The Definition and Use of the 'Convert to Curves' Command

Congratulations text in cursive script

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A function of software with vector drawing capabilities, "convert to curves" refers to taking text and converting it into vector curves or outlines. It turns the text into a graphic that can no longer be edited with the software type tools but that can be edited as vector art. The actual font is no longer necessary to view and print the document accurately.

Why Convert Text to Curves

A designer may choose to convert text to curves in order to alter the shape of specific characters in a logo, newsletter nameplate or other decorative text to achieve certain artistic effects. It might be prudent to convert text to curves when sharing files with others who may not have the same fonts you have or when font embedding is not an option. Other reasons to convert include:

  • When you want to add color to only part of a character, you'll need to convert to curves or outlines first.
  • Although most fonts are embedded in a PDF export, a few fonts do not allow embedding. 
  • Some printing processes, particularly those that involve printing on textiles, require that text be converted to curves. Some signage companies also require text be converted.
  • Your commercial printing company may require it. 

Why Not Convert Text to Curves

Small bits of text converted to a logo or artistic text is almost always acceptable. However, converting large quantities of text to outlines can cause more problems than it averts. It is almost impossible to make last-minute edits to type that has been converted to curves. 

With serif type set at a small size, converting to curves may thicken the appearance of tiny serifs enough to be noticeable. Some people advise using only sans serif type when converting to curves, but this is not always possible.

Terms for Converting Text to Vector Graphic

While CorelDRAW uses the term "convert to curves," Adobe Illustrator uses "create outlines." Inkscape refers to the same operation as "convert to path" or "object to path." To convert text to curves, you first select the text you want to convert in your vector art software and then select the appropriate command convert to curves/create outlines command. Curve, outline, and path all mean essentially the same thing in illustration software.

Whenever you convert text to outlines in a file, it is best to keep an unconverted copy of the file in the event you have to make changes to the text.