Toying with Fonts in LaTeX

I typeset most of my documents using some program built atop TeX. For documents where fine control over formatting is not necessarily (e.g., blog posts), I use Markdown instead. On occasion, I use LibreOffice to type out a quick sign.

I'm particularly fond of LaTeX and its family because it does a fine job of separating content creation from layout, and because math is rendered beautifully (though Markdown compiled to HTML with MathJax does very well too).

Up until now, I've used pdflatex to compile my tex files, but recently I've started using xelatex instead, in some cases.

Fonts in LaTeX

Aside from some pre-installed fonts obtained through a distribution of LaTeX, there are not many options for fonts when using pdflatex. Typically this would not be a problem, as the default font family (Computer Modern), which was last updated in 19921, is quite nice. In some cases, though, it would be nice to be able to add some personal flair.


I use the moderncv package to typeset my resume, but found the default sans serif font to be a bit bland. I decided to replace the section headers with Bitter and the body text with Raleway by using the fontspec package. Defining the fonts could not be easier:

\newfontfamily\bitter[Path=fonts/Bitter/, Ligatures=TeX]{Bitter-Regular}
\newfontfamily\raleway[Path=fonts/Raleway/, Ligatures=TeX]{Raleway-Regular}

After defining the font families, I set the body font to Raleway:


and finally, set the rest of the fonts to Bitter:



The only catch is that the fontspec package is not available when using pdflatex; the only catch is that one must use xelatex instead. xetex has a few advantages over pdftex2:

  • xetex assumes the input is unicode, so characters with accents and other marks can be inserted directly into the tex source.
  • As seen in the example above, xetex is able to use fonts located on the sytem without any issues.

For now, I use xetex to typeset my resume and slides; for other documents, I stick with pdftex.


It's worth mentioning that LuaTeX is the anointed successor to pdftex, so I will probably be using that at some point in my life. It has ambitious goals, like introducing Lua to TeX to allow scripting within the document3. I haven't tried it yet as xetex does everything I need for now.