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roundgecko
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do you have to outline fonts - PDF

Sep 8, 2009 1:47 PM

Hi all,

 

I normally outline my fonts to avoid any hassles but I have created a design that has very thin type and when I outline it makes it too fat - bleh!

 

So I would like to know if it is ok just to save as a PDF WITHOUT outlining the fonts if you are sending a file off to magazine, newspaper, printer and that they will not have a problem with missing fonts etc.

 

Thanks!

 
Replies
  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 8, 2009 1:56 PM   in reply to roundgecko

    Generally you do not want to outline fonts, especially in the native artwork. Save as PDF allows for embedding fonts, so the printer should not have font problems.

     

    Some designers prefer to outline fonts anyway, for file integrity reasons. If your file falls into the wrong hands, it's a lot harder for someone to make use of outlined text. If you want to outline text in PDF output, just add a topmost layer. Cover it with a white box with darken blend mode. Lock the layer. Make a transparency flattener preset that outlines text. When you save as PDF, go to Acrobat 4 compatibility (try a standard such as PDF/X-1a) and use the flattener preset.

     

    The fonts looking fat on-screen is a display issue. Printing is not affected.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 8, 2009 3:05 PM   in reply to roundgecko

    Outlining does affect the printing, too

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 8, 2009 3:24 PM   in reply to Jacob Bugge

    I vote no as well not necessary to outline fonts and not really desirable.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 8, 2009 3:30 PM   in reply to Jacob Bugge

    Jacob Bugge wrote:

     

    Outlining does affect the printing, too

    I suppose it could in a composite digital printing context, that handles font data differently from vector shapes. But in a typical commercial offset environment, with a RIP and high resolution plate output, every font character is identical to the outlined vector shape, there is no difference whatsoever.

     

    Unless Illy is altering the character shape when it outlines, which it shouldn't. Not knowing the font in question I can't try to replicate. To see if this is happening, you'd have to zoom in at 6400% to compare the font to the outlined result.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 8, 2009 3:36 PM   in reply to Wade_Zimmerman

    Wade_Zimmerman wrote:

     

    I vote no as well not necessary to outline fonts and not really desirable.

    I agree, but there are actually printers out there who prefer outlined fonts in submitted PDFs. Not condoning it, just a fact. Also some designers prefer to outline for file integrity.

     

    Important thing is to leave fonts intact in Illustrator. If a printer demands outlined fonts, he almost certainly wants PDF 1.3, in which case you can outline text on output using the flattener. Not the best workflow, but works if your back's against the wall.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 8, 2009 4:08 PM   in reply to Printer_Rick

    I agree 100% with Printer Rick, The PDF file can increase in size but to avoid any possible issue is better to convert the fonts to outlines. His experience is visible in this subject.

    I will follow his recommendations.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 8, 2009 4:29 PM   in reply to Skullmaker

    hans that is not what Printer Rick wrote he is suggesting if you have 

    to convert them then do so.

     

    But there really should be no reason for it.

     

    It is probably just a mind set from the past.

     

    progress has been made in this area and it might be time for those 

    printers to get up to speed.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 8, 2009 4:51 PM   in reply to roundgecko

    Outlining text, beyond text used for "artistic" headlines and text that is actually part of an illustration, is probably one of the most over-used (abused) features of vector drawing programs. Now that PDF is the most common way to deliver print-ready files, there is seldom need to run the old gamut of bundling up external files and fonts to send to a printer.

     

    Just don't spend good money on fonts that disallow embedding in PDFs. (Believe it or not, there still are some--ITC Officina, for example.)

     

    ...I have created a design that has very thin type...

    Again, depends on what you mean by "a design." A 1200 page typeset textbook is a design. A trifold brochure with a few paragraphs of body text in it among the graphics is a design. A product or corporate identity mark with a little text in it is a design.

     

    I would only outline all the text in one of those three hypothetical projects.

     

    JET

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 8, 2009 4:54 PM   in reply to Wade_Zimmerman

    Hello Wade,

     

    You are right in some degree. However, not every company keeps their hardware and software up to date. If you know your printer, manufacturer, etc. then I can see your recommendation can come in to play.

     

    But Printer Rick's advised is anticipating from old hardware/software to the up to date. So it is better to follow his recommendations.

     

    Sometimes special characters can disappeared or changed (Like: é, ê, ë, ç, ñ, etc.) because the printer's software is old. Or sometimes you are using another language.

     

    I am not saying you are wrong (because you are not), but to cover your behind is better to convert everything to outline.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 8, 2009 6:44 PM   in reply to Printer_Rick

    Printer_Rick wrote:

     

    But in a typical commercial offset environment, with a RIP and high resolution plate output, every font character is identical to the outlined vector shape, there is no difference whatsoever.

     

    Live fonts do contain hinting which is sent to the RIP. Outlines don't contain any hinting. Hinting is exceptionally helpful at smaller type sizes. Outlines are really not the same as live type.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 9, 2009 8:18 AM   in reply to [scott w]

    ScottWeichert wrote:

     

     

    Live fonts do contain hinting which is sent to the RIP. Outlines don't contain any hinting. Hinting is exceptionally helpful at smaller type sizes. Outlines are really not the same as live type.

    Every glyph in a font is a drawn character. Hinting smoothes display appearance. It could play a role in a RIP for a digital press, which relies on composite output and no separate plates for each ink. These devices treat fonts differently from dumb art, to compensate for a lower resolution output.

     

    Let's assume that hinting for a particular glyph alters the shape of the glyph at different type sizes. To test, put the glyph on the artboard at 100 pt, and again at 2 pt. Duplicate the glyphs to a layer on top and outline. Verify that the shape of the outlines match the live font (coloring the outline something different helps).

     

    To see if hinting affects the shape,the small shape must be enlarged proportionally to the larger glyph size, or the larger glyph shrunk proportionally to the smaller size.

     

    Doing this, you may find that the two shapes match, or perhaps they don't. But it doesn't matter either way. When you outline fonts on output, the font doesn't get outlined, then resized - it just gets outlined. And the outline should be true to the vector shape of the glyph, no matter what the size is.

     

    There are many arguments for and against outlining fonts. Here are both perspectives:

     

    Advantages of live fonts in PDF output:

     

    1. The PDF looks worlds better on screen. This is an extremely important point. The live font looking proper means less questions and concerns, less banter is time saved.

     

    2. The font being in the PDF means that changes to the PDF are possible. Many printers prefer the fonts to be embedded whole instead of subset, and certainly not outlined. This can be a time saver. It can come down to the printer having to do one of three things - make a simple text change, try to match an outlined font to make the change, or wait on a new file. If the printer has the embedded font, the job can go to press faster.

     

    3. File size of PDF is smaller, making file transfer faster. It can be the difference between email or FTP in some cases.

     

    4. If something goes awry with the font in output, a simple preflight of the PDF can detect the problem. If the fonts are all outlined, you can't preflight the fonts, there aren't any - you have to hope Illy did a good job making the outlines.

     

    5. If the designer chooses to outline the native art, he has to save a duplicate copy. If he uses the flattener to outline fonts, he's increasing his output time. Preserving live text, you avoid these issues.

     

    Advantages of outlined fonts in PDF output:

     

    1. Fonts are the bane of the printing industry. There are thousands upon thousands of fonts, some are good quality, some are garbage. There are many varieties of font formats. Together this adds up to a LOT of variables, and a lot of different ways text can get hosed. When you outline, the font variable is eliminated in one fell swoop.

     

    2. Some people - printers and designers alike - subscribe to the "bullet proof PDF" solution. Such a PDF is one that is completely normalized. It goes well beyond flattening transparency, or RGB and Spot – CMYK. It includes what AI calls expansion of art. All text is outlined. All strokes become fills. Any effects, patterns and symbols are converted to dumb art. Sometimes even gradients and blends are converted into images. Overprints can also be flattened (although AI cannot do this). The result is a PDF which is a complete mess from an editing standpoint, but less likely to wig out a RIP.

     

    3. Even if the designer does not outline, there is a good chance the printer will. He will probably not do it in Illustrator, more than likely text outlining would be an automated part of a separate workflow system. For example in the packaging industry, PDF files are often imported into Art Pro, with vectorize text enabled. So in that case, a designer who outlines his text beforehand might be choosing Illustrator's outline capability, instead of relying on the printer's outline capability.

     

    4. If the printer uses a vector trapping engine, any traps around text will be vector art, not fonts. Sometimes fonts mixed with vector traps can be problematic. Again if the printer feels like fonts are an issue, he's probably outlining the text before trapping.

     

    5. File integrity is an issue for some designers. Maybe they're afraid that a competing designer might snag a PDF. If the fonts are all outlined, figuring out the fonts is certainly possible, but it's harder than simply pulling up the font list in Acrobat.

     

    6. Some printers demand PDFs with all transparency flattened. If live fonts are retained in flattened PDFs, you can end up with live glyphs that are clipping masks for images. Such a configuration is similar to a live font in Photoshop output. Anyone who deals with fonts in Photoshop output knows that the construction is pretty hopeless (Photoshop can't even embed a complete font). It is best not to have live text playing the role of a clipping mask for contone data.

     

     

    Anyway, there are two sides to the argument. One thing is certain – whether the text gets outlined or not – once it's RIPped, it's nothing but pixels. A live glyph vs. a vector shape should end up having the same pixel configuration on the plate.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 9, 2009 10:09 AM   in reply to roundgecko

    It will embed the fonts by default. You can double check the fonts in the PDF using Acrobat. File: Properties: Fonts. This shows you the font list.

     

    Also the flattener setting you use will determine whether or not fonts interacting with transparency get converted to outlines on output. If you use a preset such as High Resolution, all font data is retained.

     

    You may want to ask your printer if they prefer a flat PDF, or one with transparency. If transparency, consider using PDF/X-4.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 9, 2009 7:49 PM   in reply to Printer_Rick

    Printer,

     

    Your "test" of hinting in typeface fonts frankly smacks of a gross misunderstanding of what hinting is all about. Hinting is not a matter of "smoothing". It is not a matter of altering the bezier outlines of the glyphs. It is a matter of specifying font-specific and/or glyph-specific rasterization "rules" to be applied in areas and at sizes when the algorithmic rasterization generally applied to ordinary Bezier paths might be ambiguous and/or problematic in terms of legibility/uniformity.

     

    And if it were as "pointless" as you seem to think, I doubt that the energy, tedium and science it entails would be economically sound.

     

    I'll not feign expertise beyond what I know. But as I understand it, hinting effective says something like, 'when printed at this size, do not turn off this printer spot on this serif of this glyph in this font, even though its curve would occupy less than 50% of the printer spot,' or 'Even though the normal rasterization routine of this horizontal edge would call for the display of this horozontal row of printer spots, use the next lower row instead.' And so on.

     

    And so far as I can tell from my admittedly amateurish pidling with font design, hinting is not just for the sake of on-screen display.

     

    All these spruious arguments about 'potential printing disasters', due to use of fonts in print-ready documents (how long have we been doing this--about 25 years now?) to my mind comprise little more than a easiest-way-out, lowest-crude-denominator kind of excuse making. By parallel rationale one might just as 'justifiably' argue that nothing should be sent to the imaging device as vector artwork; After all, since everything is eventually going to be rasterized to the printer spots anyway, just go ahead and rasterize every whole page to a single bitmap. That would certainly avoid any and all 'potential disasters' stemming from the 'horrors' of limit check errors, inappropriate flattness settings, etc, etc. and thereby ensure more reliable output.

     

    Speaking of disasters; I've seen a few in cases wherein medium-to-small text that was needlessly converted to paths became wrecked due to flattness settings being raised, ostensibly to address some other output problem--the output was useless either way.

     

    I'll tell ya -- any printer outource that blunderbuss recommends that I convert all text to paths--well, there are other printers out there to recommend to my clients.

     

    JET

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 10, 2009 6:01 AM   in reply to JETalmage

    I think I'm being misunderstood here.

     

    I believe live fonts are the best alternative, and if I implied that hinting is pointless, I apologize.

     

    Hinting definitely does smooth the appearance of text. That's why live text looks so much better on-screen than outlined text. It also looks better in a composite printout.

     

    I prefer files with live text. But I'm not going to reject a file that does not have live fonts, and in my experience a conversion to outlines does not harm the press result.

     

    Hinting may create variable shapes at different sizes. But in the end, everything is solid square pixels on the plate. If an extremely small outlined glyph does not rasterize properly (that is, the pixels do not represent the true shape of the text character), another RIP issue is causing the problem.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 10, 2009 8:16 AM   in reply to Printer_Rick

    I've done a quick RIP test using Nuptial Script, see attached.

     

    1 pt, 2 pt, 3 pt, 4 pt, and 5 pt. One live font and one outlined at each size.

     

    There is a difference. At my standard plate output 2400 PPI, the difference at 5 pt is much less noticeable than at 1 pt.

     

    The difference is much more pronounced when the plate resolution is cut in half to 1200 PPI.

     

    So I stand corrected, even at a high resolution output the hinting does make a difference - the outlined font is slightly bolder in appearance.

     

    I'll have to do more tests before I draw hasty conclusions, though. In this example I have a script font at extremely small sizes. One could argue that fonts at such small sizes are difficult to read anyway. The difference between outline and live font on plate also depends on the font itself. Finally, even though I can see the difference in the tiff in Photoshop, if the two were printed side by side, it's questionable if you could see a lot of difference without using a loop.

     

    I will definitely state that outlining text for a low resolution output (say 600) is a very bad idea. As far as 2400 PPI, maybe you can get away with it.

     

    At any rate, thanks for your insight Jet. I have a lot of customers who supply outlined fonts. I will make them aware of this issue.

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