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Fonts: OTF versus TTF – What is the Difference?

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Fonts can turn an average design into a spectacular design. If you are like me, you like to download fonts from Creative Fabrica and Font Bundles every chance you get.

But, downloads usually include fonts in two different formats: OpenType (OTF) and TrueType (TTF).

What is the difference between OpenType fonts and TrueType fonts? Let’s look at it today.

Fonts: OTF versus TTF - What is the Difference? -

What are OpenType Fonts (.otf)?

OpenType fonts end with an .otf extension. Opentype fonts were created in the 1990’s by Adobe and Microsoft. Opentype fonts extend the amount of characters available (each font can hold up to 65,000!), and supports additional features like ligatures, small caps, alternate characters, swashes, and more.

What are TrueType Fonts (.ttf)?

TrueType fonts end in a .ttf extension. TrueType fonts were created in the 1980’s by Apple and Microsoft, as a solution to fonts that would work universally between the two different operating systems and with most printers.

OpenType Font Features

OpenType Fonts have a number of features that TrueType fonts do not have.


Ligatures are two or more letters that are connected.


The graphic below shows several examples of ligatures. Note the connected letters H and E in THE, bb in bubble, and ll in swell.

Example of ligatures in OpenType fonts -
Examples of ligatures in OpenType fonts.

Small Caps

All letters are rendered in capital letters, with intentional capital letters appearing larger than the rest.


This example shows text written in small caps. You’ll notice that the entire font renders in capital letters that are the size of lowercase letters with a larger first character capitalized.

Example of small caps in OpenType fonts -
Examples of small caps in OpenType fonts.


Swashes are leading and trailing decorative elements.


The example below shows several examples of swashes at the beginning and end of words.

Example of swashes in OpenType fonts -
Examples of swashes in OpenType fonts.


Alternates are more than one style of a letter are available in the font. Some alternates are swashes.


In this example, the top word is written in a font. The word below it is written using alternate characters in the same font.

Example of alternates in OpenType fonts -
Example of alternates in OpenType fonts.

Should You Download OpenType or TrueType Fonts?

When given the choice between OpenType and TrueType fonts, I always download the OpenType version. Downloading the OpenType font gives me more design choices.

What are PUA Encoded Fonts?

PUA stands for Private Use Areas. When a font is PUA encoded, it means you can access special characters such as alternates and swashes in programs such as Silhouette Studio and Cricut Design Space.

As a crafter, you will want to choose fonts that are PUA encoded.

Need help installing fonts on your computer? I’ve got a step-by-step tutorial to install fonts.



Wednesday 30th of August 2017

Hi Christine,

So if you can use OTF on a silhouette, am I correct in assuming you can use them on a cricut explore also.


Thursday 31st of August 2017



Monday 31st of July 2017

THANK YOU!!! ...but UGH, I should have look into this sooner. All the fonts I have to re-install. :P I want my swashes! sigh.


Monday 31st of July 2017

My pleasure!

Suzanne Herder

Tuesday 18th of July 2017

Hi, Christine- I ordered a font collection from Creative Market. I just received a message that they've issued an update that now has " PUA encoded versions of the fonts. Use these fonts if you are working with Microsoft, Office, Silhouette, or other programs that do not support Open Type. Access all of the characters without work-arounds." I was happy to see this because although all fonts in the collection loaded to my mac, only one (Hanley Block) was showing up in Silhouette Studio. So here are my questions--should I uninstall the old font files before installing the new ones, and would you recommend OTF, PUA encoded OTF, or TTF? I'm running these through SS, not Adobe. Thanks so much for your advice and assistance!


Saturday 2nd of September 2017

I'm new to Cricut and Design Space. I hope this question isn't totally idiotic. I just downloaded a free font of the week and it's OTF. I thought I went through the steps of installing by extracting and then right clicking on each file and installing. I'm not seeing the font in Design Space. Did I miss a step? Very possible!!! I didn't see that I could install OTF files to Design Space so I wasn't sure exactly what to do here. Thanks for your help.


Monday 24th of July 2017

I would uninstall and reinstall the PUA encoded OTF. :)


Sunday 2nd of April 2017

Thanks! Always wondered.


Monday 3rd of April 2017

My pleasure Nancy!


Tuesday 21st of March 2017

Can I use an .otf font on a Silhouette? I'm new to this and want to be sure.


Wednesday 22nd of March 2017

Yes, you can.