Outlining Fonts, the 2016 Edition
As long as this website has been around there has been an ongoing discussion on whether or how fonts should be outlined when preparing a PDF to send a client as proof, or to send to your printer. The discussion started with a post I wrote almost nine years ago in 2007 which pointed out that there are good reasons not to outline fonts using the Create Outlines command: Outlining the text degrades the typographic quality of the text because the font hinting is removed. Even more important, certain attributes—like bullets in a bulleted list or paragraph rules—will disappear. Also, the PDF will no longer be editable in case you need to do a last minute correction of a typo.
There is almost no good reason to outline fonts. InDesign always embed fonts in a PDF which will print successfully. Dov Isaacs, Adobe Principal Scientist, says:
We are aware of various “print service providers” who are under the distinct wrong impression that converting text to outlines is somehow more reliable that leaving text as text realized by fonts. Other than some dicey, prehistoric RIPs based on non-Adobe technology going back over fifteen years or more, we are not aware of any problem during the RIP process due to fonts. If the font is embedded in the PDF and view correctly in Adobe Acrobat, it should RIP! If you have a “bad font,” you won’t be able to view the PDF file in Acrobat nor will converting text to outlines even work.
However, most people agree that while outlining fonts isn’t a good idea, there are occasions when it may have to be done. This is usually when you are forced to use a commercial printer who insists that it’s necessary in their workflow.
In 2008, David Blatner posted a method, based on a presentation by Branislav Milic at an InDesign Conference, to convert text to outlines “the right way.” The method basically requires three steps:
- Create a new transparency flattener preset based on the High Resolution preset with Convert All Text to Outlines checked.
- Create at least one object on each page which contains transparency which forces the transparency flattener to kick in when the PDF is created.
- Export the PDF using Acrobat 4 compatibility which forces transparency to be flattened.
In 2011, another post was necessary because the technique temporarily broke in InDesign CS5. While that problem was fixed, the basic method remained the same. You have to create this multi-step fix in every file where it’s necessary. It takes longer to create the PDF file and creates a larger file, sometimes significantly larger. David provided a good demonstration of this technique is his recent Print PDF video.
Acrobat Pro DC to the Rescue in 2016
A short time ago, I read a posting by Dov Isaacs on an Acrobat forum which described a much faster technique. Instead of going through multiple steps within each InDesign file, you can simply run a Preflight fixup on a PDF in Acrobat Pro DC to outline the fonts.
This is a new fixup which will not be found in Acrobat Pro XI or earlier so you’ll need to upgrade to the latest Acrobat version. I’ve been using this version for nine months now, and some of the features I didn’t like when it was released have now been fixed, and I can recommend it as being quite stable. Here’s how to use this new method:
- Create your PDF file as usual. You don’t have to choose a particular preset, or select Acrobat 4 compatibility. The method is even compatible with the PDF/X-4 PDF preset which retains transparency and supports color management.
- Open the PDF file in Acrobat Pro DC. Open the Print Production panel and open Preflight. In the Search field at the top right, search for “outline”. This selects the “Converts fonts to outlines” fixup.
- To run the fixup, at the bottom of the dialog box, click Analyze and Fix, and save the file under a new name.
To check to see that the fonts are no longer fonts but outlined, in Acrobat choose File > Properties > Fonts. You’ll see that there are no more fonts in the PDF file.
This method is faster, and keeps your PDF file smaller. It works with all PDF presets. Furthermore, if you needed to do this multiple times, you can create a Preflight Droplet to batch process your PDF files. Give it a try!