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First, FontForge was not originally made for Windows – the developers preferred Mac and, surprisingly, Linux.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.


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  1. Martin said on March 12, 2023 at 3:05 pm

    An even quicker way to open Task Manager is by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc.

  2. archie bald said on March 12, 2023 at 4:32 pm

    Win+Pause used to be the goto shortcut for me since… W95… Ms recently hijacked it and you now get Sysinfo. Device manager is still accessible this way: the second to last link at the bottom.

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