I have been working on a 50+ page commercial booklet at work. The InDesign file contains a lot of text and linked psd and ai files.

Since I've finished it and gotten it all approved I was told to get it ready for print. I exported a high quality PDF with all of the fonts subsetted. The lead graphic designer told me it wasn't able to be sent to print because it had fonts in it and that I had to outline all of the text.

I have never had to do this before since the fonts are all embedded. So I had to go through each page, and outline every single text box, and then go into every ai file in the links panel which had text in it, open it in illustrator and outline the text there, too. The whole process took about 2 hours. I have never even heard of having to outline text that is able to be subset in a PDF document. Why would this be required and why does subsetting exist if a commercial printer requires outlined text?

  • I am dumb... by "outline" you mean convert to curves? or add a thin line?
    – Rafael
    May 22, 2018 at 16:28
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    Are you using English only characters? or you have some sort of cyrillic, non-english chars? Is the font used really embedded? some can not. Is the font from a good reputable provider? or is it "fan" made?
    – Rafael
    May 22, 2018 at 16:31
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    Some fonts have built-in copyright protection that prevents them from being embedded regardless of your PDF export preferences. In the PDF export settings, under "Advanced" notice the disclaimer "All fonts with appropriate embedding bits will be embedded." To see if your pdf has unembedded fonts, open it in Acrobat and bring up the properties (file>properties or CTRL+D). The fonts tab will list all fonts and their embed status. If you don't see "Embedded" or "Embedded Subset," then the font is not embedded.
    – 13ruce
    May 22, 2018 at 18:02
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    @Tom Parke, you can save a lot of time by using Acrobat to convert all type to outline, rather than creating outlined versions of your InDesign file and assets. It's under Print Production>Flattener Preview.
    – 13ruce
    May 23, 2018 at 14:22

5 Answers 5


Well, 50 pages is incorrect. I realize you posted "50+", but 51, 53, 54, 55, 57, all won't work. A "booklet" must have page counts divisible by 4 at a minimum (8 and 16 are preferred for larger books). So 48, 52, 56, 60 pages, but 50 doesn't work. You may know this.... but I can't tell from here :) Of course if you are using some binding other than saddle stitching, such as coil or perfect binding, you can get away with 2 page sets.

If the file was provided as a viable PDF then there's little general reason one would need to outline text, especially in a booklet. The only reasons I can think of are...

  • The print provider is not using a PDF workflow.
  • There's some sort of personalization in the piece.
  • The PDF you supplied was incorrectly formatted.
  • The embedded AI and PS files need correction (color, trapping, etc)
  • The print provider needs to edit something but doesn't want to be held responsible for any typographical mistake which may occur.
  • (A common one) You incorrectly used a rich a black for text and they need to correct that.
  • In short.... The PDF needs editing, they do not have the font(s) you used, don't want to purchase the font(s), and are aware that legally you can't merely share the font(s) in most instances.
  • The print provider has no clue what they are doing.

You are not out of line to ask the print provider why. If they can't or won't answer that.. find a new provider if possible.

They may legitimately have a reason, even if it's "You sent us a bad file" - which they may be hesitant to state outright - happy customers and all that. I generally approach things by asking "Was there an issue with the file I sent? Is there something I can do on my end, short of outlining text on 56 pages, to make it easier?"

I, personally, would strongly push-back if I were asked to outline type on a multi-page piece. It would be non-sensical to me. Heck, I've pushed back on a 4 page piece only to find out it was due to the personalization process - which is an easy thing for me to adjust on my end without outlining anything.

In my office, the provider would be pushed to tell me what needs addressing and why they want type outlined and I'll correct whatever issue it is on my end.

It's important to also realize that print providers deal with all sorts of customers, some more "production aware" than others. They get files in all shapes and sizes with all sorts of odd, uncontrollable, illogical set ups. They may have a standard "script" of sorts which gets them what they need without making the customer feel as though they've done something wrong.

With this in mind, asking "Random Customer" to outline type is a whole lot easier than explaining that they need to trap the artwork on pages 4, 10, and 15. Because then, they might need to explain what trapping is. Which can be a whole other long, drawn out, discussion they'd rather not deal with.

If you understand print production and are capable of editing things which may need editing, then expressing that to the print provider can go a long way to a more seamless workflow.

  • 1
    Excellent answer, Scott. It's worth mentioning, however, that 4-page sets are only a requirement for saddle stitched booklets. Other booklet binding methods such as coil and perfect binding only require 2-page sets.
    – 13ruce
    May 22, 2018 at 17:56
  • Good point @13ruce .. edited for clarity.
    – Scott
    May 22, 2018 at 18:00
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    Good answer. But I really can't understand how a printer can ask a designer to outline multi-page documents. If i told my clients to do that I would have endless discussions and have to explain it over and over. In the end some of my clients would find a less troublesome printer.
    – Wolff
    May 22, 2018 at 18:09
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    That goes to the last bullet in my list @Wolff
    – Scott
    May 22, 2018 at 18:18
  • Wolff, see my note to the OP. That's one possible, and quite valid reason. But yes, it's more likely to be Scott's last bullet.
    – 13ruce
    May 22, 2018 at 18:21

If I would be in such a situation and after checking all the points Scott wrote as possible solutions, instead of outline every single text frame I would go to the classical way, send the package: the Indd file, the fonts, the links and the PDF.

I'm more to the las point: —The print provider has no clue what they are doing.—

Dealing with printers should be a Post Master after studying Graphic Design.

I wonder about the printing system?

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    "Dealing with printers should be a Post Master after studying Graphic Design" Nop. Dealing with prepress should be an intrinsic part of every course, a basic part.
    – Rafael
    May 22, 2018 at 16:30

I work for a commercial printers and just asked the prepress guy here the above and he said "I do not convert to outlines UNLESS there is a problem with the font". However we do use speedflow so this may fix a few of the prepress issues that can be seen if it is subset. Also outlines create a much bigger file than subsets.


Outlining the fonts, helps to remove issues with different versions of the same font. For example, how many different versions of helvetica nueue are there out there? If the job came back from the printer and the font was different you’d complain about it.

I’m 22 years working as a graphic designer, ranging from working for newspapers & printers to run my own design agency and I can tell you that I know from both sides of the fence that sending files with outlined fonts reduces the potential for issues and in turn only shows you know you’re stuff and want everything to run smoothly. Outlining 50 pages isn’t that much work in InDesign, even easier if you text boxes are linked.

Duplicate the file, outline the fonts and pdf it... then be happy in the knowledge that you’re making everyone’s life easier and the printers you work with will respect you a bit more and maybe have your back when there’s a real issue.


What your colleague may be referring to is exporting the fonts as outlines when printing the document to PDF.

This converts the fonts to shapes. Many printers do not accept files with actual text inside - it all has to be shapes.

  • It looks like the OP knows that. Your answer doesn't explain why, which is what is being asked.
    – Luciano
    May 23, 2018 at 9:09

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