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Converting text into editable vector paths

From: Illustrator Insider Training: Type and Text

Video: Converting text into editable vector paths

In the previous chapter we learned that there are three kinds of type objects that can exist inside of Illustrator: we have Point Type, Area Type, and Type on a Path. Now, of course these are all special objects inside of Illustrator because they all represent text inside of them. Text is different inside of Illustrator than a regular graphic, for example, because it has meaning to it. You can do Find and Replace with text. You can change its typeface. However, because of that, there are certain things you can't do. For example, from a graphical perspective, you can't change the letterforms themselves.

Converting text into editable vector paths

In the previous chapter we learned that there are three kinds of type objects that can exist inside of Illustrator: we have Point Type, Area Type, and Type on a Path. Now, of course these are all special objects inside of Illustrator because they all represent text inside of them. Text is different inside of Illustrator than a regular graphic, for example, because it has meaning to it. You can do Find and Replace with text. You can change its typeface. However, because of that, there are certain things you can't do. For example, from a graphical perspective, you can't change the letterforms themselves.

In order to do so, you must go through a process where you take the actual text and you convert that text into a graphic, into a physical path that you can now edit. Now, I am going to select this file right here, and you can see that this object right now is a type object. Of course, how do I know that? By looking at my Appearance panel; it tells me that right now I have a type object selected. There are characters inside of it. However, if I wanted to take, let's say, the top of this d and stretch it so that it was longer, I can't do that. I can't modify the letterforms because they are actually a part of the font itself.

So what I could do is I can go up to the Type menu and I can choose this setting here called Create Outlines. When I choose this setting here, the keyboard shortcut is Command+Shift+O or Ctrl+Shift+O on a PC, you could see that now that text has been converted to physical paths. You can now see all the anchor points of these paths. More importantly, if I look at my Appearance panel, I could see that right now this is now a group and there are contents inside of it, meaning there are now paths inside of it. If I use my Direct Selection tool, I can now just Marquee+Select the top part of the d here, click and drag, holding down the Shift key, and I can drag it straight up and modify the letterform of this letter.

Now, there are other things to consider though. That's not the only reason why you would want to convert text into outlines, purely to mangle some of these letter forms here. For example, say you were creating some kind of logo type. You use this really cool font that you found, and now you want to distribute this logo to the client or throughout your entire company, but you have no way of knowing that the font that you use is installed on all those other machines. Meaning if somebody else decides now to use that logo and they don't have the typeface, they are going to have a problem.

So that's why it's always good practice when we're creating our work inside of Illustrator that you know you're going to distribute in many, many different places--and again, a logo is a great example of that-- once you are done creating your type, you want to convert it into outlines, because now it's a graphic. The font that was used to create this type is no longer necessary because this is not a type object anymore. It's now a graphic and anything can print regular plain anchor points. Of course, the downside is is that somebody else who opens up that file can't actually make edits to that text anymore but, again, that could be a good thing if you don't want them to make any kind of changes.

Now, there is one other thing to know about converting text into outlines. On a regular laser printer, if you were to actually take two words, have them be completely identical, have one be actual regular plain text and have one converted into outlines so that they are now paths, when you look at the printout, they are probably going to look pretty similar. However, when you print it on a high- end press, you will definitely notice a difference between the version that was outlined and the version that wasn't. Now, there are two main reasons for this.

First of all, text itself is processed or printed in a very specific way. Let's focus, for example, on this lowercase a. You see how it looks like a little hole cut out of this bottom part of it? Or take a look at the lowercase e. There is also a hole over here. A type designer, when they create and design typefaces, may actually modify the letterforms themselves based on the size that that font is going to be printed at. So, for example, right now this word garden flowers is very large. In fact, if I press undo a few times to go back to my state of regular text here, I can see that this type is set at 102 points.

However, if I were to take this type and I were to actually reduce it in size, make it so that it's like 6 point, well, there is a chance at that size, at really, really small letter forms, that these little holes over here inside of the lowercase a or the e may get so small that they will actually disappear, or they will get filled in with ink. So a type designer may create different versions of letters for different sizes of how that typeface is going to be printed at. At larger sizes, they may create the holes at a certain size, but at smaller point sizes, they may specify that the holes inside of the lowercase a or the e, for example, should actually be enlarged to prevent them from being filled in.

This idea of creating different versions of characters that might be used at different point sizes is something called hinting, and type designers may provide hinting information inside of a typeface. Once you take your text and you convert it into a graphic, so now it's a path, when Illustrator prints it, because it's no longer a font, that hinting information is not there anymore. So if I were to take this text right now and convert it to outlines and then shrink it down to be really small, I may run into a situation where those holes inside of a and the e may fill in, because the hinting is not kicking in and changing out those letter forms.

It's for this reason that sometimes designers may create three or four different sizes of logos. Even though technically the logo can be resized to any size, because you have created them inside of Illustrator and they are vector-based, if you create them at different sizes, and then you go ahead and you convert them to outlines, at least the hinting information was there for those smaller sizes before you converted them into outlines. It really all comes down to how particular you are about how your type looks inside of your artwork. In many cases, you really don't have a choice.

You certainly don't want to get into a situation where you're distributing artwork that requires people to have typefaces installed on their machines. At the same time, just know that when you go ahead and you convert your text to outlines, it may fatten up just a little bit, so you may want to experiment at least with printing a few different copies to make sure that you are okay with your artwork.

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This video is part of

Image for Illustrator Insider Training: Type and Text
Illustrator Insider Training: Type and Text

52 video lessons · 15307 viewers

Mordy Golding
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 6m 13s
    1. Welcome
      1m 24s
    2. Art, typography, and Illustrator
      4m 23s
    3. Using the exercise files
      26s
  2. 38m 30s
    1. Knowing Illustrator's limitations
      5m 47s
    2. The three type objects in Illustrator
      11m 18s
    3. Area type, point type, and the bounding box
      4m 35s
    4. The difference between type and text
      3m 42s
    5. Unicode: consistent type for all
      4m 23s
    6. Bringing text from Microsoft Word into Illustrator
      8m 45s
  3. 39m 51s
    1. Understanding font types
      6m 28s
    2. Using the Glyphs panel
      8m 30s
    3. OpenType support and automatic glyph replacement
      9m 43s
    4. Previewing fonts as you use them
      5m 0s
    5. Converting text into editable vector paths
      6m 19s
    6. Using the Find Font feature
      3m 51s
  4. 49m 4s
    1. Setting up the document
      12m 26s
    2. Basic character settings and keyboard shortcuts
      7m 28s
    3. Kerning, tracking, and optical kerning
      13m 6s
    4. Using horizontal and vertical scaling
      4m 38s
    5. Using the Baseline Shift and Character Rotation options
      7m 28s
    6. Using underlines and strikethroughs
      2m 5s
    7. Working with small caps, superscript, and subscript
      1m 53s
  5. 46m 36s
    1. Basic paragraph settings and keyboard shortcuts
      6m 47s
    2. Setting tabs and leaders
      11m 51s
    3. Setting indents and spacing
      9m 6s
    4. Understanding hyphenation and justification settings
      10m 28s
    5. Understanding the composers in Illustrator
      8m 24s
  6. 16m 7s
    1. Threading text across multiple objects
      8m 17s
    2. Adding multiple text columns in a single object
      3m 29s
    3. Specifying an inset for area type objects
      4m 21s
  7. 32m 53s
    1. Text styles in Illustrator
      7m 6s
    2. Defining and modifying character styles
      10m 40s
    3. Defining and modifying paragraph styles
      5m 0s
    4. Understanding the style override
      5m 3s
    5. Sharing styles across documents
      2m 10s
    6. Changing default type settings
      2m 54s
  8. 37m 9s
    1. Aligning text margins and indents optically
      3m 53s
    2. Creating non-breaking text
      2m 36s
    3. Changing case
      1m 39s
    4. Using smart punctuation
      5m 12s
    5. Selecting type objects easily
      3m 20s
    6. Understanding hidden text codes
      2m 20s
    7. Checking spelling
      3m 3s
    8. Using language support to your advantage
      3m 41s
    9. Changing text with Find and Replace
      3m 54s
    10. Finding substituted fonts and glyphs
      3m 55s
    11. Wrapping text around objects
      3m 36s
  9. 16m 47s
    1. Setting type along a path
      10m 22s
    2. The difference between open and closed paths
      6m 25s
  10. 10m 57s
    1. Understanding legacy text
      4m 23s
    2. Updating legacy text
      6m 34s
  11. 1m 16s
    1. Next steps
      1m 16s

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