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A very common doubt among designers is ‘how to outline fonts in Indesign’. It can be a little tricky figuring out how to do it, and what’s the right way to go about solving this issue. Fear not, we have attempted to clear all your outline related queries in Indesign in this post.

How to outline fonts in Indesign is something that is often advised against and the resources on this topic too are quite scarce. You might have come across a handful of resources online that explain how to outline fonts in Indesign but not all of them might be relevant to what you might be looking for. That’s why we have tried to arrive at our conclusions from various avenues to help you find the right answer depending on your use case.

Should you consider outlining?

Before we dive deep into Indesign and tackle how to outline fonts in Indesign, it is important to understand why is it needed in the first place. There are many arguments surrounding this issue. Some for and some against. There is a good chance that you might not need it at all to begin with. In some cases you may even end up causing more harm to your documents by creating outlines.

The idea that all text must be converted to outlines before exporting is very old and outdated. In fact, it predates Indesign itself. This could be a reason why there are so few resources that properly explain how to outline fonts in Indesign. It arises from the era of CorelDraw and other very old design software. It is a general practice for print media that has somehow ingrained itself into the very core of printing personnel despite the technological advancements. So it is necessary to understand how to prepare your files for print properly instead of fussing over how to create outlines. This however, is a topic for a whole new post and might be beyond of the scope of this post.

Printers insisting on design files with fonts as outline is such a big issue in the design community that even Adobe themselves have commented on the topic. Dov Issacs, the Principal Scientist at Adobe has suggested that using outlines in documents is an outdated practice led by outdated software. He has also mentioned that creating outlines or not does not affect the final outcome of printing.

When to avoid creating outlines

Some of the common arguments in favor of outlining fonts is related to font files itself. Some suggest that font files may get corrupted. However, this is a myth the likelihood of the entire PDF getting corrupted is higher than the font file alone getting corrupted. In cases where there is some issue with your font files, Indesign should clearly indicate the same with multiple error messages. If you don’t get any error messages, you can proceed with exporting the files as PDFs without creating any further issues when a third-party handles your files. Secondly, fonts undergo regular revisions and this could lead to a situation where your printer has a slightly different version of the fonts you have used. This is definitely a problem but it can be easily fixed by sharing your files as a PDF instead of sharing a font package.

Converting text to outlines would mean that each and every single letter, glyph and everything associated with the font gets converted to individual shape. When this happens, you lose out on some of the inherent automations that are built into fonts. These are crucial in rendering the text accurate on screens and print especially when the size of the fonts is manipulated. This allows your text to be readable regardless of its size. You will also avoid any smudging and other issues that might arise out of printing by simply doing away with the outline itself.

You also lose out on font characteristics such as underline, bullets, etc. These are usually a part of the font but not linked to the characters. In addition to this, you also need to remember that once you convert the text into outlines, there is no going back. It is an irreversible process and this means you cannot edit the text freely anymore.

Creating outlines creates PDF files that are significantly larger in size as every character is now a shape. If you intend to share this file via email or the web creating outlines is definitely not the way to go forward. Your Indesign file size also significantly increases when you create outlines. This can affect the performance, cause crashes and other issues that lead to a snowball effect.

When to create outlines

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Having discussed why to avoid outlines, you might ask why then does Indesign allow outlining at all. In simple terms, it is done to allow scope for unlimited creative expression. When we come across such broad terms as unlimited and infinite, being restrictive is definitely not the way forward. Adobe takes pride in itself for providing tools for artists to freely express themselves without any inhibitions.

One of the biggest use cases to create outlines is when you need your fonts to behave like shapes. You may be using a letter, or even a sentence in your design and you might be looking to manipulate it as a shape like in the image above. This is when creating outlines comes in handy. Another use case we can think of involves manipulating individual letters of a font to your liking. The best way to go about this is to create outlines and then modify the letters to match your design vision.

Creating outlines in Indesign

Now that we have done away with the why, it is finally time to get to the bottom of how to outline fonts in Indesign.

The fastest way to create outlines for your entire document is to use Adobe Acrobat. In older versions of Indesign, this can be achieved directly in the software but it has been discontinued in the recent versions.

  1. Export your document as a PDF
  2. Import the PDF into Adobe Acrobat Pro
  3. Click on More Tools
  4. Navigate to Standardize & Protect > Print Production
  5. Click on PDF Fixups
  6. Click on Convert fonts to outlines
  7. Double click on Analyze and fix this will prompt you to save with a new name

The resulting file from this process should convert all fonts directly to outlines. You can check this easily by opening the file in Adobe Acrobat Pro, navigate to File > Properties > Fonts. If done correctly the file should show no fonts.

The second method to achieve a similar result without affecting the source Indesign file. This is done by using transparency flattener preset.

  1. Navigate to Edit < Transparency flattener preset
  2. In the pop-up window that opens after this select High Resolution preset
  3. Click New
  4. Now in the next window, you can rename the preset as per your choice
  5. Set the Raster/Vector Balance to the maximum allowed value
  6. Select Convert All Text to Outlines in the bottom of the window
  7. Proceed by selecting Ok

This should allow you to export a new PDF file with all text as outlines. However, this method only works if there is some transparency on each page of the document. To make sure you have something transparent on each page, select Pages < Panel Options.

  1. In the pop-up window that opens up, ensure there is a check mark against Transparency.
  2. Now you are ready to export your PDF file with outlines.
  3. Select File<Export to export your file with fonts as outlines.
  4. Next, in the PDF dialogue box that opens up before exporting your file as PDF, ensure that the compatibility is set to Acrobat 4. Higher versions do not support this.
  5. Select the Advanced tab
  6. You will not see a transparency flattener dialogue box. Choose the preset you created.
  7. Click Done and export your file as a PDF.

This will ensure that the text in your source Indesign file remains unaffected. You will retain the ability to edit the text. The exported PDF on the other hand should convert the text to outlines. You can verify this after the conversion by navigating to Files < Properties < Fonts. If the process was completed successfully you will not be able to see any fonts.

In some cases, you might only want to convert a single word or even a group of words into outlines. This cannot be achieved with Adobe Acrobat. Don’t worry it’s not very complicated to do this. All you need to do is, select the word or the text that you wish to convert to outline. Once selected just head over to Type > Create Outlines in Indesign. This will quickly convert the selected text to outlines. You can even use this method if you find the options listed above a bit cumbersome.

Note that this might take a while depending on your document. Also note that creating outlines will create a large file size. Each letter is now considered as a shape in Indesign. This can lead to some performance issues depending on your system configurations.