Following this answer, I tried to use Unicode emoticons with pdflatex like so:

{\fontfamily{DejaVuSans-TLF}\selectfont 😎}

The font is selected but the emoticon does not show.

There are some TTF fonts which support the characters, such as Symbola, but apparently getting TTF fonts to work with pdflatex is a pain in the butt.

Is there a way out?

  • 1
    Fonts in pdflatex have only up to 256 characters. – egreg Nov 14 '12 at 22:04
  • 1
    @egreg Is that a "no way, you have to use (XeLa|Lua)Tex"? I guess using actual images or drawing them with TikZ (access via newunicodechar) would be a way out, if a tedious one. – Raphael Nov 14 '12 at 22:09
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    You could use otftotfm to create a font with the desired glyphs from DejaVu, but it would be very time consuming. Probably getting them as pictures (maybe PDF files built with standalone via XeLaTeX) and then using \newunicodechar to access them. – egreg Nov 14 '12 at 22:13

Prepare the following file

% smilie.tex
\setmainfont{DejaVu Sans}

and compile it with XeLaTeX. Then you can use the glyph via the so built PDF file:


Here is a 😎.

enter image description here

Probably some tweaking with the borders in the standalone file is necessary.

You can get the height of an uppercase letter in the current font by saying

  • 4
    Sweet. Feels like playing Jenga with a sledgehammer, though. ;) – Raphael Nov 14 '12 at 22:40
  • On second thought, this approach is mechanical enough to make a script of it. Take list of symbols, create a pdf for each of them and then create an sty defining all the newunicodechar mappings. One minor problem remains: included PDFs don't scale with the font size. Can this be added? – Raphael Nov 16 '12 at 17:24
  • 1
    @Raphael I've added a way to scale the symbol – egreg Nov 16 '12 at 18:16

I use a setup with 3 files: the list of macros/symbols in UTF8 do-emoji.tex:

% Names below are arbitrary; a macro with this name will be defined.
% After editing the list in the next row, (re)run:    xelatex emoji-from-list
\foreach [count=\P] \M/\C in {smilie/😎,ghost/👻,pumpkin/🎃}

(I think one should avoid whitespace in the list in the first row.) Then the rendering file emoji-from-list.tex:

\newcommand\doEmoji[3]{%    character, macroname, page

(process with xelatex emoji-from-list). Finally, the actual LaTeX file includes:

\newcommand\includeEmoji[1]{%   With CM fonts and 1.28, it ascends to the top of the capitals, and descends to the bottom of comma.

{\newcommand\doEmoji[3]{%   character, macroname, page
    \expandafter\xdef\csname #2\endcsname{\noexpand\includeEmoji{#3}}%
    \edef\next{\noexpand\includeEmoji{#3}}%         % would need more expansion in the next row otherwise
       \expandafter{\next}% % (#1=\C)

After this, either use a macro (named in do-emoji.tex), or just use the UTF-8 character. (If you do not need macro names, give the same fake name to all of the characters in the list.) It is easy to auto-generate the file do-emoji.tex.


  1. I optimize for usage in math; so I use larger emoji than in other answers, and they are \vcenter⸣ed.

  2. Above, a macro \Gnewunicodechar is used. If you do not plan to use these Unicode chars in your document, just remove the last two lines inside the definition of \doEmoji above.

  3. I do not know about utf8, but for utf8x, \Gnewunicodechar may be defined as this:

    \def\UNItoNUMz{%        Actually, do not need hex in what follows!
      \multiply\count0 64\relax
      \advance\count0 -"80\relax
      \advance\count0 `#2\relax
    \def\UNItoNUM#1{%       No attempt is made to detect out-of-range bytes
      \ifnum`#1<"C0\relax   % In the range a0..bf would give false positives
          \advance\count0 -"C0\relax
            \advance\count0 -"E0\relax
              \advance\count0 -"F0\relax
    \newcommand\Gnewunicodechar[2]{{%   (Since we need global for \foreach, localize changes anyway.)  Specific for utf8x
        \expandafter\let\csname uc@temp@a\endcsname\global\csname uni@declcharopt\endcsname{##1}{document}{##2}}%
      \UNItoNUM#1%                  % (#1=\C; sets \OUT); This is for utf8x; in utf8, may need something else
      \gdefUNI{\OUT}{#2}%       % finish definition
  • With amsmath, one can change the last line of definition of \includeEmoji to \text{$\mathsurround0pt\vcenter{\hbox{\includegraphics[page=#1,height=1.28\fontcharht\font``A]{emoji-from-list}}}$}} (replace double-backtick to single one). Then Unicode chars work fine in sub/superscripts too. – Ilya Zakharevich Nov 4 '17 at 4:54

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