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Converting a PDF to curves without the fonts installed

Updated on December 30, 2010

Convert to curves or recognize converted fonts

So, you’re a DTP Operator or a Graphic Designer and you get a job from your client, but alas, you are stuck with two scenarios, both of which almost every designer or printer fears…

1. The PDF file is not converted to curves and they haven’t supplied the fonts, or
2. you need to change some of the text, and the PDF file is converted to curves.

Your best bet for the two issues are:
Recognizing text if the PDF document is converted to curves:
First up; your PDF document is converted to curves, and you need to make a quick change to the document, what we’d usually do, is, through a tiresome process get the PDF open in InDesign or Illustrator and retype the sentence or paragraph that needs replacing and replace it. It usually became a time consuming job, keeping in mind that us Graphic designers work against the clock, and in most cases, around the clock.

Today, Acrobat PDF, usually the more featured one, today it’s Adobe Acrobat X, but Adobe Acrobat Pro also has the option of recognizing text on the go, which will give you the opportunity, once you have recognized the text, to open the PDF file in you favourite design programme, Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Indesign and quickly change the copy in the PDF and save it as a PDF again.

What you would want to do, once you get a PDF that is already converted to curves and you need to change the copy somewhat, is:
1. Open the file in Adobe Acrobat PRO
2. Under the Document Menu Title, find OCR Text Recognition
3. A Sub menu under that should give the option to recognize text using the OCR engine
4. Select that and the OCR engine will convert most of the recognizable flattened fonts to text
5. Save the PDF and open it in your favourite design application

Converting a PDF to curves:
As for the other side of the coin, you get a PDF from the client and it is not converted to curves, not did they supply the fonts for yout to install.

Fear no more, Adobe Acrobat can convert this PDF to curves without you having the fonts installed on your computer.

How? I hear you ask…

Well, what you’ve got to do, is:
1. Open the file in Acrobat Pro or later
2. Add a small, invisible watermark, by going to Document, Watermark, Add
3. A screen will pop up and prompt you to add the watermark
4. Select text as a Source
5. Add a Space or a . (full stop)
6. In Appearance, deselect the Scale relative to target page option, set the opacity to 0% and in location, select Appear behind page
7. Once this is done, you’re almost there, click Ok, and you will see the system adding the Watermark to the selected pages
8. You will now need to flatten the pages, Go to Advanced, Print Production, Flattener Preview
9. Select the Convert all text to outlines, tempted as you are, don’t click on the OK button, in Apply to PDF, select to which pages you want to do this and hit Apply
10. It will prompt you and ask you if you’re sure… coming this far, I’m pretty sure you are, click Yes and once you get back to the Flattener Preview screen, click OK.
11. Click Save and close the PDF

And that should do the trick, if you have the font or not. I know it’s a bit of a work around, but at least there is hope. This tutorial is from Printing companies in gauteng.

Until next time…. Happy converting

To use or not to use

Which application is your favourite design application?

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    • profile image

      Rajesh (India) 

      2 years ago

      Great!!! It works. Thank you very much. You have saved my one day. Thanks again.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Thank you for showing the way to problems with fonts :)))

      It's really a big help for me.

      I wish you have a nice day!

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      full of

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Works great! Saved me a lot of time and hassle - gets round the issue well

    • profile image

      Sunil Kumar M 

      5 years ago

      Great!! you saved my life!!!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I approve digital artwork for t-shirt screen printing, here's a post I forward to my customers so they're able to convert to outlines quickly and easily :)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thank you! You just made my life sooooo much easier!

    • AntonDiq profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Gauteng, South Africa

      Thanks Jayelle - as long as it's useful ;-)

    • Jayelle profile image


      7 years ago

      nice detailed instruction!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.... I've been looking for this for a while


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