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July 1, 2011 / Nathan

Ubuntu font rendering on Debian Wheezy & Sid

The one thing which always kept me from using Debian was the horrific font rendering on LCD screens which has plagued it since it was born. I’ve always liked the way Ubuntu renders fonts, so now Debian has pretty much the same libcairo2 package by default, making the fonts render like Ubuntu’s is pretty easy.

First thing to do is grab Ubuntu’s fonconfig-config package from any of the mirrors here: and save it somewhere. Now open the .deb file with Archive Manager (file-roller) as root and enter the /etc/fonts directory within the archive. Next, open nautilus as root (Alt + F2, gksudo nautilus) and brows to /etc/fonts on your Debian file system.

Next step is mega easy, just drag all the files and folders from the archive into the file browser, replacing all files which already exist.

Log out and back in, and change font preferences so they looks something like this:

Font configuration

Once this is done, fonts should be Ubuntu pretty!

NOTE: It works fantastically well with Ubuntu fonts! ;)


Leave a Comment
  1. me / Jul 19 2011 11:01 PM

    Thanks so much. It worked just fine! I don’t know if it has something to do also with me having installed the iceweasel com mozilla repository, which, I read, would update libcairo.

    Fonts now look a lot better

    Thanks, man!

    • Nathan / Jul 20 2011 1:55 AM

      Copying these files into /etc/fonts works with the default libcairo which comes with wheezy now =]

  2. Lisandro Pérez Meyer (@lisandropm) / Aug 15 2011 3:19 PM

    The correct way to solve this would be to file a bug in Debian’s BTS telling the packagers that there are differences that you would like to see in Debian’s packages.

    For what I have saw, the differences are some small XML files, so I don’t think there would be much of a problem in fixing it.

    Regards, Lisandro.

  3. rafaeltosta / Sep 19 2011 6:31 PM

    This is the easiest way to enable smooth fonts on Debian. Works flawlessly! thank you very, very much.

  4. Paul Bourke (@brk3) / Oct 11 2011 4:31 PM

    Works 100% thanks a million :)

  5. royzzblogs / Jan 28 2012 11:13 AM

    It worked like a charm! Thanks a ton!

  6. upinvermont / May 4 2012 2:29 PM

    Didn’t work for me using Xubuntu 12.04/Voyager 4.10. Still haven’t narrowed down why but, as already noted, this appears to be a continuing problem with XFCE.

  7. oz123 / May 12 2012 11:08 AM

    Doesn’t work for me either with Debian Wheezy as of today. I have searched the net for hours now in order to make the fonts in Wheezy look as nice as they do in Ubuntu 12.04.

    • upinvermont / May 12 2012 12:22 PM

      Hi OZ, here’s the solution on XFCE:

      You probably need to set LCD Hinting, but for some reason this setting is impossibly difficult to find or know about. Here’s the command:

      xfconf-query -c xsettings -p /Xft/Lcdfilter -n -t string -s lcddefault

      Once you’ve entered this into a terminal, logout and back in. Other settings are:


      Once you’ve set LCD Hinting, work with your other settings via trial and error to find the right combination. On my own laptop:

      Enable anti-aliasing
      Hinting: Slight
      Sub-pixel order: RGB
      DPI 106

      I haven’t tried to set LCD Hinting on any other DEs, but the key probably remains LCD Hinting.

      • oz123 / May 12 2012 12:59 PM

        Hey, thanks for the quick reply. For what it’s worth, I am not using xfce, rather I am using mate-desktop…
        But the lcdX (where X is any of the option does not help)…

    • upinvermont / May 12 2012 1:32 PM

      My command, above, wouldn’t work for Mate (since it’s Xft dependent), but I’m 99% sure that your problem is LCD Hinting. You need to find out how to adjust this setting — if possible. If you Google “About the LCD ClearType patch”, you’ll find some discussion of this on the Debian User Forum. The problem, it seems, is that Debian doesn’t enable LCD Hinting by default (whereas Ubuntu does).

      Here’s how one member summed it up:


      I will try to get this simple and straight.

      1. Freetype – subpixel rendering is already enabled by default in Debian (testing/unstable)
      2. Xft – support for subpixel rendering is already supported by upstream, no patches needed (testing/unstable)
      3. Cairo – subpixel rendering is not enabled by default in Debian (testing/unstable) patch needed
      4. Fontconfig – subpixel rendering is supported in Debian but if you want to make effects like in Ubuntu you have to apply their patches (in my opinion).

      Now, Qt/KDE applications uses Xft for subpixel rendering, so if you’re using Debian testing/unstable (KDE 4.2.x/Qt 4.5.x) you don’t need to patch anything.
      GTK+/Gnome applications uses Cairo for subpixel rendering, so if you want this rendering you need to patch Cairo (with Ubuntu patch for example)

      I’m using Debian testing/unstable (KDE 4.2.x/Qt 4.5.x) with subpixel rendering but I’m also using some GTK+ applications (ex. Iceweasel) so:
      1. I’ve build fontconfig packages from Ubuntu Jaunty sources
      2. I’ve patched Cairo packages for subpixel rendering (GTK+ applications)

      If you want to try these packages you can find them here:
      They’re for Debian unstable (i386), but should also work on testing.


      • oz123 / May 12 2012 2:29 PM

        Once again, thanks for the reply.
        Well, this all might be true for a laptop screen. I am using a 19″ , cheap stuff I got from a friend for free, it’s a Medion, a brand you can buy in Aldi in Germany.
        What solved my problem is … choosing “Best Shapes”, and totally disable “Subpixel Smoothing” now fonts don’t give me a headache, and this looks good also on Ubuntu (although the latter, does a slightly better job, but I get headache from all the crashes in ubuntu).

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