How to Outline Fonts in a PDF

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How to Outline Fonts in a PDF

If you have to generate PDF files for Print you may occasionally get a request from a print supplier asking to ‘remove the fonts’ from your PDF. If this has you heading back to your InDesign or Illustrator file to Outline all the text then stay tuned, all is not lost!

Firstly, let’s look at why you might need to do this. Depending on the printing process involved your print supplier may need to make certain edits to your PDF. Although Font information is generally embedded in PDFs for the purposes of outputing a file, attempting to edit the file will often require unembedding the font – this means the fonts used in the PDF need to be active on the computer making the edit. If your print supplier doesn’t have the same fonts as you then font substitution will kick in and a generic system font will be used. Not good for your lovely design!

To get around the font issue we can strip all the font information from a PDF by converting the text to outline – essentially turning type into shapes. If you’ve used Illustrator or InDesign you may already be familiar with this process. However, converting all the text in your source document isn’t ideal if you need to make text edits further down the line or need to create several iterations from a common layout.

Thankfully there is a function in Acrobat for outlining fonts... it’s just a little hidden away. You will need the full version of Acrobat (Acrobar Reader doesn’t have the functionality) but if you’re in the business of turning out PDFs for print then this should be the case... otherwise how else would you be checking your PDFs?

Before we proceed it’s worth mentioning that oulining text, in any software, can make the text appear a little heavier when printed as if it’s slighlty bold. This isn’t generally an issue with larger text as the increase is fractional but you may notice a slight shift with small point sizes.

In the example below I have the Document Properties panel (File>Properties...  Cmd/Ctrl+D) open in Acrobat and we can see my PDF currently uses 3 fonts; Bauer Bodoni, Futura and Novarese.

Acrobat document properties panel

Let’s close this and call up the Print Production Tools (View>Tools>Print Production) and select the Flattener Preview tool.

Flattener Preview is generally used to control the flattening of transparent objects within the document but also includes a checkbox to “Convert All Text to Outline”. With this selected choose the page(s) you wish to affect and click “Apply”. Keep in mind this will also apply flattening to any transparent objects so if your document contains transparency make sure the settings here are appropriate. Once the document is processed click OK.

Acrobat Pro flattener preview

Now, when we go back to our Document Properties and check under the Fonts tab we can see there are no font used by the document – the outline function has converted all text to shapes.

fonts to outline in Acrobat Pro

I do find this function can occasionally falter, possibly because of the fonts involved, and does sometimes need a couple of attempts. If this happens, save the PDF and close then re-open it – sometimes the fonts have been outline but the Document Properties panel doesn’t update so still shows fonts as present. Closing the document then re-opeing will rule this out. Try running the outline function a second time – in most cases if it’s going to work, it will work now or not at all.

In some rare cases this function will fail to outline text so you will have to go back to your source document and outline here instead. For the most part though, this is a fast and effective way of outlining text for output without having to sacrifice editability in your layouts.