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In Illustrator CS5 Essential Training, author Mordy Golding explains the core concepts and techniques that apply to any workflow in Illustrator, whether designing for print, the web, or assets for other applications. This course includes a detailed explanation of the elements that make up vector graphics—paths, strokes, and fills—and shows how to use each of the Illustrator drawing tools. Also demonstrated are techniques for combining and cleaning up paths, organizing paths into groups and layers, text editing, working with color, effects, and much more. Exercise files accompany the course.
Text inside of Illustrator is a special type of object. Type itself is vector in nature, meaning that you can scale it to any size without losing any detail. However, you can't actually edit any of the anchor points. Of course one of the nice things about working with text in general is that you can change that text from a copy perspective. For example fixing typos, or just generally editing words. However, there may be times when you want to make some modifications to text from a graphical perspective. In order to do that, you'll have to convert your text into paths.
Inside of Illustrator, we refer to that process as creating outlines. So for example, I can select this text element right here are on my artboard and I could then go up to the Type menu and I can choose this option called Create Outlines. The keyboard shortcut is Command+Shift +O. Now before I actually select this, let's take a moment to think about what's about to happen. This text object, which has editable text attributes inside of it and things like point size settings and typography settings like font styles and kerning, will no longer have those attributes once I've converted them to outlines.
The benefit though is that I'll be able to access any of the individual anchor points for each of these characters. So let's choose this option now and see what happens. Notice now that it's all been converted to anchor points. I can use my Direct Selection tool to highlight individual anchor points and select them and then make adjustments to them. This is obviously something that I can't do with live type. Now there are other reasons why you might want to convert your text to outlines as well and that discussion comes down to type itself and working with fonts. For example, if I set a document now, using a certain typeface and I then want to transfer that document to somebody else for them to open up on their computer, they need to have that typeface in order for this to display correctly on their computer.
However, if I turn this text into outlines, I can now transfer this file to any other computer, and it will display just perfectly without requiring additional fonts. The downside is that once I've converted to outlines, I can no longer change the spelling or adjust the type itself. While it looks like text, all it really is, is a bunch of anchor points making up these shapes. I'll tell you that in general, when I'm creating logos, which are files that I know are going to be distributed amongst many, many different computers, I'll usually convert all of my text inside my final logo to outlines.
This will not only ensure that everyone else who opens that file will see the correct logo without getting any font errors. It also ensures that the branding that I worked so hard to create will appear correctly no matter where or how it's used. There is one thing to note though about converting your text to outlines. Besides the obvious loss in editability, if you have a lot of text that can add a lot of anchor points to your document. So for things like headlines, logo type, maybe a masthead for magazine, those are all great candidates for actually converting your text in to outlines.
However, I'd be wary about turning entire paragraphs of text, like for example ad copy or text across a brochure, into outlines unless absolutely necessary. Otherwise I may be faced with file sizes that are incredibly large and files that take a really long time to print.
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