PDF Artwork Preparation

Preparing your PDF

PDF (Portable Document Format) is the required way that documents need to be sent to us. Once a Design is completed it must be output in PDF format ready to be printed.

Some programmes such as InDesign and CorelDraw have PDF converters ‘built in’ but most programmes do not. However the lack of an ‘inbuilt’ convertor is no bar to producing perfect PDFs and often using an external PDF creator is more reliable.

Later in this article we discuss in detail the setup of two favoured external PDF creators. The first is Adobe Acrobat Professional which is the print industry flagship PDF creation and manipulation programme but has the big disadvantage of costing about £500.00! The second is Desk PDF which is a much more limited programme than Acrobat Professional but we have found creates excellent PDFs and costs around £20.00! Finally we look at the creator built in to the latest Apple system. However before getting in to the specifics of using particular creators there are some general guidelines and pre-requisites to creating reliable PDFs for print:

1) Please read Design Requirements before starting your design.

Design Requirements here

2) Flatten layers where possible.

Where designs are built up using a number of transparencies it makes a much more reliable PDF if these layers are flattened. It may be worth saving your original document with the suffix ‘unflattened’ and then saving the flattened document. Remember that if any changes need to be made subsequently you MUST discard the flattened document before re-working the un-flattened version. This will avoid having different editions in the un-flattened and flattened format.
Ultimate flattening means having all the design on a single layer. However this may not be desirable because, in Photoshop for example, text layers must be converted from Vector to Bitmap to merge with picture layers.
The recommended approach is to flatten all bitmap layers to one but leave the text as text. This will give much better quality text in the finished print.

3) Check image integrity

Ensure that all pictures used in the design are either embedded or that the links to external images are correct. Whilst most programmes will warn if a link is missing it frequently happens that a PDF is created containing screen resolution images simply because the correct file was not located. Check that all images used are CMYK and that they are at least 400dpi size for size in the document. Whilst it is perfectly possible to print from lower resolution and RGB images the quality of the finished print will be compromised.

4) Check that fonts can be embedded.

There are a small number of fonts which have licensing restrictions attached. These restrictions can prevent the fonts being embedded in the PDF even if that request is made in the PDF setup. One solution to this perennial problem is to avoid fonts with these onerous restrictions. Another may be to change your design by selecting another font with less onerous restrictions. A third solution available in many drawing programmes is to convert the fonts used in to curves.

5) Check the created PDF looks as intended!!

Whilst the creation of PDFs is normally a foolproof process, it is certain that when it is least expected and most disastrous the process will work poorly. It is absolutely essential to check that the PDFs created look the way they should before sending them to print. The best way to carry out this check is to download the free PDF viewing programme Adobe Reader. This is available free from the Adobe website.

Open your files in Reader and check they view correctly. Check that Bleed and Registration Marks have been carried across to the PDF In addition, ideally, print out each page and check the backup of double sided jobs is correct. Only after carrying out these checks should the PDF files be sent to print!
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Creating PDFs using Adobe Acrobat Professional

Adobe Acrobat Professional is the programme of choice for Graphics Professionals. Adobe Acrobat Professional is a programme produced by Adobe the originators of the original unifying print language – Postscript and the Portable Document File Format.

Adobe Acrobat Professional can be bought online at www.adobe.com or through most software dealers. The advantage of initially sourcing the programme from Adobe online is that it is possible to download a fully functioning 30 day trial of the programme before deciding to purchase.

The Adobe Acrobat Professional suite includes Distiller which will convert an eps or Postscript file to PDF. During installation a virtual printer is installed called Adobe PDF which is our preferred route to PDF creation using Adobe Acrobat Professional.

There are several steps to follow in the PDF creation process.

By choosing either of these settings the output PDF will be optimised for print. Several important considerations in PDF production will be taken care of automatically. The images will be incorporated in the PDF at the correct resolution for Print (provided they were of high enough resolution to start with) and the fonts required to print the document will be automatically embedded (provided this is permitted by licencing constraints imposed on the fonts used by the font makers).In the Default Settings box choose Press Quality or PDF/X-4. Press Quality is the ideal setting for Print although the setting PDF/X-4 will also produce a PDF containing the minimum information required to produce excellent printing whilst at the same time being rather more compact.

In the Adobe PDF Page Size choose a size which is bigger than the page size you have used. EG if you have designed an A5 Document choose a pages size of A4. If you have designed an A4 Document choose a page size of A3. The reason that the page must always be larger than your Document size is to allow for Registration Mark (Crop Marks) and Bleed.

3. Once the Printer has been set up correctly choose the output settings you would normally use within the programme to print.

4. Instead of a Physical output the Adobe PDF Printer will ask for a file name and destination for the finished PDF.

5. Check the finished PDF in Adobe Reader to ensure that it is as envisaged.

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Creating PDFs using the PDF creator built in to Apple OSX

1. Open the document you want to save as a PDF file.Within the Operating System it is possible to save a document as a PDF. There are several steps to the process as follows:

2. Choose File > Print.

3. To create a Print Quality PDF file choose Save as PDF. This creates a digital master PDF file. All graphics are at full resolution, and the file includes each font character it uses.

4. If the digital master PDF file is very large it is also perfectly acceptable to choose save as PDF-X. A PDF-X is a PDF which contains only the minimum information required to print the document at Print Quality resolution.

5. Check the finished PDF in Adobe Reader to ensure that it is as envisaged.


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