Outlining Text in Adobe Acrobat X

This article describes how to outline text in Adobe Acrobat X. An older article has information about outlining text in Acrobat versions 7, 8, and 9.

16 April 2013: It looks like Adobe broke this feature with an update to Acrobat. Fortunately, a trick that worked in prior versions still works, but it adds a couple of small steps to the procedure. I have updated this article accordingly.

By far, the most popular article on this blog is about outlining text in Acrobat, a task that became notoriously difficult after Acrobat 6.. An update post for Acrobat X is long overdue.

The Scenario

Here’s the scenario I posed in my previous article on outlining text: you need to make a small change to a graphic file, the deadline is looming, all you have is a PDF, you don’t have access to the source files, and you don’t have the fonts installed. Without the fonts, you can’t open the PDF in Illustrator without jacking up the text. You can’t wait to get access to the source file because you’ll lose your place in your commercial printer’s queue. What do you do?

The proposed workaround is this: open the PDF in Acrobat, outline the text, save your changes, open the PDF in Illustrator, and make your minor adjustments there.

Outlining Text in Acrobat X Pro

In Acrobat X, the process of outlining text is much easier than it was in versions 7, 8, and 9. Adobe restored the ability to outline text without having to fuss around with watermarks or other workarounds. The trouble is finding the feature. It’s buried in the Flattener Preview window, which is buried in Adobe’s answer to Microsoft’s ribbon based navigation.

Again a few caveats before proceeding:

  • 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 pretty much screwed. You’ll need to edit the source files.

Follow the steps below to convert text to outlines in Adobe Acrobat X Pro:

  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 Tools and click Pages.
  3. Click Watermark and select Add Watermark.
    The Add Watermark window opens.
  4. Type a period (or any other character) in the Text text box.
  5. Drag the Opacity slider to 0%.

    Applying a watermark in Acrobat.

    You’ll need to add a textual watermark before outlining the text. Kick the font size down and set the opacity to zero so the watermark doesn’t interfere with the appearance of your document.

  6. Click OK.
  7. Click Tools and click Print Production.
    If you don’t see the Print Production panel under Tools, do this:
    a. Click the View menu.
    b. Select Tools.
    c. Select Print Production.
    The Print Production panel opens under Tools.
  8. Click Flattener Preview.

    Accessing Flattener Preview can be a little tricky.

    The Flattener Preview window opens.

  9. Select the Convert All Text to Outlines check box.
  10. Select the pages you need to convert to text from the Apply to PDF group.
  11. Click Apply.
    Flattener Preview settings

    Simply select the Convert All text to Outlines check box.

    If Acrobat warns you that the operation cannot be undone, click Yes to proceed.

  12. Click OK to close the Flattener Preview window.
  13. Click File and select Save As to save your outlined text PDF as a different file from your original.
  14. 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

    Outlined text displayed in Illustrator. In this example, “Fonts!” is selected with the Direct Selection tool.

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  • Mike Pro  On 19 February 2013 at 6:45 am

    thank you!!!
    initially, i disliked acrobat X because I thought they had removed the option to watermark & flatten transparencies to convert text to outlines like previous versions.

    after this advice, I LOVE the new version now… this is WAAAAAY easier than it used to be!

  • Francis  On 5 April 2013 at 1:49 am

    Doesn’t seem to work on the mac for some reason. The text remains as text?

    • Michael O.  On 10 April 2013 at 9:11 am

      I think Adobe broke this functionality in a recent update. I’ll have to research the issue and get back to you.

    • Anita  On 19 June 2013 at 7:34 am

      Francis, I have a MAC and I had to actually run mine through twice to make it work 2nd time was the charm!! Yaay it worked!! 🙂

  • Carlos F  On 9 April 2013 at 11:12 am

    i’ve followed the steps but just won’t work. Not sure what im missing???

    • Michael O.  On 10 April 2013 at 9:11 am

      I think Adobe broke this functionality in a recent update. I’ll have to research the issue and get back to you.

    • Michael O.  On 16 April 2013 at 2:28 pm

      In Acrobat versions 7, 8, and 9, you had to add a watermark before converting the text to outlines in order for the text outline feature to work. It looks like the watermark requirement is back. I’ll update the article.

  • Theresa D.  On 14 May 2013 at 5:59 am

    Worked PERFECT!
    Thanks so much!

  • GPShannon  On 7 August 2013 at 10:30 am


  • imdna  On 16 September 2013 at 2:42 pm

    Very Cool… Though it should be emphasized that the watermark MUST be set to less than 100% transparancy… Worked great today using Acrobat XI Pro…

  • manuelmelo  On 19 March 2014 at 2:48 am

    You must do Apply before OK in Flattener Preview. It works perfectly.

  • Mahmut Kebir  On 23 June 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Thank you .! its work and perfect … thank you so much…

  • Den  On 23 July 2014 at 4:28 am

    Awesome, thank you

  • eagleapex  On 15 August 2014 at 12:33 pm

    This worked like a charm. Super helpful. Thanks!

  • Glenn H.  On 13 September 2014 at 10:09 am

    Current version update- Just found the previous article, which led to this one, and just now tested this process on my system. Using Mac OS, Acrobat Pro XI, with Illustrator CC 2014.

    No watermark needed for me, just a trip through the flattener preview, “convert all text to outlines”, apply, and save. File now opens correctly in Illustrator, multiple missing fonts in original document now are outlined correctly (remember to release all clipping masks in order to see your individual objects).

    Not sure if this update will apply across all current platforms/versions, etc. But it worked for me, and saves a few steps. My guess – XII will require the watermark again, just to keep us on our toes.

    Great tip, thanks!

  • Muppet  On 26 November 2014 at 4:07 am

    This functionality has been available in Illustrator itself for about 5-6 years.
    Just place the .PDF onto a page (with “Link” option ticked), then select “Object->Flatten Transparency and tick “Convert all text to outlines”.
    Saves extra files and trips to Acrobat.

  • Dudemang  On 11 June 2015 at 5:29 am

    Oh Thanks 😀 Good trick with the watermark. I’m just wondering why without that odd step, it was only outlining half the text? I guess with that extra layer it triggers a more thorough conversion.

  • Brot  On 18 September 2015 at 10:11 am

    Unbefuckinglievable! Sorry! But this solves the “Renderable Text” OCR bug in Adobe Acrobat! This is a worlds first!

    You just saved my….

    I can’t say how much I love this.

  • Matt  On 3 December 2015 at 8:57 am

    Any idea how to get this to work in the latest AcrobatPro DC?


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