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Design Talk.

Blurbs and rants about graphic design

Creating Faux Bold with Strokes: the Catch

Many of you probably know that if you don’t have the bold or italics version of a font installed in your system, you shouldn’t use your DTP application’s option to make it bold or italics, because that will simply result in a simulation which might work on screen or with a desktop printer, but that can cause problems once your file is sent to an external printer using a RIP.

A solution to this can be adding a border around type. Applications such as Illustrator, Corel Draw, InDesign and others allow you to do that. However there is a catch, which I discovered not long ago while working a my company’s logo (that I didn’t design).

When I was first hired by this company I was told that sometimes the logo looks thinner than it should. They had asked the designer to make it bolder when it was designed, so he added a stroke around the text since he had no bold version of the font (Andale Mono). The text in the logo is outlined by the way. Despite this the logo often just looked thinner than it should have.

One day I was making some tags for a packaging project and I used the logo. Since the tags were small, I had to shrink the logo. I made my PDF, did my preflight checks in Adobe Acrobat Professional and no matter what I did I kept getting an error about a stroke being less than 0.25 pt. For those who don’t know, printing a stroke or a line that is less wide than 0.25 pt often will not print because it’s too thin. Finally I figured out that the stroke was around the logo. In the original file, since the logo is bigger, the stroke is wider than 1pt, but once the logo is resized it becomes a hairline, thus being ignored by the printers’ RIP once it goes to press. That was why the logo was thinner sometimes. It wasn’t the designer taking “artistic license” it was just a technical problem.

Moral of the story: don’t use faux bold or italics, and when you use a stroke around text to simulate the bold version make sure you keep in mind how the design, logo, whatever you are doing may be used in the future. If the logo/graphic will be made very small, then try not to use strokes around text as it may not be printed.

Desktop Publishing & Prepress, Typography

  • Rostyslav

    Adds a synthetic bold look to the font. If Bold is available via font style, always use that first.

  • lenka

    or better still, expand (illustrator option) your stroke to make it a shape, then pathfinder > unite your outlined font with the new stroke shape. ét voila you now have a logo that can be rescaled as smaller as you like while preserving the intended look.

  • Daniel


    Your idea great, but at the beginning I’ve made just right click on text – create outline, then Object-Path-Outline Stroke and at the end said Pathfinder Unite.


  • Elisabetta Bruno

    Rostyslav: You can only choose the bold option if you have the bold version of the font, which, as I described in this article, wasn’t available.

    Lenka: Those are nice fixes specific to Illustrator. People using other applications can try and see if they have anything similar, otherwise they should be careful!

  • Paul Hruza

    Another option is to use a program such as Fontographer, where you can load a font and add ‘weight’ over the whole font and then save as a bold version. This has got me out of trouble on a number of occasions.

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