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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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191 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: 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.

  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?

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