Learn to Install FontForge to Make Your Own Fonts

Melanie Gross
Jun 12, 2011
Software, Windows, Windows software

Creating your own completely unique fonts can be a lot of fun. Customizing a font to fit your personal likes and dislikes, making decisions whether it will be serif or sans serif, whether Ws will have crossing lines, and all the other decisions that go into building a font personalizes it like no other set of letters can. And of course, walking with it from shapes on a piece of paper to a mess of unorganized curves on your screen, and finally to printed shapes on a piece of paper can be an extremely rewarding a fulfilling experience.

Font making programs are not that easy to come by. The really good ones are expensive – very expensive for what non-font buffs would think is a pretty silly expense. Options include industry standard FontLab Studio, coming it at a respectable $650, FontCreator a relative bargain at $70, and the behemoth DTL (Dutch Type Library) FontMaster, which costs a turns-your-life-upside-down $3000.

There are free options. Unfortunately, they can be a bit of a hassle to get installed. One such program, FontForge, is a an application that has nearly all the options as the standard, FontLab Studio. Yet the process to install the program takes a little time and can be very confusing without a little help.

To create a font, such a program is absolutely necessary. So if you want to build your own and have already acquired everything else you will need (a scanner, some kind of raster graphic software like Photoshop or Gimp, some kind of vector graphic software like Illustrator, a pen, and paper) and really just need to get a font making program on computer, this how-to will get you through the installation process for FontForge.

First, FontForge was not originally made for Windows – the developers preferred Mac and, surprisingly, Linux. To get their Windows version to run properly you must begin by downloading Cygwin. It’s a very simple install, simply download the free executable and run the installer. When you reach the page that asks what specific packages you would like to install, go with the default options except add everything from the bottom set, titled X11, and the search for and check binutils, libpng, libjpeg, and libxml2. Click next, and then allow it to add any dependencies to the list to install.

create fonts

Once you have installed Cygwin, click here to download the latest version of FontForge. Once the file has finished downloading, copy it into the default user’s file within Cygwin’s directory. For most computers this will be found at C:\cygwin\home\[your username]. Next, open a Cygwin window and type the following:

bunzip2 fontforge_full-20110222.tar.bz2
tar xf fontforge_full-20110222.tar
cd fontforge

You now have FontForge on your computer. However, as with pretty much everything in dealing with this program, you are not quite finished yet. Any time you want to open the program, go back into Cygwin and type:


A new window will appear. In it type:

twm &

And then:

fontforge –new

At long last, FontForge is ready for you to use.

Enjoy making your own fonts, and just remember that you cannot start the program like you can most others on Windows.


Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. forgetForge said on July 17, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    what a crap this fontforge. better pay something for a realsoftware as wasting time on such a geek user unfriendly procedure. sorry. my time is to expensive to wast on creepy programming

  2. Dragon's Eye said on June 11, 2012 at 2:25 am

    That’s okay.

    WinDOZE seems to like making everything difficult for the not-so-average user too!

    Anyway, I have enjoyed using the MingW version of FontForge for a couple of years without too much headache. It does take a bit to get used how it all works, but I HAVE already created two different TTF files, one of which is downloadable from the web! ;-)

    Great program I must say! I hope to see some features added.

  3. Anonymous2 said on March 17, 2012 at 7:10 am

    @Anonymous: this works for some people:

  4. Anonymous said on March 16, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    This is by far the most complicated way of installing something I have ever come across.. After hours, I STILL have gotten no-where :( I just want to edit 1 font, that’s all I ask!!

  5. Rebecca2323 said on November 3, 2011 at 11:13 pm


    Check out my tutorial on how to make a font on FontForge!

  6. anisur rahman said on October 15, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    when i type “cd fontforge”

    program shows “bash: cd: fontforge: no such file or directory

  7. Jojo said on June 13, 2011 at 5:36 am

    What good is a custom font? Will it display correctly on someone else’s computer or do you have to send the font to them first?

    1. Stickman said on April 24, 2015 at 11:07 pm

      They could possibly be used as a webfont.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on June 13, 2011 at 10:19 am

      Jojo that depends on how you use it. Some programs integrate the font while others do not.

      1. Jojo said on June 13, 2011 at 6:34 pm

        Integrate the font into WHAT? A program might turn a font into an image, which would work (at the expense of document size), but if it were kept it as a true font, then in Windows, the font would have to be installed on other peoples machines to make it available (don’t know about other OS’s).

        If you send someone something using an unknown font, you will get garbage displayed. This is why custom signature fonts don’t work very well.

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on June 13, 2011 at 6:51 pm

        I was thinking for instance about using custom fonts to design images or photos.

  8. muki said on June 12, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    when I type ./doinstall in cygwin I get “bash: ./doinstall: No such file or directory”. what’s the problem?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on June 12, 2011 at 10:09 pm

      Have you run the commands before that one? See here for instructions http://fontforge.sourceforge.net/ms-install.html

      1. Verenor said on August 25, 2011 at 7:07 am

        I also ran into the “doinstall” problem as well. If you go to the instructions on the FontForge site and find the same command there it is under the “Installing from a pre-built cygwin package”. What this tutorial did ( just like another one I read ) is mixed instructions from source building and pre-built. I think building from source can be done with a few more packages, but I haven’t tried it yet. ( btw, the doinstall file is in the older pre-built package, but its outdated )

  9. Josh Surber said on June 12, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    Even easier way… install Linux. With Ubuntu, you can open the Software Center, a couple of clicks and you have it downloaded. Once it’s in your launcher, just a single click and you are editing fonts!

    Or if you really feel like using the terminal (as you would have to in Windoze anyway) you can type:
    sudo apt-get install fontforge
    to install it, then:
    to run it.

    But that’s only if you want the same archaic CLI experience that you have to suffer through with Windows. Linux is better than that.

    1. sulasno said on June 13, 2011 at 1:51 am

      your method for Ubuntu works like a charm

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.