? Starting Out
Finding fonts is easy. There's a huge font archive at, and all of them are Type 1 fonts that can be plugged right into X (Note: this ftp site address has changed. Thanks to the many people who tracked it down for me). Download any of them you like. Let's use Dragonwick as an example font.

Dragonwick appears in the font archive as It's an unfortunate side effect of the fonts being intended for DOS or OS/2 systems that the names aren't reasonably descriptive :). Download that zip file to a directory on your system.

Installing the Fonts
Unzip the file. It should produce this output:

(19:54:14) [xach] xach:~/fonts$ unzip -L
  exploding: dragonwi.afm
  exploding: dragonwi.pfb
  exploding: dragonwi.pfm
  exploding: dragonwi.txt
Tip: I always unzip with the -L switch, because I hate typing in the normal all-caps filenames that unzip from DOS zips.

The only file you really care about is the dragonwi.pfb file. Copy it into your /usr/X11/lib/fonts/Type1/ directory. This is where all of your Type 1 font files will be stored.

Telling X
To let X know where the font is, you must first edit the fonts.scale file that's in the Type1 directory. Here's a couple lines from mine:

thomas.pfb -adobe-thomas-medium-r-normal--0-0-0-0-m-0-iso8859-1
tiempo.pfb -adobe-tiempo-medium-r-normal--0-0-0-0-m-0-iso8859-1
tif_b.pfb -adobe-tif_b-medium-r-normal--0-0-0-0-m-0-iso8859-1
tif_e.pfb -adobe-tif_e-medium-r-normal--0-0-0-0-m-0-iso8859-1
tiffhevy.pfb -adobe-tiffhevy-medium-r-normal--0-0-0-0-m-0-iso8859-1
tiffthin.pfb -adobe-tiffthin-medium-r-normal--0-0-0-0-m-0-iso8859-1
title.pfb -adobe-title-medium-r-normal--0-0-0-0-m-0-iso8859-1
tribe.pfb -adobe-tribe-medium-r-normal--0-0-0-0-m-0-iso8859-1
To get dragonwi.pfb recognized, add a line that looks like so:

dragonwi.pfb -adobe-dragonwick-medium-r-normal--0-0-0-0-m-0-iso8859-1

The only two really critical variables in the line are the first entry, which tells the name of the font file, and the third entry, which tells X what to present as the name of the font to the user. The third entry is useful if your font file is named "shtoo.pfb"...that's not very descriptive. So you can change the third entry to "SharkTooth" to give you a better idea what the font is.

Save your fonts.scale, then run the following programs:

xach:/usr/lib/X11/fonts/Type1# mkfontdir
xach:/usr/lib/X11/fonts/Type1# xset fp rehash
Those commands will create an index file for your fonts, and rehash the font server to use the new index, respectively. Now when you go to use the Text tool in GIMP, a new font (dragonwick) will be available to you.

Happy GIMPing!


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