Building PIL with Freetype2 on Snow Leopard

7 July 2011

I had some trouble getting the venerable Python Imaging Library (PIL) compiled with the Freetype feature on Mac OS X 10.6. Doing a simple pip install or easy_install will build it with just the basic options. But if you need to generate Captchas and the like (with django-simple-captcha, for example) you'll need the Freetype option, too.

In fact, OS X comes with Freetype2 installed (as part of the X11 package), just not in a location the PIL build script knows about. That is simple to fix, however:

$ cd ~/Downloads
$ curl -LO
$ tar -zxf Imaging-1.1.7.tar.gz
$ cd Imaging-1.1.7
$ echo 'FREETYPE_ROOT = "/usr/X11/lib", "/usr/X11/include"' >
$ python build

The setup summary printed out at the end of the build should now say “FREETYPE2 support available”, which would mean this procedure worked as designed.


  1. Alex Clark says:

    9 July 2011

    Alternatively, you can easy_install Pillow (PIL fork that has X11 paths in

  2. Dean Powell says:

    21 November 2011

    Hi Alex,
    I wanted to thank you for your suggestion on installing 'Pillow' instead of just installing 'PIL'.
    I just ran this command:

    $ pip install Pillow

    And it worked great.
    Thanks again

  3. Nash says:

    28 March 2012

    Works perfectly! I did have trouble at first insofar as "import _imaging" would fail, but I tracked that down to a problem with libjpeg so I re-built libjpeg using gcc-4.0, re-installed PIL, and it's all working like a charm now. Thanks! Nash