The U.S. Graphic Arts Technical Foundation reported that 57% of files submitted to printers by their clients needed to be fixed before processing. One of the most common sources of frustration with supplied files is missing or incorrect fonts.

Before reviewing how to copy fonts to disk, let's answer a few of the most common questions printers are asked in regards to fonts:

Why do I have to supply fonts - don't you have them?
No. With the growth in popularity of new fonts and custom fonts, there are now tens of thousands of different fonts available from numerous manufacturers. Unfortunately, it is impossible for anyone to have all of them.

I used standard fonts (like Times New Roman or Helvetica) that I know you have - why do I have to supply these ones to you?
While many fonts are quite common, there are still a number of different manufacturers that make slightly different versions of the same font. Some software manufacturers release slightly different versions of the same font each time they release a new version of their software. The differences are usually quite subtle and involve the way spacing is applied between the letters, words and lines when the font is used. If your print shop has a different version of Times New Roman than you do, you might find that the spacing has changed in your document. This can cause text re-flow, tabbing inconsistencies and other problems.

Are fonts copyrighted?
Most fonts are legally allowed to be used only by the their registered owner. However, most manufacturers allow their fonts to be used for output at a print shop or service bureau if the client supplies them for that purpose.

I supplied my fonts on my last job - why do I have to supply them again?
As mentioned above, copyright law usually prevents your printer or service bureau from keeping permanent copies of your fonts. Also, with the sheer number of fonts out there, it would often be impractical for a printer to archive all the fonts used by their clients.

I "embedded" the fonts in my document, isn't that good enough?
Probably not! The way font embedding works, the fonts usually "disappear" if the file is saved a second time. This means that if you ask your printer to make a last minute change, your embedded fonts will be cleansed from the document the moment they go to save the file (this does not apply to PDF files. Font embedding, if used properly, works very well in PDF documents).

Supplying fonts to your printer (Windows).

  1. Write down all the fonts that have been used in your document (some software will automatically do this for you). Keep this list so you can supply it with your fonts.
  2. On your desktop create a "Fonts for output" folder (this should be deleted after the job is done and created fresh each time you gather fonts for output).
  3. In the Windows Start Menu, go to your Control Panel (under "Settings").
  4. Open up the "fonts" folder in your Control Panel. In the "view" menu, select "details" or "list" so that the complete font name is displayed.
  5. Drag the fonts you need from your fonts folder into your "fonts for output" folder and they will be copied into that folder OR select the fonts you need, select "copy" from your edit menu, right click on your "fonts for output" folder with your mouse and select "paste" from the menu that appears. Generally, be sure to copy the entire font family (normal, bold, italic, bolditalic) into the folder, as they may all be needed. If you select "hide variations" in the "view" menu, the entire font family will automatically be copied.
  6. This folder is now ready for transfer to a disk to be taken to the printer (or you can select and "attach" the items from this folder in an email).


  1. The above instructions do not apply to Adobe/Postscript fonts. With these fonts you will have to determine what directory (usually c:\psfonts & c:\psfonts\pfm) they are stored in and copy BOTH parts (.pfb & .pfm files) into you "fonts for output" directory. It is crucial to keep in mind that there are these two files that go into making a complete Postscript font. If you don't include both, the font will not work.
  2. If you work with a third party font organizer (such as Bitstream Font Navigator), you will have to determine whether your fonts are in directories other than Windows\fonts. For example, many people keep a separate fonts directory that has alphabetical subdirectories. If you can't find a font, but you know it's on your system, use the "find - files or folders" function in your Windows "start" menu. Do a search on your system for "*.ttf" (for TrueType fonts). A window will then open up and show you all the .ttf (TrueType font) files on your system. You can select/copy these files straight out of this directory and into your "fonts for output" directory.
  3. If you can't find a font and have some fonts that are identified by numbers (ie. 843332.ttf), doubleclick on the numbered font file and it will show you the font name and a sample of the font. Keep in mind that going through the control panel to access your fonts folder and selecting "details" or "list" from the "view" menu will usually also make the font name appear.
  4. Some software packages (Quark, InDesign) have excellent features for helping you to collect fonts and graphics for output which can save you some or all of the above steps.
  5. You may want to doublecheck that the fonts you have placed on your disk are the actual font files and not shortcuts. You should be able to tell if they are shortcuts (references to another location where the file resides) because they usually have an arrow on the bottom left of their icon. If you "right click" on the file with your mouse, the property menu that comes up should identify the file as a shortcut if it is one. If the files on your disk are 0k or 1k in size, that is also a sign that you have not saved the actual font files to disk. If this happens, "right click" on the file and it should tell you the directory where the complete file resides.


Hopefully this information has been helpful. If there is anything that is unclear, please forward your feedback to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we'll see what we can do to clear things up. See you next month!

We strive to be as accurate and current with our information as possible. Due to the infinite number of scenarios that occur in print & desktop publishing, we can not guarantee that the above information will be correct in all situations.