How to use OTF fonts with pdflatex

Posted on by nek0 in english, writing, programming

In the last days I had an interesting Problem to solve, which involved LaTeX, OTF font files and a special set of requirements. I needed to import and use the OTF fonts in a LaTeX document and this document needed to be compiled through pdflatex.

First off: If you need to use OTF fonts in LaTeX documents, you can simply switch to XeLaTeX or LuaLaTeX, like I did in the first place. Both of these environments support the package fontspec, which makes using fonts installed in your system extremely easy. So if you can, switch the environment.

If you can’t switch the environment, don’t want to, feel a little adventurous or even want to feel some of the innards of LaTeX you can choose the path I am about to show.

Before you can start, you need to install the LCDF typetools, which is a set of tools for manipulating the font definitions of LaTeX. Most GNU/Linux distributions have them in their repositories, Mac users can install them through homebrew and even Windows binaries are available on the website. Additionally make sure, that you use updmap in system mode and have root privileges.

To create the font mappings from the OTF, you simply run

sudo otftotfm -a <fontfile> --vendor <vendor> --typeface <typeface> -e texnansx

Where you replace the items in the angle brackets. This not only produces the mappings, but also places them in the right directory. (If otftotfm complains because of updmap, run the updmap commands in the error messages as updmap-sys.)

Before you can actually use the Font, you have to write your own font definition. A small template for this follows, which should be saved as T1<typeface>.df

[YYYY/mm/dd foobar]
\DeclareFontShape{T1}{<fontname>}{m}{n} {<-> <fontface> } {}

Here you can define <fontname> as you wish, the other elements in angle brackets correspond to the box above.

To actually use it, you can call


from your document to change the font in the whole document, assuming the T1<fontname>.fd is in your project folder, or call

Lorem ipsum {\fontfamily{<fontname>}\fontseries{m}\fontshape{n}
\selectfont dolor sit} amet

to change the font only for “dolor sit” in this example.

There are tons of other options how to handle fonts in LaTeX, but this is the most convenient one I found.

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