What is Bitmap Font? Example, Uses & More

What is Bitmap Font?

A bitmap font refers to the type of font where every character is stored as a set of pixels or dots. These pixels build symbols, also called glyphs, to make up a complete bitmap font.

Technically, a bitmap font is a set of pixels or a group of raster images of glyphs, where each variant of the font has a comprehensive set of glyph images. In other words, in this, each character is actually treated as a tiny black and white image.


  • A bitmap font is a character font where every letter form is stored as a set of pixels instead of a set of strokes or lines as in the outline font.
  • It is easy and fast to render the bitmapped fonts on a printer or a screen, which can be done simply by replicating the bits for the character.
  • The bitmap fonts cannot be scaled to any size other than the size at which they were created, or else they will have a jagged look.
  • There are different types of formats used in bitmap fonts such as PCF, BDF, SNF, DWF, FON, and others.
  • The bitmap fonts offer optimization and allow for using special effects in a 2D image.

Understanding Bitmap Font

What is Bitmap Font

A bitmap font typically refers to a printer or a screen font. The whole representation of every character of the font, usually stored in pixels, needs to be kept in the memory to display or print one such font.

Typically, the bitmap fonts are one of the three specific types of fonts used in a computer, the two other being:

  • Vector or outline fonts
  • Stroke fonts

There is usually an additional pattern of tiny dots for every individual character, which does not change.

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A bitmap font is also known (though less commonly) as:

  • A pixel font
  • A raster font

These types of fonts are typically used when a compact yet fast-loading font is required.

Each full set of characters in a bitmap font refers to all of the following:

  • The typeface
  • The size of the type
  • The weight
  • The posture

If any of these factors differ on a character or on a word, it will not be printed properly. In such a situation, the computer will have to load a second complete set of characters into its memory.

This type of font is used when a compact, fast-loading font is essential.

In a bitmap font, every set contains the image of every individual character. This means that, if there are three sizes of a font and a mixture of bold and italic, then there should be as many as 12 full sets of images.

The bitmap fonts can be characterized as follows:

  • They are extremely fast.
  • They are simple to use or render.
  • They are easier to create.
  • They are best for small and low-quality displays.
  • The pattern of dots that make up the fonts cannot be changed or rearranged.

Moreover, when the bitmap fonts are unscaled, they will invariably give the exact same output when presented on a display with the same specification. This is because the fonts will be fine-tuned so that they are displayed clearly.

Speaking of scaling, bitmap fonts are usually not scalable. If it is done, aliasing will come into effect.

It is the phenomenon where staircase distortions are seen at the edges or borders, called jaggies, making the letter look like it is torn up.


The bitmap fonts can come in different formats, such as:

  • Portable Compiled Format or PCF
  • DEC Windows Font or DWF
  • Sun X11/NeWS format or BF, AFM
  • Glyph Bitmap Distribution Format or BDF
  • Server Normal Format or SNF
  • Microsoft Windows bitmapped font or FON
  • Byte Map Font or BMF
  • PC Screen Font or PSF
  • Scalable Screen Font SFN
  • Amiga Font
  • Color Font
  • Anim Font
  • Packed bitmap font bitmap file for TeX DVI drivers or PK
  • FZX a proportional bitmap font for the ZX Spectrum
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Bitmap Fonts Vs Outline Fonts

  • Bitmap fonts are not as scalable as outline fonts and should be rendered at the size they were created to prevent jagged appearances due to removing or duplicating pixels.
  • The bitmap fonts are not as widely used today as the outline fonts due to the growth in support and popularity of different outline technologies.
  • Each character in a bitmap font is represented by a grid of pixels, which is rectangular in shape. On the other hand, individual characters of the outline fonts are represented mathematically as a set of curves, lines, and hints.
  • In a bitmap font, each character clearly indicates whether a pixel should be on or off. On the other hand, in the outline fonts, every character must be printed and converted into a bitmap dynamically.
  • The bitmap fonts are usually not as popular as the outline fonts due to their disadvantages, which are absent in the latter format.
  • It is not easy to change the shape or resolution of a bitmap character without affecting the quality adversely. On the other hand, the outline font characters can be changed easily because they are mathematically represented.
  • Bitmap fonts usually have a much higher coloration since the color details stored for each individual pixel are greater in comparison to outline fonts.
  • The bitmap fonts are usually larger in size due to the larger details stored in them. On the other hand, the outline fonts are smaller in size due to fewer details.
  • Editing bitmap fonts involves editing the colors simply. On the other hand, editing the outline fonts involves reshaping the lines, hints, and curves and therefore is more difficult.
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Where are Bitmap Fonts Used?

Usually, the bitmap fonts are used in several applications such as the Windows recovery console, the Linux console, character LCDs, as well as in the embedded systems. It is also used sometimes in cross-stitch.

In addition to that, if you are still using an older dot matrix printer, it will also be using these bitmap fonts.

These are usually stored in the memory of the printer and are accessed and addressed by its driver while executing a print command.

It is also used in photographs taken by a digital camera or while scanning any image from a magazine.

What is an Example of Bitmap Font?

A few examples of bitmap fonts may include the MS Serif fonts provided in Windows and fixed-pitch Courier.

Usually, all the different variants of typefaces or fonts that you may see on the computer screen are bitmap fonts.

This is ideally the only way a computer is able to display the typeface on its screen because the screen itself consists of dots, or pixels.


So, after reading this article, you now know what bitmap fonts are, their uses, and their different features and formats.

You also know how they differ from the outline fonts, which are, however, more commonly used. Still, bitmap fonts are not replaced fully and are still used for several specific devices and purposes.

About Puja Chatterjee

Puja ChatterjeePuja Chatterjee is a technical writer with extensive knowledge about computers. She graduated from BIMS. Her expertise includes technology writing and client relationship management gained through over 12 years of experience. Follow Her at Linkedin.

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