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font size changes in figures

Asked by tlawren
on 11 Feb 2011
Latest activity Commented on by Subash Y
on 14 Apr 2015

I'm trying to change the sizes of various fonts in some figures, but the changes never seem to take place. Specifically, I'm wanting to change the font size of the x- and y-labels, the title, the legend, and the tick numbers on the axes. I've tried changing these settings in the GUI as well as hard coding them in to a script, but they never seem to happen. I can change some fonts to bold face, but that is about it.

The version of MATLAB I am using is 7.11.0 (R2010b) on Linux.

EDIT 3/5/2012 #1:

Okay, this issue resolved itself months ago, but now it has popped back up. (Ironically, people have posted to this question in the last few days!) A bunch of updates and changes have occurred since the issue was first resolved and today, but I wasn't responsible for them all so I can't speak to them. Either way, I am now running Matlab R2011b ( on Fedora 16. I log into this machine via ssh (with X11 forwarding) from a machine running Arch Linux.

A recap of the issue I am seeing is the following, I can put titles and labels on axes, but I can't change the font size. No matter what I do, the font size that shows up in the figure is the default size. Everything works as normal if I physically run Matlab at the Fedora machine. It is only when I ssh into the Fedoar box that the issue shows up.

EDIT 3/5/2012 #2:

I changed the default fonts from Helvetica to Dejavu Sans using the method in the link below and everything works as normal now.

I've got Helvetica fonts on my Arch Linux machine, so I don't know what is going on.


Can you provide a short bit of code that shows what is happening? Insert it in the question.

I seem to remember someone posting about a month ago with this issue on Linux. I do not recall that any solution was posted, though the version of Java used can make a difference.

My memory on this matter is questionable as I do not have the affected release.

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12 Answers

Answer by tlawren
on 8 Mar 2011
 Accepted answer

@ the cyclist - I have tried hard coding font setting as you've posted, but still nothing changes. It seems as if there is a bug in the Linux version of Matlab I am using.

@ Walter - A snippet of code could be be what the cyclist posted above. Trying that with all font sizes results in the same (default?) Matlab plot. I think it is Helvetica size 10.

I did just notice that if I hard code font settings and open up the editor, the font sizes are what the code sets them to. However, the actual sizes are not rendered in the actual plot/image.


I believe this is a known 2011b Linux bug, but you should search Mathworks' bug database.

I'm looking through the bug database right now, and I haven't found anything related to my problem/bug yet. If you've seen this problem/bug posted before, please send me a link to the posting. I may post a bug report myself about this issue.

Well, this issues has popped back up. Yeah!

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Answer by Daniel Shub
on 5 Mar 2012

As this has surfaced again, I will dig my answer out of the comment I made to Ken.

So while I had no problem on Debian and Ubuntu systems, I did run into this problem on my Arch based systems. I fixed the problem by installing some of the missing xorg-fonts* packages.


I can only provide an Arch specific hammer for solving the problem. Arch has the following xorg-font* packages:

xorg-fonts-100dpi     xorg-fonts-cyrillic   xorg-fonts-type1
xorg-fonts-75dpi      xorg-fonts-encodings  xorg-font-util
xorg-fonts-alias      xorg-fonts-misc       xorg-font-utils

I have all but xorg-fonts-cyrillic installed on my system. My install script specifically installs xorg-fonts-100dpi, xorg-fonts-75dpi, and xorg-fonts-type1. As a hammer I am guessing

# pacman -S xorg-fonts-100dpi xorg-fonts-75dpi xorg-fonts-type1

will pull in all the dependencies you need, but I haven't confirmed this. I have also not investigated what the minimal set of packages is to get fonts working correctly in MATLAB in Arch (or any other distro).


on 5 Feb 2013

Worked for me with Ubuntu 12.10 and matlab 2012a. Also fixed the problem of not showing \alpha, \beta etc. as greek characters Thanks a lot. Ubuntu:

$ sudo apt-get install xfonts-base xfonts-100dpi xfonts-75dpi

Remember to log out/in after installation!

Worked for me too, thanks!

Works for me on Mint Linux 17

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Answer by the cyclist
on 12 Feb 2011

Here is a code snippet that shows some of the ways to control font sizes. Play around with the individuals values to see what changes.

x = 1:10;
y = 1:10;
title('Nice big title','FontSize',18)
xlabel('Normal x-axis label')
ylabel('Pretty big y-axis label','FontSize',14)

  1 Comment

very good and straightforward suggestion.

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Answer by Anna
on 20 Sep 2012
Edited by Anna
on 20 Sep 2012

I have the same problem since I switched to Kubuntu 12.04 from Kubuntu 10.04. I use Matlab through ssh -X from a server. Since the Kubuntu switch, my old routines do not work properly anymore as neither Fonts, nor Font Size switches have ANY effect.

Will try searching and installing this "xfonts" Package and then try the Java version switch...

Yepp! It works with installing

 apt-get install xfonts-75dpi
 apt-get install xfonts-100dpi


And yet I still get no love (up vote) for my answer.

I LOVE your answer, because it solved my problem <3 <3 <3

Installing both xfonts and gsfonts did not fix this issue in Ubuntu 12.04, and yes I logged out and back in again.

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Answer by vijP Pe
on 21 May 2012

I have been facing the same problem with the new version of Matlab 2012a on Ubuntu 12.04. Installation of the font packages didnot help my case.


I would suggest contacting technical support.

Also doesn't work on my ubuntu 12.04 system with 2012a, fonts are a nightmare!

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Answer by Byron
on 26 Jun 2012

I was unable to control font size, and was unable to get Greek symbols to display when I connected to our CentOS server's Matlab via NX or "ssh -X" from a Linux Mint KDE virtual box. I didn't have the problem doing "ssh-X" from Linux Mint LXDE or Bodhi linux virtual boxes.

The solution for the Mint KDE box was to install gsfonts-X11; the soution for NX was to click "Configure" and check the box for using the server as the font host on the "environment" tab

The root problem is that programs generally try to use the client for font rendering: see the X Font Server (xfs) article on Wikipedia ( ) to learn more about this.


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Answer by Philippe
on 26 Aug 2013

Using Ubuntu 12.04.2 (64 bits) and R2011a (Student version).

I needed to install xfonts-100dpi, xfonts-75dpi --> you can set fontsize, but you get ugly fonts.

I then installed gsfonts-X11 and gsfonts-other --> you can set fontsize and the fonts are NOT ugly.

Good luck!

  1 Comment

On ubuntu 14.04, I installed gsfonts-X11 and gsfonts-other, and it worked ! Thanks to all.

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Answer by Aaron
on 18 Jul 2014

As others here have suggested before I installed the following packages:

sudo apt-get install xfonts-base xfonts-100dpi xfonts-75dpi gsfonts-X11 gsfonts-other

This solved the problem for me (Xubuntu 14.04, Matlab R2014a).

  1 Comment

Thanks. This worked for me on Ubuntu 12.04, Matlab R2011a

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Answer by Ken
on 4 Nov 2011

This is an acknowledged bug with Matlab on the Linux OS. It has persisted now for many versions, at least back to 2009. The Matlab developers have been saying they were going to fix this for years now, but of course they haven't. They're very bad about that. Also, they seem to introduce more bugs than they fix.

They're suggested workaround for this is to use EPS or PDF plots instead since PNG, TIFF, etc. are all affected by the bug. Of course, those plots have their own issues, e.g., they don't respect page sizing well. So, bottom line---you're screwed if you want to use Matlab on Linux and have people actually be able to see your fonts.


I have not witnessed this in R2008b in Ubuntu 10.04; with the information Daniel posted, at the moment it appears plausible that it affects Fedora but not Ubuntu.

Ken do you have the links of the bug reports? So while I had no problem on Debian and Ubuntu systems, I did run into this problem on my Arch based systems. I fixed the problem by installing some of the missing xorg-fonts* packages. I don't fully understand the problem or how to fix it across different distros, so I didn't post a new answer.

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Answer by Weigang
on 20 Jan 2012

I had the same problem with R2011b and Ubuntu 11.10, and I believe this is a java problem. It can be solved by the following: - uninstall OpenJDK - install Sun Java - make sure sun java is configured to be the default java - Reboot the computer


I think this is a red herring. First, I am not sure that MATLAB uses the the version of JAVA that is installed with by the package manager. Second, in Debian it appears that OpenJDK does not have any dependencies on X11 fonts, but that Sun Java does. So while this might solve the problem, it is a little extreme.

I think Daniel is correct. I tried switching to a Sun Java and it was no help. Also, it appears that for Windows and Linux Matlab ships with a JVM. You can switch the boxed JVM to the machine JVM if you want to, but use of the machine version is not default.

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Answer by AurAlchemist
on 4 May 2012

I have the same problem here with R2011b on Fedora 16 (64 bits). The command set(gca,'FontSize',S) will not affect the font size of x- and y-tick labels, regardless of the value of font size S that is specified in the command. This is a big drawback to readability when preparing professional graphs, and I must now consider other softwares. I hope MathWorks will fix this issue soon.


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Answer by andres llopis
on 25 May 2012

I solved the problem installing all the xfonts-* packages in ubuntu and changing font in graphs to Arial


Can you provide the names of the packages that helped? Maybe even the command you used.

Based on this answer, it seems like my answer about installing the font packages might be worth an upvote :(

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