If you’ve ever experienced a print provider unable to convert text to artwork because the font wasn’t on file; you know it can be a frustrating process to remedy. The good news is—this can be avoided and here’s how.

You may hear the term “outline your text” or “convert to curves” when working with a print company. Allow me to clarify.

When you use text in your artwork, it’s created with a font. A font is a digital file stored on your computer that allows you to change the typeface to a wide variety of options. Fonts can be purchased online, and many are pre-installed on your computer.

When the artwork is saved, the information is stored in a file. But, when the file is sent to the print shop it may open with an error explaining the font isn’t installed on the printers computer. The font is not embedded in the file. There are two options to get around this problem.

Send the Fonts

The first choice is to send the font files used in your artwork. But this isn’t a foolproof option. The exact fonts used must be sent, and there are many varieties of a single font. Fonts like Helvetica or Times New Roman have dozens of variables such as weight (the thickness of the letters) and derivatives (like Helvetica Neue.) It’s easy to inadvertently send the wrong version.

Outline your Text

The foolproof method is to outline your text (sometimes called convert to curves). When outlining your text, the software no longer associates a font with it, and the letters and words become a vector shape. It’s important for you to keep your original non-outlined file because once you outline the text it can no longer be edited. Save a separate copy with the outlined text and send it to the printer.

There are too many software programs to share instructions for all of them. The most common program is Adobe Illustrator. In Illustrator, outlining your text is very easy. Right before you save your file to send to the printer, select all (PC: CMD+A, Mac: ⌘+A) then outline your text (PC: CMD+SHIFT+O, Mac: ⌘+SHIFT+O). You can also go to the “Type” menu and select “Create Outlines”. Save your file and you’re done!


If you can select the text with your cursor, the text is not outlined.(Below) 


 Once the text is outlined, you will see “nodes” along the edges.(Below)


For other programs consult the help guide in the program, or search the internet with a phrase such as “How do I outline the text in [PROGRAM NAME]”.

I hope this has been informative. Outlining your text not only saves the print company time and headaches, but it also eliminates one more area where things can go wrong with your artwork. By outlining your text you’re ensuring a correctly printed product, with a quicker turnaround, and avoiding frustration.

TKO Tech Talk is a column written by Eric Benge, who has over 10 years experience in the design and print industries. Technology changes rapidly, the advice or information included in these articles is considered accurate and helpful as of the date they are posted online. If you have any questions, technology related or otherwise, please contact us.