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The new @font-face syntax

Posted on:July 7, 2023

Browser support

The new @font-face syntax has also been supported since Safari 17, Firefox 106 and Chrome 108.

Using variable fonts with @font-face

If you’ve used variable fonts on the web before you’re probably familiar with this syntax, using the string "woff2-variations" in the format() function:

@font-face {
    font-family: "source sans";
    src: url("SourceSansVariable.woff2") format("woff2-variations");

That syntax has now been deprecated (but does still work). The new syntax looks like this:

@font-face {
    font-family: "source sans";
    src: url("SourceSansVariable.woff2") format(woff2) tech(variations);

What’s changed? Instead of using strings, we use keywords. format() is used exclusively to specify the file type: is it woff, woff2, opentype, truetype, etc. There are certain technical capabilities of fonts that the file type alone doesn’t tell us. Is it a variable font? Is it a color font? To test which of these technologies a browser supports, there’s the tech() function. Specifying tech(variations) means the file will only be loaded if the browser supports variable fonts (variable fonts have been supported in all browsers since 2018).

Seeing as the older syntax has better browser support, you probably shouldn’t update to the new syntax just yet.

Using color fonts with tech()

Currently, no color font technology works in all browsers (except the older COLRv0 format which doesn’t support gradients). The two primary competing standards are OpenType-SVG (not the same thing as SVG fonts, which is deprecated), which is supported in Firefox and Safari support, and COLRv1, which is supported in Firefox and Chrome/Edge. It’s an annoying situation, but it’s easy enough to use an OpenType-SVG font for Safari and a COLRv1 font for Firefox and Chrome by using tech() in @font-face.

@font-face {
    font-family: "ComicColor";
    src: url("ComicColor-COLRv1.woff2") format(woff2) tech(variations, color-COLRv1),
         url("ComicColor-SVG.woff2") format(woff2) tech(color-SVG);

All browsers have supported woff2 for many years so that’s the only format we need to provide. Firefox supports both COLRv1 and OpenType-SVG. I’d rather it use COLRv1, so I’ve specified that URL first. For the COLRv1 font I am checking both support for variable fonts and COLRv1 — you can test for multiple technologies by using a comma-separated list. OpenType-SVG and variable fonts are incompatible — there are no variable OpenType-SVG fonts so the tech() function for the second URL does not test for variations.

Browser support for other color font technology (color-COLRv0, color-sbix, color-CBDT) can also be tested with tech(), but OpenType-SVG and COLRv1 are the best options for color fonts on the web.

The color palette of COLR and COLRv1 fonts can be changed using CSS. If you want to conditionally load a font file only if the browser supports this functionality, you can do so with tech(palettes).

Other tech()

Other than variable fonts and color fonts, other values for tech() are features-opentype, features-aat, features-graphite, and incremental.

incremental refers to “support for incremental font loading, using either the range-request or the patch-subset method”.

You can read about features-opentype, features-aat and features-graphite in the spec but they seem pretty niche.


Just as @font-face has a tech() and format() function for conditionally loading a font file, @supports has equivalent font-tech() and font-format() functions for conditional CSS.

Browser support

@supports has supported font-tech() and font-format() since Firefox 106, Chrome 108 and Safari 17.


@supports can conditionally apply CSS based on which font technology a browser supports. The same values you can test for with the tech() function in @font-face work for font-tech().

Any CSS rules a browser doesn’t understand are ignored. That’s one of the great things about CSS. I can use new features like font-palette without worrying that it’ll break things in older browsers, without the need to wrap newer properties in @supports. So when is @supports useful? Perhaps the default palette of a font looks nice on a white background, but my custom palette looks nicer on black background.

@supports font-tech(palettes) and font-tech(color-COLRv1) {
    body {
        background-color: black;


font-format() is less useful. It allows the same values as the format() function in @font-face. You can check if the browser supports woff (all of them have since 2012), woff2 (this is the best format for fonts on the web and has been supported by all browsers since 2016), truetype, opentype, embedded-opentype (which is only supported in Internet Explorer), an OpenType collection, or an svg font (which is deprecated and you should not use).