If I have an Adobe Illustrator file, and I save it as a .pdf - it looks like the fonts are included in that .pdf file. (I think this because when I open the .pdf file in Reader it looks the way I expect it to.) However, when I open this same .pdf file on a different computer (or workstation) with Adobe Illustrator - Illustrator says I 'don't have the font I need'. This doesn't make sense to me because - If I can see the document correctly in reader, I would expect it to be there for Illustrator as well. Can someone explain why this is? I am asking because saving a file as a .pdf for print seems to handle most font troubles that come up - but sometimes I need to change the text in a file before I print it... I am hoping there is a way to open a .pdf so that .ai recognizes that the font is in there. But I am unsure on the details of saving as a .pdf in Illustrator, how fonts are handled, and what is possible.

  • The 'different computer' needs to have the font installed in its font folder to open the pdf in illustrator.
    – Mark Read
    Commented Jun 3, 2019 at 1:15
  • On the 'different computer' (the one that does not have the font) I can open the document as a .pdf and it renders the page correctly - but when I open it in Adobe Illustrator it says it can't find the font. Why would the .pdf be correct if it can't find the font?
    – Brad
    Commented Jun 3, 2019 at 2:38

2 Answers 2


Adobe is one of the big font sellers on the planet. It is a way to enforce font licensing deals.

Most people dont realize fonts cost money. A lot of money in fact. If the average user would just be able to extract fonts seamlessly from PDF files then there would be a lot less value in the font market, since now you could just copy fonts from all over the place quick and easy. Most people wouldnt see a problem with this, again, as they arent aware that fonts cost money.

So adobe wont extract the font, even though it it is in the PDF file. Though, the font may have been embedded only partially in the PDF file making it less than useful for editing. Anyway Acrobat can edit the PDF with embedded fonts.

Theres no technical reason why they couldnt do this they just dont want to, because it conflicts with their business interest.

It is a bit like adobe wont edit pdf files marked as noneditable, and wont print pdf files that are nonprintable. Theres no encryption that stops them from doing this. They just voluntarily enforce their own rules.

  • First off - thank you, this is helpful. We are trying to print our clients artwork and ship it to them. Sometimes we need to do a slight edit on it. Right now we tell them to save it as a .pdf and preserve the layers (the default 2006 save settings in .ai). If we have them save it as a .pdf/x will that allow the fonts to be edit-able? Is there a work around that you know of? Our clients are not professional graphic designers, they tend to be engineers... so asking them to send the font along with the .pdf is a bit much to ask (they probably won't do it)..Again, thanks for the help!
    – Brad
    Commented Jun 3, 2019 at 12:08
  • @Brad fontforge can extract fonts from the PDF file
    – joojaa
    Commented Jun 3, 2019 at 14:15
  • AWESOME! I will check that out! Thank you @joojaa!
    – Brad
    Commented Jun 3, 2019 at 14:18
  • @Brad just make sure you dont break the licence of the font. (and that it has the character you need)
    – joojaa
    Commented Jun 3, 2019 at 14:20
  • 1
    Will do! We are not looking to break any rules, we are printers, not hucksters! :) Thanks @joojaa
    – Brad
    Commented Jun 3, 2019 at 14:22

Acrobat/pdf contains information that displays and renders the font correctly - not the information to edit, if you install the font on the other machine illustrator will be able to open and edit the file. See this article helpx.adobe.com/acrobat/using/pdf-fonts.html

  • Thank you for the link... I will read it. Very much appreciated!
    – Brad
    Commented Jun 3, 2019 at 12:04

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