I am trying to use the pigpen font https://ctan.org/tex-archive/fonts/pigpen by Oliver Corff.

The pigpen.tex file is really small and seems equivalent to the following:


but the following won't produce a valid PDF using xetex




Sorry, pfa format not supported

What am I missing?

  • Your approach works for me when processed by PdfTeX but not XeTeX. I'm not familiar with XeTeX.
    – DJP
    Nov 28, 2022 at 1:31
  • When I compile with XeTex to DVI and then to PDF, I can get PDF output. If I try to compile XeTex to PDF, I can't get output.
    – DJP
    Nov 28, 2022 at 1:57
  • Does \usepackage{pigpen.sty} in XeLaTeX work for you?
    – Davislor
    Nov 28, 2022 at 8:16
  • @Davislor texlive xdvpdfmx can not include the supplied font, I just posted an answer Nov 28, 2022 at 9:32

3 Answers 3


enter image description here

If I run your example in texlive 2022 get

xdvipdfmx:fatal: Sorry, pfa format not supported; please convert the font to pfb, e.g., with t1binary.

and indeed texlive does only have a pfa version rather than the compressed pfb form.


t1binary /usr/local/texlive/2022/texmf-dist/fonts/type1/public/pigpen/pigpen.pfa  pigpen.pfb

Makes a pigpen.pfb in the current directory

cp  /usr/local/texlive/2022/texmf-dist/fonts/map/dvips/pigpen/pigpen.map .

makes a pigpen.map which looks like

pigpen <<pigpen.pfa

edit that so it says

pigpen <<pigpen.pfb


xetex --no-pdf yourfile

will make yourfile.xdv and xdvipdfmx will make the pdf if you supply the modified map

xdvipdfmx -f pigpen.map yourfile.xdv 

produces a PDF with the output above.


I made an experiment. I copied the pigpen.pfa file from


to a working directory with the name originalpigpen.pfa and ran

t1binary originalpigpen.pfa -o pigpen.pfa

(yes, the produced PFB file with extension .pfa). Running your example file is now successful.

Now you can use the personal tree

mkdir -p $(kpsewhich -var-value=TEXMFHOME)/fonts/type1/public/pigpen
mv pigpen.pfa $(kpsewhich -var-value=TEXMFHOME)/fonts/type1/public/pigpen

and the PFB file masqueraded as PFA will be found with precedence over the distributed one.

enter image description here

I made a query on the TeX Live list, let's see what happens. The hack suggested above should be innocuous when the file format is changed at the distribution level.


The following worked for me in plain (Xe)TeX:

\input pigpen

Pigpen sample

It embeds a type 3 (bitmap) font, rather than a vector font.

  • That's really strange, do you know why?
    – user285558
    Nov 28, 2022 at 9:09
  • Can you say what version of xetex and (especially) xdvipdfmx you have, I get xdvipdfmx:fatal: Sorry, pfa format not supported; please convert the font to pfb, e.g., with t1binary. and there is only pigpen.pfa but (weirdly) I get the same error if I use t1binary to make a pfb file in same directory Nov 28, 2022 at 9:09
  • Personally, XeTeX 3.141592653-2.6-0.999994 (TeX Live 2022/MacPorts 2022.62882_0) and This is xdvipdfmx Version 20211117 by the DVIPDFMx project team, modified for TeX Live,
    – user285558
    Nov 28, 2022 at 9:11
  • it works on windows by converting the font with mktexpk to a bitmap font (zoom in and look at the corners), to get a vector font one has to use one of the other answers. Nov 28, 2022 at 10:17

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