Use font-display for Google Fonts

How to use 'font-display' descriptor for a website that uses Google Fonts.

TLDR : If you are looking for a single line hack to achieve this - there isn't any (as of Nov 2018). The only way to use 'font-display' for Google fonts is to self-host them. This how-to provides easiest way to reliably self-host Google fonts and add 'font-display' descriptor to self-hosted fonts.


Using 'font-display' with an appropriate value ensures that the text is displayed even before webfont files are downloaded. For this, the 'font-display' descriptor needs to be added to @font-face rule for the specific webfont. When using Google fonts, the CSS containing @font-face rule(s) is hosted by Google (like this) and you cannot alter the content of this file. Also, you should not just copy the contents of Google's fonts css to a self-hosted CSS since Google generates different CSS files for different browsers.

So, the recommended approach to go about this is:

Generate a Cross-Browser Compatible Fonts CSS

Use Google Webfonts Helper to generate a cross-browser compatible CSS file as detailed below:

Add 'font-display' Descriptor

You can now add 'font-display' to @font-face rules of the copied CSS. While you may chose the right font-display value based on your requirements, we have found that the value 'swap' fits most requrements.

/* lato-100 - latin */
@font-face {
  font-family: 'Lato';
  font-style: normal;
  font-weight: 100;
  src: url('../fonts/lato-v14-latin-100.eot'); /* IE9 Compat Modes */
  src: local('Lato Hairline'), local('Lato-Hairline'),
       url('../fonts/lato-v14-latin-100.eot?#iefix') format('embedded-opentype'), /* IE6-IE8 */
       url('../fonts/lato-v14-latin-100.woff2') format('woff2'), /* Super Modern Browsers */
       url('../fonts/lato-v14-latin-100.woff') format('woff'), /* Modern Browsers */
       url('../fonts/lato-v14-latin-100.ttf') format('truetype'), /* Safari, Android, iOS */
       url('../fonts/lato-v14-latin-100.svg#Lato') format('svg'); /* Legacy iOS */
  font-display: 'swap';

Self-host Generated CSS and Fonts

You may want to modify the './fonts/' path within the generated CSS to a location where font files are actually hosted. Other than that, you just need to host the generated CSS (either as a separate CSS file or as part of existing CSS file) and font files onto your server.

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