Arabic text doesn't show properly in Adobe Illustrator. Even with a font that supports Arabic text (e.g. Arial), the text is back to front (left to right, not right to left) and the letters don't join up properly. To an Arabic speaker, it's gibberish.

I know that there is an Illustrator version for the Middle East but... really, no chance am I buying that just to get a few words into a vector graphic.

I've also seen refs for Scribdoor (Winsoft) however it's 100 Euros and I work on CS6 now which isn't supported anyway.

I can't believe that after 16 major versions of Adobe Illustrator there is no way to copy & paste a bit of Arabic into it somehow?

Can anyone think of an alternative? Free one if poss, it's a tiny job with 9 words in total.

Thanks very much

  • 1
    Could set it in Indesign, convert to outlines, then copy/paste.
    – Scott
    Commented Jun 28, 2012 at 9:23
  • Which font are you using? I also couldn't believe they didn't support this, I tried it on Illustrator CS4 (UK version) and I had no problem pasting in some arabic text, so long as the font supported it. Myriad Pro and most other fonts that only have Roman characters: just boxes. Arial, Tahoma, Georgia, Verdana, Times etc (basically the web safe set): real Arabic text with no problems. If these fonts still don't work for you, maybe (hopefully not...) it's some mad limitation in the US version. Commented Jun 28, 2012 at 11:05
  • 1
    @user568458 Ahah! yes, no problem if you don't read Arabic which I don't. And it seemed to 'look' arabic, and was in an arabic font however, no-go with the client because in Arabic letters are not just letters, they are sometimes joined for phonetic reasons (sort of like ligatures) but Illustrator doesn't seem to support this unless you have the 'ME' middle east edition. The solution for me (if you can call it that) in the end was to do it in TextEdit with the font then blow it up to 200pt size, screenshot it and trace it in Illustrator, then I could at least mess with it... bummer
    – Alex
    Commented Jun 28, 2012 at 14:57
  • @Scott yep, kind of had to resort to this.. thanks for the tip
    – Alex
    Commented Jun 28, 2012 at 14:58
  • 3
    Hilariously, this exact problem of Arabic getting mangled by Adobe software has caused embarrassment at a scale reaching UK national news twice in the last couple of weeks. If only the signmakers used this site! bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-18971686 bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-18911599 Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 18:32

9 Answers 9


Edit 2: There are better answers than mine - look at Andaleeb / Kurio's answers and the comments.

Edit: Thanks to Supamike in this question about this problem in Photoshop there's what looks like a simpler solution that also works in Illustrator for point text (it screws up if you have area text that spans more than one line, so you need to use point text then manually put line breaks in and re-order the lines of text, else the first line is at the bottom and the last is at the top).

Type or copy your text into the top box on http://www.arabic-keyboard.org/photoshop-arabic/, then copy and paste the output text in the bottom box into Illustrator, and it seems to keep the joins correctly applied and the text appears the correct way round.

If it just pastes boxes, make sure a font that supports Arabic characters is selected, e.g. one of the web safe standard fonts - Verdana, Times, Georgia, Arial...

Note that illustrator still treats it like it's left-to-right text, so while it looks correct, editing it will feel strange if you normally type in Arabic. So, if you need to edit the Arabic text, I'd recommend doing the edits in a separate word processor, then copy into the above site, then copy into Illustrator.

You'll also need to set it to right-align. Basically, it seems to forcibly replace the characters with their appropriate joined ligatures. The software doesn't treat it as Arabic text, but the characters you are pasting are the correct joined forms of the characters.

enter image description here

Original answer:

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the Arabic word for Arabic (العربية), copied and pasted into a variety of applications with default settings, with suggested best approach at the end. Here's the original from Wikipedia as a screenshot image for comparison:

enter image description here

Illustrator (UK editions, CS4, CS5 and CS6):

enter image description here

Doesn't look right. Arabic joins not being applied (plus it looks like it hasn't figured out that this should be right-to-left text).

Indesign (UK editions, CS4, CS5 and CS6):

enter image description here

Also doesn't look right, same problems way as Illustrator. It's possible there's some setting somewhere that needs to be applied, but given that Scribdoor charged €100 to bring this feature to InDesign, I doubt it.

Inkscape (free open source Illustrator rival):

enter image description here

Perfectly presented real inline text the moment it is pasted in. No problems at all. Ouch.

For fun, since TextEdit on Mac apparently has no trouble, let's try smelly old Windows Notepad:

enter image description here

Oh dear, Adobe, oh dear... it might lack style and finesse but it looks like Notepad has applied those joins perfectly...

So it seems like the best, most reliable low/no cost solution to Alex's problem is to have a copy of Inkscape handy. When an issue like this comes up, write and style the text in Inkscape as you would do in Illustrator (Inkscape's interface seems weird when used to illustrator, lettering options like tracking, kerning, line height etc seem to be controlled through keyboard shortcuts, but comparable features are there), then copy and paste the Inkscape text object directly into Illustrator when it is ready. For me (on Windows) copying and pasting translates it into vector paths maintaining the correct lettering. Here's how it looks pasted in to Illustrator and selected (next to Illustrator's earlier attempt for comparison):

enter image description here

If keeping a copy of Inkscape installed just for occasional things like this sounds like a pain, those open source guys have thought of that: there's a portable version which you can run off a pen drive. I've never used it so I won't recommend a place to download it that I haven't tried, but it seems to exist and work.

  • I'm surprised InDesign doesn't have support for this. I remember there was one Adobe package, might have been Fireworks, that I was able to write Arabic ok, but I guess it's beacuse it was a Macromedia product. Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 20:39
  • Inkscape is unnecessary. Just export the text from any text editor as PDF and import into Illustrator. The font will be converted to outlines and can be used as a path.
    – Manuel
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 23:29

There is an indirect yet way easier solution to this, it works on PC, I don't know if it works on a MAC but it is easy to test:

  1. Find a PSD file containing correctly displayed arabic text that is still possible to edit and which was produced preferably using a Photoshop Middle East version, or alternatively:
  2. use this "Template to edit and create arabic text" PSD (CS4) from Adobe, ( tried it in both Illustrator & Photoshop CS6, it works! You can copy paste the text to another file and continue editing it and changing fonts etc. ) http://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/detail.jsp?ftpID=4107
  3. Just extract the *.PSD from the compressed file then load it into your Adobe Illustrator.

TaDa! You can now edit the arabic text and shift the font etc. You can even copy/paste it flawlessly, as long as your Illustrator was able to load the original PSD file (try also other types of files, like EPS files generated with a Illustrator ME version maybe? I didn't try that). Just look for free PSD files containing arabic text (generated with a ME version) on the web and use them. Or use the one I included in step 2 if it's still available. Hope it will work for you!

  • Do you know any places where such files can be found? Tried searching with no success. Commented Oct 18, 2012 at 16:52
  • 1
    I just updated step #2 with an Adobe link to an arabic text PSD template generated with CS4, take a look at step #2 for details. Also, sorry for being so late (and Open ID log in issues didn't help :'-)
    – Kurio
    Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 16:10

Thanks for the tips! The PC trick sort of helped me. I opened up an old (ME version) InDesign file with editable Arabic text in it on my Mac's non-ME version InDesign CS6, and copied the Arabic text I needed from TextEdit/email straight into the Arabic text box in the ME InDesign Arabic file, and it showed perfectly right and editable as well. Thankfully I had Arabic fonts installed already so the text didn't appear funny or broken.

I then converted into outlines and took it into Illustrator.

  • Awesome, do you know of any places where files created with the ME version can be downloaded? Sounds like a file created in the ME edition is a useful resource to have tucked away somewhere. Commented Oct 18, 2012 at 16:42
  • 1
    Found one. And it's official too. adobe.com/support/downloads/detail.jsp?ftpID=4107
    – Mario Awad
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 9:47
  • That Adobe download works - you can open the PSD file in illustrator checking "Convert to objects", change font to something with Arabic letters, then copy and paste the text area into any file, and it handles Arabic letters correctly. Commented Jun 6, 2013 at 12:17

How about this.

  • Type your Arabic text in MS Word 2010 in Arabic using font Arial.
  • Save the file as pdf.
  • Open the file in Adobe Illustartor CS5.
  • When opening the file, it will say that a font subsitution is going to occur. Let it.
  • When the pdf file is opened in Above Illustrator CS5, all you will see are black boxes.
  • Select all the boxes.
  • Go to fonts and select Arial.

And whola you have it.


You may have a look at this plug in ScribeDOOR : ScribeDOOR allows you to edit and work in one or several of the following languages at the same time: Arabic, Azeri, Bengali, Farsi, Georgian, Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Kannada, Kazakh, Khmer/Cambodian, Lao, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, Thai, Urdu, Vietnamese.

It's available here : http://store.winsoft-international.com/products/product/winsoft/scribedoor.html

  • ScribeDOOR was already mentioned and ruled out in the original question - though it is worth mentioning that ScribeDOOR is now compatible with CS6, which wasn't true when the question was asked. Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 14:01

In in my case I type arabic with Corel Draw, convert it to curve, then copy and paste to illustrator. It works for me


I just pasted the text into fontbook using the font "Baghdad" then took a screenshot and used image trace to get the curves of the Arabic word I needed. Worked like a charm! Word would not copy correctly for me. I am using CS6.


I used Arabic Genie, which is an app that solves this problem and it worked fine for me. The free version only exports one word at a time but its still very useful. You can find it in the app store:


Sadly, there's no version for windows as far as I know...


I use Corel draw to write the arabic text, then export (as curves) to .eps format.


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