Prawn: Fast, Nimble PDF Generation For Ruby

Prawn is a pure Ruby PDF generation library that provides a lot of great functionality while trying to remain simple and reasonably performant. Here are some of the important features we provide:

Should You Use Prawn?

If you are looking for a highly flexible PDF document generation system, Prawn might be the tool for you. It is not a reporting tool or a publishing toolchain, though it could be fairly easily used to build those things.

One thing Prawn is not, and will never be, is an HTML to PDF generator. For those needs, consider looking into FlyingSaucer via JRuby, or one of the webkit based tools, like Wicked or PDFKit. We do have basic support for inline styling but it is limited to a very small subset of functionality and is not suitable for rendering rich HTML documents.

Supported Ruby Versions and Implementations

Because Prawn is pure Ruby and all of its runtime dependencies are maintained by us, it should work pretty much anywhere. We officially support MRI 2.1.x, 2.2.x and jruby 1.7.x (>= 1.7.18) in 2.0 mode, however we will accept patches to fix problems on other Ruby platforms if they aren't too invasive.

Installing Prawn

Prawn is distributed via RubyGems, and can be installed the usual way that you install gems: by simply typing gem install prawn on the command line.

You can also install from git if you'd like, the master branch contains the latest developments, and stable represents the latest bug fixes to the currently released version of Prawn. If you go this route, using Bundler is encouraged.

Hello World!

If the following code runs and produces a working PDF file, you've successfully installed Prawn.

require "prawn"

Prawn::Document.generate("hello.pdf") do
  text "Hello World!"

Of course, you'll probably want to do more interesting things than that…


Felipe Doria provided us with a beautiful system for generating a user manual from our examples. This can be generated from the prawn source or you can download a pre-generated snapshot of it at

Note that while we will try to keep the downloadable manual up to date, that it's provided as a convenience only and you should generate the manual yourself if you want to be sure the code in it actually runs and works as expected. To build the manual, here's what you need to do:

  1. clone the repository

  2. switch to the stable branch (optional, stay on master for development version)

  3. install bundler if necessay

  4. run bundle install

  5. run bundle exec rake manual, which will generate manual.pdf in the project root

Release Policies

Before upgrading Prawn on one of your projects, you should read our API compatibility guidelines. Generally speaking, you can expect tiny and minor version updates to always be safe upgrades, but major updates can introduce incompatibilities.

Be sure to read the release notes in each time we cut a new release, and lock your gems accordingly.

The prawn team will release a new version of prawn every 6 weeks containing any new features and bug fixes that have been completed during the previous release cycle. We may release additional versions off cycle to fix major breakages.


The easiest way to get help with Prawn is to post a message to our mailing list:

Feel free to post any Prawn related question there, our community is very responsive and will be happy to help you figure out how to use Prawn, or help you determine whether it's the right tool for the task you are working on.

Please make your posts to the list as specific as possible, including code samples and output where relevant. Do not post any information that should not be shared publicly, and be sure to reduce your example code as much as possible so that those who are responding to your question can more easily see what the issue might be.


If you've found a bug or want to submit a patch, please enter a ticket into our github tracker:

We strongly encourage bug reports to come with failing tests or at least a reduced example that demonstrates the problem. Similarly, patches should include tests, API documentation, and an update to the manual where relevant. Feel free to send a pull request early though, if you just want some feedback or a code review before preparing your code to be merged.

If you are unsure about whether or not you've found a bug, or want to check to see whether we'd be interested in the feature you want to add before you start working on it, feel free to post to our mailing list.

You can run our test suite in a few different ways:

  1. Running rake will run the entire test suite excluding any unresolved issues

  2. Running rspec will run the entire test suite including unresolved issues

  3. Running rspec -t unresolved will run only unresolved issues

  4. Running rspec -t issue:NUMBER will run the tests for a specific issue

These filters make it possible for us to add failing test cases for bugs that are currently being researched or worked on, without breaking the typical full suite run.

Maintenance team

Prawn has always been heavily dependent on community contributions, with dozens of people contributing code over the year. In that sense, the lines have blurred to the point where we no longer have a strong distinction between core developers and contributors.

That said, there are a few folks who have been responsible for cutting releases, merging important pull requests, and making major decisions about the overall direction of the project.

Current maintainers

These are the folks to contact if you have a maintenance-related issue with Prawn:

Inactive maintainers

These folks have helped out in a maintenance role in the past, but are no longer actively involved in the project:


Prawn is released under a slightly modified form of the License of Ruby, allowing you to choose between Matz's terms, the GPLv2, or GPLv3. For details, please see the LICENSE, GPLv2, and GPLv3 files.

If you contribute to Prawn, you will retain your own copyright but must agree to license your code under the same terms as the project itself.


Prawn was originally developed by Gregory Brown, under the auspices of the Ruby Mendicant Project, a grassroots initiative in which the Ruby community collectively provided funding so that Gregory could take several months off from work to focus on this project.

Over the last several years, we've received code contributions from dozens of people, which is amazing considering the low-level nature of this project. You can find the full list of folks who have at least one patch accepted to Prawn on github at

After a long period of inactivity, Prawn reached its 1.0 milestone in 2014 thanks to some modest funding provided to Gregory by Madriska, Inc. (Brad Ediger's company).