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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.

txtoutlines1

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.

txtoutlines2

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.

txtoutlines3

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 Lynda.com are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at 63p.com.
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Comments

176 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?

  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

    • 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,
    Rafal

  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.

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