How to Change Font in GIMP

Choosing the right font is a key step in any graphic design project. It can create a fun, playful feeling, or set a professional, business-like tone; in short, the right font can make or break your project. Ideally, this should be a fun stage of your design process – as long as you can choose the right font! 

To use a specific font in GIMP, you don’t need to do anything special – as long as it’s already installed in your operating system. GIMP will use your installed fonts without any additional setup, although you can set certain fonts to only work within GIMP if you’d prefer (though I can’t see why that would be necessary). 

If you’ve explored any of my other tutorials about typesetting in GIMP, you might already know that the Type tool can be frustrating to work with – or maybe you’ve found out the hard way. While it’s not exactly difficult to change fonts in GIMP, it’s not nearly as easy as it should be. 

There are three ways you can change fonts in GIMP: using the Tool Options panel, using the Fonts panel, or using the Text tool popup overlay that appears when you create a text box in your image. 

It’s faster to use the popup, but things can quickly get frustrating because GIMP prioritizes the settings from the Tool Options panel and sometimes simply resets any changes you’ve made in the popup. Save yourself the time and just set things up using the Tool Options first! 

Changing Fonts Using the Text Tool Options

If you haven’t already switched to the Text tool, switch now using the toolbox or the keyboard shortcut T. In the Tool Options panel, you’ll see all the various typographic options that GIMP provides (or at least, most of them). 

The Tool Options panel showing the Text tool options

Changing the font is actually quite easy: either click the name of the current font and begin typing the name of the font you want to use, or click the Aa thumbnail and select from a list. Unfortunately, as you’ll soon see, this is a pretty cramped window for browsing through a large collection, and you can’t even resize it! 

I don’t know who thought this was enough space to select fonts, but they weren’t a typographer

There is a half-solution that gives you a bit more room: the Fonts panel.  

The Fonts Panel

I think the Fonts panel is either a leftover relic or a hasty bandaid, but it’s also the easiest way to browse your collection and select a typeface. The problem is that you can’t use it for anything else; it only does half the job. You’ll still have to use the Tool Options panel to set the rest of your default text settings.

At least you can see the full names of the fonts here (usually)

If your Fonts panel isn’t visible nested in the upper right corner with Brushes, Patterns, and History, you can bring it back by opening the Windows menu, selecting the Dockable Dialogs submenu, and choosing Fonts from the list.

Changing Fonts Using the Text Tool Overlay

It’s also possible to change fonts using the Text tool popup overlay that appears above any text box that you draw. Simply click the font name and type in the name of the font you’d like to use. Just a few characters will do, and GIMP will show you a dropdown list of options. 

The dropdown is fairly fast at switching, but the thumbnails are tiny

The problem with this method is that it only applies to the actual characters that you’ve typed into the text box, not the text box itself. So if you’re testing out a particular phrase or name and set the font using the popup, and then delete those characters, the text box settings will revert to those set using the Tool Options panel. 

I drove myself up the wall more than a few times while I was getting used to this quirk of GIMP’s Text tool, but hopefully, it will save you some time and aggravation when you need to change fonts in GIMP. 

About Thomas Boldt
I’ve been working with digital images since the year 2000 or so, when I got my first digital camera. I've tried many image editing programs. GIMP is a free and powerful software, but not exactly user-friendly until you get comfortable with it, and I wanted to make the learning process easier for you here.

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