Converting to outlines in Illustrator results in heavier letterforms

kaput's picture

I haven't had much luck locating any information on this online, as most information related to "outline" ends up pointing me towards tutorials and the like.

I've noticed for some time now that outlining a typeface through convert to outlines in Illustrator (wordmarks, for example) results in a slightly thicker, heavier letterform. In most cases, it's not a big deal, but I'm finding that my current project is actually having difficulty, as the gain is almost a full weight heavier.

Through many print and screen tests, it's very clear that the outlined letterforms are noticeably heavier than the unconverted ones.

What exactly's causing this gain? Is there any way to prevent it or correct it? I've long been told that vector logos and icons must be outlined (which I've never questioned - it seems perfectly logical), so I'm not sure if there's actually any alternative.

hrant's picture

AFAIK the rendering algorithms of generic outlines versus font outlines are different, in terms of deciding where to rasterize a dot or not (with the former rasterizing more dots on the edge). I suspect the only real fix is customizing the font, and this would be resolution-dependent... :-/

If you do need such customization done there are quite a few people here who could do it for you, including yours truly: hpapazian at gmail dot com

hhp

cerulean's picture

There may have been a misunderstanding. You probably need your type "converted to outlines" (i.e. they become shapes, not text dependent on a font), but that does not mean the result needs an outline stroke (which adds half the weight of the line). Set the outline stroke to none.

Theunis de Jong's picture

Through many print and screen tests, it's very clear that the outlined letterforms are noticeably heavier than the unconverted ones.

Drawing text is extremely optimized, both on screen and on laserprinters. The optimizations may be built into the font -- exact pixel alignment for certain sizes, and on-screen hints for antialiasing -- or may come from the font rendering system (typically, your OS and printer firmware). But as soon as you convert a font to outlines, all these optimizations are no longer used, and you get the default rendering of what comes down to a set of straight and curved lines.

If your final output is going to be on professional, high end, high resolution hardware, there is quite little to worry about. At a typical resolution of 3,000 dpi or higher, the differences between pixel-optimized font drawing and aformentioned straight/curved lines is virtually undetectable. After all, all deviations are going to be on single pixel level (1/3000th of an inch).

If you are going to output on lower resolutions, well, why do you think you have to outline your fonts? Maybe all it needs is to review your workflow; perhaps you can deliver your output without converting to outlines.
Another solution could be to always outline all of your text. At least then there is not going to be a difference between different text.

... the gain is almost a full weight heavier.

That indeed sounds as if you inadvertently applied an outline as well. But one must ask: at what font size and what viewing size? The difference becomes progressively larger with small font sizes (or at lesser zoom levels).

kaput's picture

Theunis' response is very insightful - I believe I understand what's going on from your explanation!

That indeed sounds as if you inadvertently applied an outline as well. But one must ask: at what font size and what viewing size? The difference becomes progressively larger with small font sizes (or at lesser zoom levels).

Thankfully, I didn't miss this! There's no outline stroke set, it's simply type converted to paths. Like you said, it's much more obvious at smaller sizes - at an 8pt - 12pt height, for example. When outputted at a larger size, it's quite unnoticeable.

Perhaps my best option would be to create size-optimized versions, where I negatively offset the path a small amount for smaller output.

George Thomas's picture

Go here:
http://printplanet.com/forums/adobe/14870-illustrator-pdf-bolding-issue
Read the third post by Dov Isaacs. If anyone in the business is an authority on such issues it would be him.

In general, unless one has a RIP problem it is really a bad idea to convert small type to outlines. That has been a basic rule in service bureaus and printers who do quality work for years.

oldnick's picture

The “thickening” phenomenon you mention only happens on-screen. Print a sample of type and type-converted-to-outlines and check out the results on paper: I doubt that you will see any difference at all…

dewbert's picture

I am having the same issue. It may not be a big deal for stuff printed professionally because you can send the fonts to the print shop. This "thickening" appears when printed on my home (600dpi) laser printer (contrary to what some say) when I convert text to outlines. But again, it's no big deal because I don't need to convert text to outlines for my home printer. But, the big issue is that it happens when converting a file for the web (gif and png) -- even when you don't convert the text to outlines.

Thomas Phinney's picture

> But, the big issue is that it happens when converting a file for the web (gif and png) -- even when you don't convert the text to outlines.

What app are you using in which this happens during conversion? What app are you viewing the text in, in which it seems thinner?

For most pro graphics apps such as Photoshop, you will see zero difference, at the same zoom level, between the initial representation on screen and the generated GIF or PNG graphic file. It will be pixel-for-pixel identical.

dewbert's picture

Adobe Illustrator CS6 thickens type when I do Type > Create Outlines as soon as I do it. Even when keeping type as type (not converting to outlines) in Illustrator, saving for web as a gif or png results in a thickening in all 4 up-to-date browsers I have. I assume it's because Illustrator converts type to outlines when saving for web. It's not very drastic, but it caused me to have to do a redesign when I had a Medium font next to a Bold font of the same font type. The Medium font appeared very close to being the same thickness as the Bold font. I had to change the Medium font to a Regular font before saving for web to get it to match my print version.

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