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python_freetype is a high-level Python 3 binding for the
[FreeType]( font-rendering library. It is
implemented entirely in Python, using ctypes. FreeType objects are
wrapped in Python objects, with public structure fields accessible as
read-only attributes of those objects, and object-specific routine
calls done via methods of those objects.

In usual Python fashion, you never have to explicitly dispose of
anything: the lifetimes of the FreeType objects are automatically
managed in sync with the lifetimes of their Python wrappers. You don’t
have to check for errors; all calls that return FT_Error are
automatically checked, and an instance of FTException will be raised
when appropriate.

Method names drop “FT_” prefixes and object-type-specific parts of
names: thus, the FreeType call “FT_Outline_Transform” is wrapped by a
method simply called “transform”, defined on Outline objects.

FreeType API constants are currently defined within a class
called freetype2.FT. This also contains lower-level ctypes-based
definitions for encoding and decoding FreeType API structures.
You will need to use the constants, but you can ignore the lower-level
ctypes structures. The constants are defined with the “FT_” prefix omitted,
since they are already inside a namespace called “FT”.

This library also provides convenience routines for interoperating
with [Pycairo]( you
can create a cairo.ImageSurface from a freetype2.Bitmap, and you can
construct a cairo.Path from a freetype2.Outline.

If Fontconfig is available, you can also load a font by matching
a Fontconfig pattern.

WARNING: This Python binding is still to be considered in a state of
flux for now, subject to whatever reorganization looks to be necessary
as experience is gained with using it.


To install python_freetype on your system, type

    python3 install

Basic Usage

To initialize FreeType, import the module and obtain an instance of the
Library object. Rather than instantiating the Library class yourself,
it is preferable to use the global Library instance that the freetype2
module will automatically create on demand:

    import freetype2
    FT = freetype2.FT # easier access to constants
    lib = freetype2.get_default_lib()

You can ask the library for the version of FreeType on your system:


which might print something like “(2, 6, 3)”.

To load a Face from a specific font file, use the library’s new_face
method, e.g.:

    face = lib.new_face("/usr/share/fonts/truetype/dejavu/DejaVuSerif.ttf")

Alternatively, you can find a font by matching against a Fontconfig
pattern string, e.g.:

    face = lib.find_face("times")
    face = lib.find_face("palatino:style=italic:weight=1000")
    face = lib.find_face("sans-serif:slant=500")

(See the [Fontconfig user doc](
for a detailed description of the pattern syntax.)

You can find out which font file was actually loaded, along with the
font family name and style name, by looking at attributes of the Face:

    print((face.filename, face.family_name, face.style_name))

Set the character size for rendering:

    face.set_char_size(size = 72, resolution = 90)

Load the glyph for a character code:

    face.load_char(ord("€"), FT.LOAD_DEFAULT)

Render the glyph to a bitmap:


Obtain a Pycairo ImageSurface object from the bitmap:

    surf = face.glyph.bitmap.make_image_surface()

And save the bitmap to a PNG file:


This will show the glyph as white against a black background; to get
other colour schemes, you can of course use more elaborate Cairo calls
like Context.mask_surface, or Context.set_source_surface with
different operators.

Alternatively, after the load_char call, instead of getting a bitmap
from FreeType, you can obtain the scalable outline:

    outl = face.glyph_outline

Determine its bounding box:

    bbox = outl.get_bbox()

The default FreeType coordinate system puts the origin at lower-left
(y-coordinates increasing upwards), whereas Cairo by default puts the
origin at the upper-left (y-coordinates increasing downwards). So the
Cairo context needs to have a vertical-flip transformation applied
to make the glyph render the right way up:

    g = cairo.Context(...)
    ... further initialization of g ...
    m = cairo.Matrix()
    m.translate(0, + (bbox.yMax - bbox.yMin) / 2)
    m.scale(1, -1)
    m.translate(0, - (bbox.yMax - bbox.yMin) / 2)

Draw the outline as a Cairo path into the context:


Fill or stroke it with some suitable colour or pattern, e.g.

    g.set_source_rgba(0, 0, 0, 1)

And so on.

For some example scripts, see my python_freetype_examples repository

Vectors And Matrices

This module provides Vector and Matrix types which aim to be more
convenient to use than the original FreeType types. For example, to
multiply two matrices m1 and m2, you can just use the simple Python
expression “m1 * m2”; to multiply m1 by the inverse of m2, you can
write “m1 * m2.inv()”, or even more simply, express it as a division:
“m1 / m2”. To transform a vector v by a matrix m, premultiply it by
the matrix: “m * v”. All Vector and Matrix operations are *functional*,
not *procedural*: they construct and return new objects, leaving the
originals unchanged.

As a further convenience, the components of these vectors and matrices
are regular Python floating-point numbers, so you don’t have to worry
about the right fixed-point scaling to apply.

These objects are automatically converted to the underlying FreeType
types, with the right scaling, where appropriate.

Lawrence D’Oliveiro <>
2017 April 9


Python language binding for FreeType library




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