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Converting Text to Outlines The Right Way

Why do so many people want their all the text in their documents converted to outlines? Don’t answer that; I’ve heard the reasons, and they all make me sad. Nevertheless, some people do want all the text converted, and they find themselves up a creek because Type > Create Outlines doesn’t always give them what they want. Specifically, paragraph rules (rule above/below) disappear. Bullets and numbering disappear. Underlines and strikethroughs disappear. All kinds of stuff disappears, and that’s not good.

Fortunately, there is a better way to convert text to outlines. We’ve mentioned it before, but it’s time to put it in a post. I first learned this from Branislav Milic, who demoed it to a jaw-dropped audience at an InDesign conference a couple of years ago.

Flatten, Don’t Convert

Here’s the whole tip in a nutshell: Don’t use Convert to Outlines at all. Instead, use InDesign’s transparency flattener to convert the text automatically for you when you export a PDF. To do this, you’ll need a custom flattener setting, which you can create by choosing Edit > Transparency Flattener Presets.


Choose High Resolution from the Transparency Flattener Presets dialog box and click New (which creates a duplicate of the currently-selected preset). I’m not going to get into the details of this dialog box here (hey, there are good books that cover that kind of thing!), but instead just tell you to turn on the Convert All Text to Outlines checkbox. Then give this a suitable name (such as “High Res Convert Outlines” and click OK, then click OK again.


Now you need to make sure your pages are going to get flattened. For each spread that contains text that you want converted to outlines, put a transparency object on it. If you want to convert every page, you can put this object on your master pages. For example, it could be an object with a Tint of .1% and an Opacity of .01% off on the margin that will never be seen. Or you could make a one-pixel large Photoshop file with a transparent background and place it on your pages.

When you export your PDF file, make sure you have Compatibility set to Acrobat 4, which lets you implement the flattener. You could also export each page as an EPS file if you were so inclined, which also requires flattening. Select your custom flattener setting in the Advanced pane of the Export PDF dialog box or the Export EPS dialog box. Click OK.


That’s it! All the text in the document (well, at least on each spread that has a transparent object) gets converted to outlines… and you don’t lose your rules, underlines, bullets, and so on.

[Editor’s note: There is some updated information on this tip here.]

David Blatner
David Blatner is the co-founder of the Creative Publishing Network, InDesign Magazine, and the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign. His InDesign videos at are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at
David Blatner

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209 Comments on “Converting Text to Outlines The Right Way

  1. Will this tip work for Native File? I have a Mac and my printer uses PC. I’ve sent them both .ind file and .pdf (press quality) – they have no problem with the .pdf. However, when my printer opens up .ind file they face missing font issue. Will this trick solve the missing font issue when opened in Indesign, or only for PDF?

      • I think he was asking if whether or not Illustrator would display the fonts flattened to transparency the same way upon re-opening the PDF file in Illustrator as it looks with Acrobat or third-party pdf readers. The short answer is yes, it will look the same as before flattening; and shouldn’t prompt you for the font upon opening. In fact I think you could delete the fonts used, and it would still look the same. This is because it is still a vector even they what started as bodies and text are now a seemingly random collection of glyphs spread over dozens of Groups, Layers, and Sublayers. Some reading this may wonder why someone worried about being prompts to locate fonts would fail to save a separate AI or EPS document before changing the transparency settings. If you do forget to save a ‘non destructive’ version of the work, or if you want to see an example, download one any Type Specimen from Optimo—just one digital type foundry that employs this method, likely because PDF encryption can be broken in seconds with free tools online. However even when specimens include the entire glyph set, extracting them to a font file doesn’t preserve any kern tables, ligatures, opentype features: any of the code responsible for making fonts with “advanced” features function. Open one of their type specimen PDFs in Illustrator and examine the layers pallette. You’ll see that it’s a mess, but the type reads just fine. If you Select a portion of text, you’ll see its still vectorised. But even if some font pirate wanted to spend all day copy each glyph to a font editor, they would still be missing the kerning tables and ot features, so there really is no incentive to steal when in that amount of time one could make a unique font of one’s own, Hope this helps.

  2. Has anyone had the issue where the flattener creates small white lines in the PDF? they actually go away when you zoom and doesn’t show up in printing but appears in proofing. Any solution to fix this would be great!

  3. There are other, less controversial reasons to outline text. We put our weekly printed publication online, and outline a section of it because it sometimes contains information that we don’t want to be searchable by Google (I know, it’s possible now to search for images, but it does do what we need it to do). So, if we flatten the text, will it also not be searchable in the same way?

  4. Hi,

    I’ve followed all the steps and it worked (naturally), however, the problem I have now is that where the plain text boxes were (and some transparent psd files), they’re now white on my colour artwork. Any reasons why this would happen or a solution?

    Many Thanks


    • Sophie: Not sure. The only thing I can think of is that perhaps you’re not using Acrobat to view the PDF? Non-Adobe PDF viewers have all kinds of weird display problems.

  5. Hi,

    The solution described is really great, however when I place an AI drawing with a regular text it won’t be flattened – converting everything to outlines back in AI would be a problem since there are a lot of drawings in the document.
    Any suggestions?

    Many Thanks,

  6. I love this secret but it only works for the first page. What if your have a 32 page brochure? Thank You in Advance.

  7. Been doing DTP since Xerox was pushing Ventura Pro. Still use it on occasion. I have been fighting with the text to outline problem all day (not my choice of printer). I have CS5 7.0.4 on a PC with Win 7 Pro. However, the flattening trick doesn’t seem to be working. Multiple iterations with the Flattener Presets and Transparency boxes, etc., but I still see fonts in the PDF. Any additional clues or hints?

  8. Converting Text to Outlines The Right Way: I have got it in you tube Indesign tutarial, it work finely in Indesign Cs 6 but can’t solve in Indesign Cs 5 why ? Would you mind to reply me… Thank you.

  9. Had a go at this but after giving it name as suggested “High Res Convert Outlines” and click OK, then click OK again’ – I could not find where the file had saved to on my computer?
    So I exported as a pdf opened this in Illustrator, selected everything, in TYPE menu selected CREATE OUTLINES and saved as a pdf again – much quicker!

  10. In my search for the most ideal way to outline text I’ve come across an issue. I love this method, Its very simple, saves a lot of time, however, has to be rendered out into adobe 4 like you stated. When I render out to adobe 4 my images will have white lines on them surrounding overlapping objects, like you have addressed in this article :

    You had mentioned that the lines shouldn’t be seen on a print, but in fact do. What would be you best advice to outline text quickly but still have a clean PDF? I appreciate any help you can offer!

  11. I provide graphic design for printers, and each one requires the fonts converted to outlines and print-ready pdfs, so it is something that I’ve had to do for each job for years. I’ve had a few easy methods to do it, but for jobs that are simple (no underlines or outlines, etc.), I’ve always converted the fonts to outlines in InDesign. When InDesign updated to 2015, I started running into problems where it would crash and corrupt the files. After many months of being unsure of the reason and receiving no help from Adobe, I’ve noticed it seems to be jobs where the text boxes have been converted to outlines and then undone. I’ll try this method and see if it may save my files from corruption. Fingers crossed.

      • I just briefly scanned through the new version and will try it. I’ve always used Acrobat for the more complicated files, although a more cumbersome version of adding a watermark and then flattening the transparency. They have had an option of converting fonts to outlines in past versions of Acrobat, but it never seemed to truly convert them to outlines. If this works, it will be a huge, huge shortcut of time. Thanks! I’ll try it and be sure to pass it on to everyone!

  12. “Why do so many people want their all the text in their documents converted to outlines? Don’t answer that; I’ve heard the reasons, and they all make me sad. Nevertheless, some people do want all the text converted, and they find themselves up a creek because Type > Create Outlines doesn’t always give them what they want.”

    Clearly you have never worked on the production end of printing or signage. If you had the request from a printer would not “make you sad.” Converting production files to outlines is essential so that what is produced is what the designer intended. That is why there should always be a native file with the fonts and a mirrored production file with outlines. I can’t tell you how many years of my life I have wasted with “designers” that don’t understand this concept.

    • Mike, I have heard that some signage systems (like screen printing, or embroidery, etc) do require this. However, general printing should not. Fonts from InDesign are embedded, and if you can’t print them properly, then it’s more likely your software or equipment, not the PDF. (Of course, that’s not necessarily true of PDFs from other software.) Most printers over the past 20 years tend to blame the designer for font problems instead of looking to their own systems. There is no doubt that designers can make terrible PDFs (low resolution problems, color problems, etc.) but there are very few reasons they should have to outline fonts, except to make up for a printer’s own limitations.

      • Fonts in InDesign are not embedded. Some fonts have specific licensing restrictions that prevent them from properly being embedded into PDF files as well.

        While I always prefer a native font the data fork between Mac and PC, why? forks. apple utilizes a data fork and recourse fork for its file system, windows based systems do not. the key issue there is the data fork contains file icons and text while the resource fork contains the fonts themselves. So when a non-OSX system sees the file it only is presented with the data fork, or a completely unusable file.

        In a perfect world we would all have the same fonts, in the same font type, from the same font foundry. But this is not a perfect world and you really cannot expect every printer to run around spending $50-200 every time you submit a font in PostScript Type 1 while they have it in OpenType. Even if you have the “same” font available it might not be the actual font.

  13. Thank you for this tip, but I wonder if you can clarify something for me. What if I have a longish document, and I want to export it to PDF but only apply this flattening process to ONE specific page? Is there a way to do that, or do I have to do two separate exports and then stitch the document back together in a PDF editor like Acrobat? When this trick is applied to all pages of my document (a 20-page local magazine), it kinda looks like a lot of my text is “fuzzy.” Or thicker. Like it has a stroke on it.
    In my case, the only reason I need to do any of this flattening business is because my document contains a design element that makes use of transparent text —which, btw, I learned on your site:
    FYI, I am using InDesign CS2. Don’t laugh, we’re a nonprofit organization. Thanks!

    • Zoom in and you’ll notice that the thicker vertical lines (l’s and 1’s) are just the way your monitor is displaying it. As you zoom in, everything looks normal again. Same as the thin white lines when you flatten transparency. It looks intimidating, but never shows when printed.

  14. Would you stop hating on printers? It’s an architect hating on contractors. Guess what, without printers, you are not gonna be able to print your ugly document!

    • Earl, that’s a good comparison! However,
      a) I, for one, have worked with home contractors who deserve to be hated. Printers and contractors (and designers and teachers!) can do their jobs poorly, misunderstand their tools, rely on old superstitions, give bad advice, and so on.
      b) I don’t see the hate in this post. Where are we hating on printers?

  15. Hi there! Im new to designing and just finished my first booklet where printers also require text be converted to outlines. I have followed all the steps and printers have sent first proof, so all seems good…i am just interested, how can I tell that the transparency thing was actually applied or not, for future reference?


    • Lindi: Good question! You can tell if a PDF has any fonts in it by opening the PDF in Acrobat, choosing File > Properties, and then clicking the Fonts tab. That shows all embedded fonts. If the list is blank, there are no fonts at all.

  16. hey everyone.. seems like a bit of a long way around, why not just right click, ‘convert bullets to text’ and then create outlines?

    • Erika: Because it’s not just bullets. It’s rule above/below. It’s the problem of anchored text frames or graphics with text in them not converting. It’s that you can’t edit the file later. Using Create Outlines is like using a sledgehammer to cut a piece of tofu in half.

  17. i have been working on in-design with Krungthep as font. however once exported as PDF, i get the message on Acrobat : The font ‘Krungthep’ contains an invalid encoding. Some characters may not display.
    i tried the Outline method, the PDF opens but indeed the text seems a bit less sharp. i also tried the transparency method as explained here above but then i get the same message from Acrobat.

    with Preview i have no problem but the print place that i am working with is using Acrobat.

    i tried to send them the in-design package with the font embedded but i get the feeling that they are worried to use it. a bit strange…

    i’s really love to use this font. any recommendations how to solve this?


  18. also David, as i am reading your other comments (and thank you so much for that) — indeed, i get a blanket box in Document properties > fonts, which means that Krungthep is not embedded. can i embed it somehow…?

    i should note that my document has only text (it is for an inner-sleeve)

    • Angie: I’m not sure what “blanket box” means. Oh, do you mean “blank” box? If the list is empty (blank) then the font is successfully outlined, so the printer will not need the font.

      • thank you David. actually he box is not blank (i typed it too fast yesterday) but there is an “embedded subs”. i guess that Krungthep is not supported… ?

      • Angie: If there are fonts listed, then something is wrong and you’re not doing the trick described in the article above correctly. This trick converts all affected text to outlines, so as far as the pdf is concerned, there are no fonts in the PDF… just graphics that look like fonts.

  19. After made pdf by given steps are not converting text outlined i checked it after open pdf (which made from indesign by given steps) in illustrator all text shown open

  20. Thanks a lot. This method has saved me countless hours going through hundreds of pages and outlining everything manually.

    I have been trying to put this into standard practice amongst my team but although not exactly a problem, I have come across a couple of things I can’t quite figure out.

    We all have cs5.5 (7.5) and I managed to get it to work perfectly on my machine. Then when I went to go through it with someone else on thier machine using the exact same flatener presets and master page with transparent objects, which I exported from my version, it would not outline the fonts.

    The only solution I could use to get it to work on my collegues machine was to copy all of my settings from the installation files (App Data) and paste them onto thier machine.

    I got it to work but I don’t like not knowing exactly what it is that made it work/not work.

    Any insight?

    Thank you!

    • Tyler: No, I’m not sure why their computer would have a problem. It’s possible that their app was slightly corrupted and if you had “rebuilt preferences” then it would have worked… hard to say. Or perhaps there was a slight difference when you made their flattener preset? Strange.

  21. Thanks so much for this tip! An incredible time-saver as many have pointed out. I realize people have their beliefs re: outlining vs. embedding, but I’ve had one too many frustrating experiences dealing with embedded fonts, so I’ve adopted a play-it-safe approach and outline everything. Your tip makes the process super quick and easy and makes going back to edit the file a snap. Again, I thank you for giving me back all that extra time I’d be manually outlining text :)

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