Monthly Archives: May 2010

Outlining Text in Adobe Acrobat

Update 27 July 2012: This article describes how to outline text in Adobe Acrobat  versions 7, 8, and 9. A newer article has information about outlining text in Acrobat X.

Okay, this post does not have much to do with typography per se, but we’ve all been (okay, not all of us) in that situation where we need to replace a graphic or make a small change within a PDF or EPS file at the last minute. The deadline is approaching, the printer is waiting, your designer just left for a three-week vacation and took her files with her, or worse, your designer isn’t on vacation, but doesn’t understand what it is you want to begin with. So, you throw up your hands, figure you know enough Illustrator to get yourself into trouble, and decide it would be faster to fix it yourself.
You open the PDF or EPS file in Illustrator, and what do you get?

Adobe Illustrator error: Font Problems

A message saying you don’t have the fonts installed on your computer. Of course! If you proceed by clicking Open, the type with the missing font will be reformatted using a font that you have installed on your system, thereby, undoing your designer’s beautiful typography. Whatever you want to fix isn’t worth that headache.
What you should do instead is open the PDF or EPS file in Adobe Acrobat Professional or Extended and convert the text to outlines.
A few notes before you should consider doing this:

  • The text will retain its formatting, but will no longer be editable.
  • If the PDF is going online, screen readers for the visually impaired will not be able to read it.
  • If the problem you want to fix is textual, you’re screwed. Call your designer who’s on vacation; she’ll need to modify the source file. (You will owe her for the rest of your life.)

This procedure used to be fairly straightforward until Adobe released Acrobat 7 a few years ago. Now, it’s a little tricky. Follow the steps below to convert text to outlines in Acrobat Professional or Extended:

  1. Open the PDF or EPS file in Acrobat.
    (You want to open the file in Acrobat, because Acrobat will display the type correctly, using fonts embedded in the file, even if the fonts are not installed on your computer.)
  2. Click Document, select Watermark, and select Add.
    The Add Watermark window opens.
  3. Type a period (or any other character) in the Text text box.
  4. Drag the Opacity slider to 0%.
    Add Watermark window
  5. Click OK.
  6. Click Advanced, select Print Production, and select Flattener Preview.
    The Flattener Preview window opens.
  7. Select the Convert All Text to Outlines check box.
  8. Select the pages you need to convert to text from the Apply to PDF group.
  9. Click Apply.
    Flattener Preview window
  10. If Acrobat warns you that the operation cannot be undone, click Yes to proceed.
  11. Click OK to close the Flattener Preview window.
  12. Click File and select Save As to save your outlined text PDF as a different file from your original.
  13. Close the file in Acrobat and open it in Illustrator.

You’ll notice that the text displays as it should, because it’s outlined. You can’t edit the text, but at least you can change the graphics to your heart’s content.

Outlined text in Adobe Illustrator