Loading Fonts

Kea - High level abstraction between React and Redux - Interview with Marius Andra

Loading fonts is similar to loading images. It does come with special challenges, though. How to know what font formats to support? There can be up to four font formats to worry about if you want to provide first class support to each browser.

The problem can be solved by deciding a set of browsers and platforms that should receive first class service. The rest can use system fonts.

You can approach the problem in several ways through webpack. You can still use url-loader and file-loader as with images. Font test patterns tend to be more complicated, though, and you have to worry about font file related lookups.

canifont helps you to figure out which font formats you should support. It accepts a .browserslistrc definition and then checks font support of each browser based on the definition.

Choosing One Format#

If you exclude Opera Mini, all browsers support the .woff format. Its newer version, .woff2, is widely supported by modern browsers and can be a good alternative.

Going with one format you can use a similar setup as for images and rely on both file-loader and url-loader while using the limit option:

  test: /\.woff$/,
  loader: 'url-loader',
  options: {
    limit: 50000,

A more elaborate approach to achieve a similar result that includes .woff2 and others, would be to end up with code as below:

  // Match woff2 in addition to patterns like .woff?v=1.1.1.
  test: /\.(woff|woff2)(\?v=\d+\.\d+\.\d+)?$/,
  loader: 'url-loader',
  options: {
    // Limit at 50k. Above that it emits separate files
    limit: 50000,

    // url-loader sets mimetype if it's passed.
    // Without this it derives it from the file extension
    mimetype: 'application/font-woff',

    // Output below fonts directory
    name: './fonts/[name].[ext]',

Supporting Multiple Formats#

In case you want to make sure the site looks good on a maximum amount of browsers, you can use file-loader and forget about inlining. Again, it's a trade-off as you get extra requests, but perhaps it's the right move. Here you could end up with a loader configuration:

  test: /\.(ttf|eot|woff|woff2)$/,
  loader: 'file-loader',
  options: {
    name: 'fonts/[name].[ext]',

The way you write your CSS definition matters. To make sure you are getting the benefit from the newer formats, they should become first in the definition. This way the browser picks them up.

@font-face {
  font-family: 'myfontfamily';
  src: url('./fonts/myfontfile.woff2') format('woff2'),
    url('./fonts/myfontfile.woff') format('woff'),
    url('./fonts/myfontfile.eot') format('embedded-opentype'),
    url('./fonts/myfontfile.ttf') format('truetype');
    /* Add other formats as you see fit */
MDN discusses the font-family rule in detail.

Manipulating file-loader Output Path and publicPath#

As discussed above and in webpack issue tracker, file-loader allows shaping the output. This way you can output your fonts below fonts/, images below images/, and so on over using the root.

Furthermore, it's possible to manipulate publicPath and override the default per loader definition. The following example illustrates these techniques together:

  // Match woff2 in addition to patterns like .woff?v=1.1.1.
  test: /\.woff2?(\?v=\d+\.\d+\.\d+)?$/,
  loader: 'url-loader',
  options: {
    limit: 50000,
    mimetype: 'application/font-woff',

    // Output below the fonts directory
    name: './fonts/[name].[ext]',

    // Tweak publicPath to fix CSS lookups to take
    // the directory into account.
    publicPath: '../',

Generating Font Files Based on SVGs#

If you prefer to use SVG based fonts, they can be bundled as a single font file by using webfonts-loader.

Take care with SVGs if you have SVG specific image setup in place already. If you want to process font SVGs differently, set their definitions carefully. The Loader Definitions chapter covers alternatives.

Using Font Awesome#

The ideas above can be applied with Font Awesome. It's a collection of high-quality font icons you can refer to using CSS classes.

Integrating Font Awesome to the Project#

To integrate Font Awesome to the book project, install it first:

npm install font-awesome --save

Given Font Awesome doesn't define a main field in its package.json file, you need to point to it through a direct path instead of package name alone.

Refer to Font Awesome as follows:


import 'font-awesome/css/font-awesome.css';

Font Awesome includes Sass and Less versions as well, but given you have not set up either, this definition is enough.

The import could be cleaned up as import 'font-awesome' by setting up a resolve.alias. The Package Consuming Techniques chapter discusses this idea in detail.

If you run the project now (npm start), webpack should give a long list of errors:

ERROR in ./~/font-awesome/fonts/fontawesome-webfont.woff2?v=4.7.0
Module parse failed: .../node_modules/font-awesome/fonts/fontawesome-webfont.woff2?v=4.7.0 Unexpected character '' (1:4)
You may need an appropriate loader to handle this file type.
(Source code omitted for this binary file)
 @ ./~/css-loader!./~/font-awesome/css/font-awesome.css 6:479-532
 @ ./~/font-awesome/css/font-awesome.css
 @ ./app/index.js
 @ multi (webpack)-dev-server/client?http://localhost:8080 webpack/hot/only-dev-server react-hot-loader/patch ./app

Implementing Webpack Configuration#

The result is expected as you haven't configured loaders for any of Font Awesome fonts yet and webpack doesn't know what to do with the files in question. To match the files and map them through file-loader, attach the following snippet to the project:


exports.loadFonts = ({ include, exclude, options } = {}) => ({
  module: {
    rules: [
        // Capture eot, ttf, woff, and woff2
        test: /\.(eot|ttf|woff|woff2)(\?v=\d+\.\d+\.\d+)?$/,

        use: {
          loader: 'file-loader',

The idea is the same as for loading images. This time around you match font files. If you wanted, you could refactor the commonality to a function to share between the two.

You still need to connect the above with the main configuration:


const commonConfig = merge([
parts.loadFonts({ options: { name: '[name].[ext]', }, }),

The project should run (npm start) without any errors now.

To see Font Awesome in action, adjust the application as follows:


export default (text = 'Hello world') => {
  const element = document.createElement('div');

element.className = 'pure-button';
element.className = 'fa fa-hand-spock-o fa-1g';
element.innerHTML = text; return element; }

If you build the application (npm run build), you should see that it processed and Font Awesome assets were included.

Hash: e379b2c5a9f46663f367
Version: webpack 2.2.1
Time: 2547ms
        Asset       Size  Chunks                    Chunk Names
  ...font.eot     166 kB          [emitted]
  ...font.ttf     166 kB          [emitted]
...font.woff2    77.2 kB          [emitted]
 ...font.woff      98 kB          [emitted]
  ...font.svg     444 kB          [emitted]  [big]
     logo.png      77 kB          [emitted]
       app.js    4.22 kB       0  [emitted]         app
      app.css    7.72 kB       0  [emitted]         app
   index.html  227 bytes          [emitted]
   [0] ./app/component.js 185 bytes {0} [built]
   [1] ./~/font-awesome/css/font-awesome.css 41 bytes {0} [built]
   [2] ./app/main.css 41 bytes {0} [built]

The SVG file included in Font Awesome has been marked as [big]. It's beyond the performance budget defaults set by webpack and the topic is discussed in detail in the Minifying chapter.

font-awesome-loader allows more customization. Font Awesome 5 improves the situation further and make it easier to decide what fonts to consume. Font Awesome wiki points to available online services that allow you to select specific fonts from Font Awesome collection.


Loading fonts is similar to loading other assets. You have to consider the browsers you want to support and choose the loading strategy based on that.

To recap:

  • When loading fonts, the same techniques as for images apply. You can choose to inline small fonts while bigger ones are served as separate assets.
  • If you decide to provide first class support to only modern browsers, you can select only a font format or two and let the older browsers to use system level fonts.
  • Using larger font collections, such as Font Awesome, can be problematic especially if you want to avoid loading additional rules. The problem is dependent on the packages in question and can be solved with webpack to an extent.

In the next chapter, you'll learn to load JavaScript using Babel and webpack. Webpack loads JavaScript by default but there's more to the topic as you have to consider what browsers you want to support.

Previous chapterLoading Images
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This book is available through Leanpub (digital), Amazon (paperback), and Kindle (digital). By purchasing the book you support the development of further content. A part of profit (~30%) goes to Tobias Koppers, the author of webpack.

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