How to Embed Fonts in PDF Files

In the exchange of electronic documents, a PDF -- or Portable Document Format -- file is typically the best way to ensure universal file access. When certain fonts are absent from your file, however, the end user's PDF viewing software may attempt to emulate the formatting and substitute with a standard typeface, thus misrepresenting the designer's original intentions for the document. To prevent this from occurring and to safeguard against substitutions, embed the fonts in the PDF file.

Unhappy Young Man in Front of the Computer
A missing font may cause awkward reformatting of your document text.
credit: Razvan/iStock/Getty Images

Full and Subset Font Embedding

Font embedding stores a complete copy of the font's character set within the PDF file. While this technique adds slightly to the overall file size, the resulting consistency in formatting is often well worth the minimal increase. The exception is when using CID fonts, a format commonly used in larger character sets -- like Chinese, Korean and Japanese typefaces. To minimize the added load, you can embed a subset of the font instead, which only stores the characters that have been used within the document.

Embedding Within Acrobat Professional

Though the free Adobe Reader software only supports the viewing of PDF files, Adobe's Acrobat Professional software features full font and subset embedding support. With the file open, click the "Tools" pane and then select "Print Production" followed by "Preflight." Click the "PDF Fixups" profile and select one of the "Embed Fonts" fixups from the available options. Select the "Analyze and Fix" button at the bottom. You'll be prompted to provide a file name and save location to complete the packaging process.

Embedding Within Other Apps

A variety of other applications feature font embedding support, including Acrobat Distiller, the full Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office. Most of these apps feature predefined sets of PDF packaging options, as well as the opportunity to modify or create your own custom settings. In Adobe products, like Illustrator or InDesign, you'll find these options within the "Export" or "Save As" command. In most other apps, like Microsoft Word or Publisher, for example, the PDF export settings can be found in the Page Setup tools or the "Properties" menu of the Print dialog.

Font Designer Limitations

When embedding fonts in your PDF file, each respective typeface must be present within your system's font folders in order to be successfully packaged with the file. You're also restricted to using fonts that are licensed for embedding as well. In other words, if the original font designer chose to prohibit embedding, it will be excluded in the final packaging. In this case, converting the restricted typeface into outlines or shapes may be more practical. Take care in saving the original, unconverted document separately, however, since you'll later be unable to edit the copy, once it has been converted into outlines.