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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

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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  • - November 30, -0001
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222 Comments on “Converting Text to Outlines The Right Way

  1. Hi There

    I am very new to this and I have just submitted a high res pdf to a printer who said to me he wants me to provide the artwork in High Res, Vectorored, Outlines in EPS format. Even though I am new I have always used the presets in indesign to produce the pdf (press quality).

    Could you explain so I can try what is meant by “For each spread that contains text that you want converted to outlines, put a transparency object on it.”

  2. NOTE FOR CS5.5 USERS: To Anita and Atramento and others who have had trouble with Dov’s trick working in CS5.5: It appears that it was broken in 7.5, but is now fixed in the free 7.5.2 update.

  3. This tip had totally made my day – and some future ones, I’m sure. It works like a charm, it saves me a lot of mindless stupid work to please a print job distribution center who only specifies outlines as a requirement so he can be sure that, whomever he gives the job to, there will be no problem printing, even if the printer in question hasn’t updated his software since 2001.

    Am I ranting about printers again? sorry.

    Thanks Peter!!


  4. Pingback: Converting Text to Outlines the Right Way, Updated | InDesignSecrets

  5. Hi

    I’ve been using this tip for a couple of years now and it is indeed a lifesaver – so thanks very much! I am however finding that there are some instances where this tip creates other problems and I was hoping someone might be able to help me out with this. Firstly, if a text box is coloured, flattening to make the PDF removes the colour of the text box. So, as a work around I’m having to take the colour out of every text box and place the text on top of a separate coloured box. Secondly, in some docs I’m finding that once flattened there are super fine white lines around images and objects that overlap and these fine white lines are visible once printed. This is also happening when drop shadows are used on a page – fine white lines around the shadowed items which are visible if the item is placed over an image or coloured background. I’ve had these issues in CS5 and 5.5 – has anyone else had these problems and worked out a fix?

    I’m working into files created by other studios – so have no control over the initial set-up… just trying to work out faster ways of getting jobs to print perfectly. Thanks.

  6. Thanks David. Sorry you’re right… the text box colour disappearing is happening when I select all and outline fonts – not with your flattening tip. I’d been doing this as a work around when I saw the fine white lines in my PDFs – but thanks again… your link to the above article has solved this problem too.

  7. After exporting the pdf, I can still select the text with the curser. When I convert to outlines, I can’t select the text (like an image). Did it not really flatten when I exported with flattened transparency like the directions say? help!

    • I have the same problem. I followed each step exactly and even tried overlapping the transparent layer on top of some text, still no luck. Any clues?

  8. I went through and made my way through the steps again and it just doesn’t work. This would be a real timesaver if I could get it to work…

  9. Dear all,

    Am creating the artwork in indesign5.5 and export as PDF.

    The Printer(vendor) want to import the pdf in to the CorelDraw. While importing its req fonts.

    Pls give me the solutions

    Thanks in advance


  10. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!Thank you! Thank you!Thank you! Thank you!Thank you! Thank you!Thank you! Thank you!Thank you! Thank you!Thank you! Thank you!Thank you! Thank you!Thank you! Thank you!Thank you! Thank you!Thank you! Thank you!

    I’ve bees struggling with unwanted bold issues when placing PDF images with transparencies in my master thesis and I was going insane… non of the other suggestions helped (changing text to an upper layer, changing acrobat settings, playing with appearance of black, with type, changing fonts, rasterizing (horrible btw) and others)… This really helpful. Looks perfect in PDF.

    Again, Thanks.

  11. I am a graphic designer who produces work in InDesign. I know my client uses a printer who opens my PDFs in Illustrator. That is why I convert my fonts to outline. But after realizing that InDesign’s convert to outline was deleting my bullet points, I searched the Internet to find a solution? and here it was. Thank you.

  12. Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the pictures on this blog
    loading? I’m trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.
    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

  13. Hi there!

    This works perfect for me EXCEPT for whenever I put it on a layout that contains a black/white photo. Then the box makes it extremely light all of sudden. If I delete the box, the picture turns back to normal. Does anyone have an idea how to fix this problem?

  14. This is an interesting tip. Unfortunately it doesn’t help with a key reason for converting text to outlines: needing a font size beyond the 1296 pt limit InDesign imposes. (Ie for large format work.) Looks like the only way to address, say, a screwed up outer stroke when converting to outlines before scaling up, is to do it in Illustrator and then place or paste?

  15. Thank you, thank you. You just saved me so much time. My clients kept seeing the font bunched together and I even provided the font for them. This is wonderful news and you made my day. I used to go through this 100 page document every year and outlined it page by page. Not any more. Thanks again.

  16. Thank you so much, David — This saved me a ton of time when I was exporting 50+ pages of content, each paragraph with its own text box. However, even though this technique worked on my laptop, which is CS6, I can’t get it to work the same way on our work computer, which is using CS4. I am using a licensed font which, even though our organization fairly purchased the font, it’s still giving us exporting issues. For example, I will convert an InDesign document to a PDF, but characters that have accent marks or quote marks export as strange-looking characters. I followed these steps exactly and it’s still happening. Anyone have any ideas?

    • How embarrassing — I forgot to select High Resolution Convert Outlines in the Transparency Settings under Advanced. It is working perfectly now! Thank you again for this tip. :)

  17. My title is in Marmellate font, some calligraphic style with some negative kerning in order to have letters’ end curves neatly fitting into the next letter. (
    I converted the text to outlines because I’m trying to get the effect of a text colour of red with filling effect multiply and its stroke white opaque. What it does, is -logically- overlapping the curves’ strokes with the next letter and I’d like to have the letters of every word form one bloque as it does when it has an opaque filling colour.
    Would anyone know a trick to do this?

    Ps. This Marmellate font appears differently in InDesign from Photoshop: when using this font check the corners of the letters. Is there an explanation for this?
    Thanks in advance.

  18. All good until this: “put a transparency object on it” and “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.”
    I have no idea what this means and no step by step is offered. I could not find “tint” anywhere. Obviously it will not work unless this step it completed.

  19. Hello, thx for the great tip! When using this transparency object on a whole spread with a vector-logo, the logo also gets outlined (no fill). Is this normal?

      • Hello David, thx for your quick response. When I put several transparency objects only on the text frames, it works just fine. When I use a single spread-filling transparency object, my vector-logo loses it’s fill. Strangely enough I also use another big vector-object with some filled shapes and that does not get affected. Nevertheless, I got it working thanks to your tip! thx

  20. I did but the when I open the pdf file still showing the font style on the property of PDF document. I do not know what I did wrong, I did several times per your instruction but not all of text outlined. Anyother suggestion?

  21. Did not work for me either so I just opened the pdf in Illustrator and outlined the fonts there. Occurred to me I could have done that in the first place, without going through the whole flattening business in Indesign.

  22. Hey to all!

    I was having the same problem as you guys have, my text just wasn’t converting to outlines. So, afte some searching on the internet, I stumbled upon this video from Et voila, it fixed my problem.

    The problem with the convertion is that a document has to have a tranparent element on the page, otherwise it will not use the flattening settings. So what you do is: create a transparent box of some sort (opacity: 0.001%) and place it somewhere in a corner (just to be sure). There you go!

  23. Thank you! I enjoyed this great article,
    however, I lose colour saturation very dramatically when I export my EPS files. This is also the case for Acrbat 4 (PDF 1.3) files. My unflattened Acrobat 8/9 (PDF 1.7) files keep colours perfectly saturated, and I can’t lose all that colour in the print.
    How do I flatten my PDF or EPS while keeping that great colour saturation that I have in my InDesign project?

  24. The transparency/flattening method did not work for me. After I would export my doc, it changed my blue text to white. I finally gave up and outlined my text using Illustrator. Thank you, though.

  25. I’m going bonkers here ! Thank you for the article but what ever I do…I’ve tried a lot Indesign 7.0.4 will not convert outlines.

    I had it sussed for years, then (probably with an update) it just stopped working. CS6 & CC works fine, no problems,CS5 7.0.4 isn’t having any of it.

    I may cry, this could become awkward.

  26. I am facing one problem while creating a pdf using flattener transparency preset. All the text in InDesgin successfully gets converted to Outline BUT there are some Illustrator/eps files (with text) also placed in the InDesign. The text in these Illustrator/eps graphics do not get converted to Outline. I have to open each and every graphic in Illustrator, convert the text to outline, relink the graphics in InDesign and then it worked.

    Isn’t there any solution which will also convert the texts in graphics to outline?

    Please suggest…

    • Masood: If you put something transparent over the graphics, or make the graphics 99.9% opaque or something like that, I believe that should force them thru the ID transparency flattener, so they will get converted. Yes?

  27. Now… is there any script, preferably JavaScript that will apply a transparency on each and every graphic in a document.

  28. You know, it’s not an arbitrary thing for printers to ask that text be changed to curves. With the HP Indigo digital press we use, sometimes it works to have embedded fonts and sometimes the press operator gets errors and can’t print the files. That is anything but “sad.”

  29. HI,
    I used to be able to do this and maintain the integrity of hyperlinks that were embedded in the page but for some reason that has stopped working for me and I can’t figure out what I did to cause this to happen… Any Ideas?

    Thanks in advance!


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