How to Create PDFs
What is a PDF?
The Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) has revolutionized the printing industry and become the universal file format for preserving source document fonts, images, graphics and layout, regardless what application or operating system was used to create the file. PDFs are widely available, compatible, and easy to distribute. PDFs are intended to make sure that your job looks and prints the same no matter who opens the file. However, there are some pitfalls to avoid when making the best PDF possible for use in printing.
Not All PDFs Are Created Equal
Word processing and design applications have the capability to generate PDF files. Like the applications themselves, each of these files can have inherent flaws and limitations.
How you generate a PDF is as important as what program you generate it with. Because PDFs are designed for both print and web use, they can be generated to different standards. If you are not careful, you can damage a layout created perfectly in its native format when generating a PDF. Requirements for PDF publishing are very specific.
Three Common Ways to Generate PDFs:
- "Save As" (for Photoshop CS & Illustrator CS); This approach offers the least amount of user customization and has the potential for the most pitfalls. Office applications, the Windows and OSX operating systems themselves and low-end graphics software will give you little to no control over several crucial settings and will not generate viable PDF's. High-end graphics applications, such as Photoshop CS and Illustrator CS, can correctly create PDFs using this method.
- "Print Postscript and Distill to PDF" : This is the best way to create PDFs using graphics applications prior to the Adobe CS applications and QuarkXPress 6, but it can also be complicated, time consuming, and difficult to configure (printer drivers, PPDs, Distiller settings etc.). Files are first output into PostScript (usually by "printing" to a file). Then the PostScript is Distilled into a PDF using Acrobat Distiller.
- "Export PDF" (QuarkXPress 6 & InDesign CS). Some current design applications have an export feature built right into them. This method bypasses Distiller in favor of a built-in PDF export engine that generates press-ready PDFs, provided you know the correct settings. QuarkXPress 6 and InDesign CS offer this capability. (Older applications such as PageMaker require Acrobat Distiller.)
Best Ways to Get Good PDFs
Before generating a PDF:
- Convert Spot (Pantone) and RGB colors to Process (CMYK)
When generating a PDF:
- Always embed and subset fonts.
- Set Transparency Flattening settings to the highest settings (when appropriate).
- Turn off color management (except for Photoshop). All color settings should be set to "As Is" or "CMYK."
- If prompted, set Vector Output Resolution to 2400 or 2540.
- Use Binary data format instead of ASCII.
- If using Photoshop, flatten your file first.
- If using a vector-based program such as Illustrator, convert all text to outlines.
- Leave the trapping to us.
After generating a PDF:
- Check the size of your PDF. Is it at the bleed size?
- Check the Document Properties in Acrobat (under the File menu) to confirm that fonts are embedded and subsetted.
- Make a hardcopy proof of your job on your desktop printer to double check accuracy.
Common Errors with PDFs:
- Produced by PDF Writer
- Saved using the OSX Quartz Engine
- Saved from Microsoft applications such as Word or Publisher (text and colors are very unpredictable out of these programs)
- Generic settings such as eBook, Screen, or Web
- Downsampled images (High resolution images distilled to low resolution)
- Built at the wrong size
- High Resolution images not embedded (using OPI)
Using an application that is not listed as an accepted file format?
Your application may have the capability to generate a PDF, but it may not be capable of generating a PDF that meets 4-color-printing-specific requirements. Consult your owner's manual to determine if this is the case.
Many manuals contain chapters on such topics as publishing PDF files or preparing files for commercial printing. Read those instructions carefully. We will accept any PDF file that meets our requirements and passes our preflight process, but we can only provide technical support for the applications listed on our website.
PDF/X - What is it and should I use it?
The PDF/X standard was created by the Committee for Graphic Arts Technologies Standards (CGATS) to eliminate many of the variables that lead to common printing problems such as missing fonts, incorrect color space, missing images and overprint/trapping issues.
During PDF conversion, the file that is being processed is checked against the specified standard. If the PDF will not meet the selected ISO standard, a message appears, asking you to choose between canceling the conversion or going ahead with the creation of a non-compliant file.
Many applications offer a default setting for exporting PDF files to variations of the PDF/X standard. The most widely used standards for a print publishing are: PDF/X-1a, PDF/X-3, and (in 2007) PDF/X-4.
PDFMaker, the conversion method used to convert Microsoft Word and other application files to PDF.
Glossary of Printing & Graphics Terms
4 Color - Process Printing using Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black to produce a full
4/0 - Full Color on one side, Blank Back
4/1 - Full Color on one side, Black Ink on Back
4/4 - Full Color on both Sides
Aliasing - Aliasing is a "staircase" or jagged effect that occurs when display
resolution is too coarse to minimize the broken appearance of certain electronic
design elements. Aliasing is more visually pronounced in diagonal lines, curves, and
circles. To avoid aliasing, you should save your files with "Anti-Alias" to keep the text
smooth when printed.
Anti-Aliasing - In computer graphics, anti-aliasing or over-sampling is a software
technique for addressing aliasing issue. Anti-aliasing reduces the prominence of
jaggies by surrounding the stairsteps with intermediate shades of gray (for grayscaling
devise) or color (for color devices). Please note that although anti-aliasing
may reduce the jagged appearance of the lines, it also may make the lines appear
AQ - Abbreviation for Aqueous Coating: A clear water based coating used to seal
and protect the printed sheet. This is available in both a gloss and a matte finish.
Aqueous Coating - A clear water based coating used to seal and protect the printed
sheet. This is available in both a gloss and a matte finish.
Artwork - All computer files including layout, images and fonts needed to produce
the final printed product.
ASCII Text File - (.TXT) ASCII text file or .TXT is a file format is commonly used by
clients to store mail list data.
Assembled View: - In illustration, a term used to describe a view of a drawing in its
assembled or whole format.
Author's Alterations (AA's) - Changes made after composition stage where customer is responsible for additional
Bindery - Mechanical modifications to the sheet after printing, such as, cutting, folding, drilling, perforating, saddle
stitching, collating, etc.
Bitmap Images - Bitmap images, technically called raster images, use a grid of colors known as pixels to represent
images. Each pixel is assigned a specific location and color value.
Bleed - A bleed is when an image extends beyond the trim edge of the printed sheet. It is important to include bleeds
in your artwork files if you want the image to extend to the edge of the paper for your final printed piece. We
encourage you to create a design with a full-bleed - i.e., extend the image off all four sides of your design - to ensure
the best quality for your printed piece.
Blind embossing - An image pressed into a sheet without ink or foil.
Bond Paper - grade used for letterhead and forms.
Book - Medium weight paper used for fliers, posters and inside pages of books. Available in both coated and
Border - Border refers to the area between the edge of the image and the edge of the paper.
Brightness - The brilliance, or "whiteness" of a paper. The higher the number, the brighter the sheet.
C Cyan - One of four colors used in Full Color Printing.
C1S - Coated One Side: Sheet is glossy on front, flat with no coating on back.
C2S - Coated Two Sides: Sheet is glossy on both sides
Caliper - The thickness of paper measured in 1/1000".
Camera-Ready - Camera-ready is a layout created by a designer that is created and submitted as
100% Black on white paper. It usually contains text and logos in finished form. This layout will be
photographed or scanned before printing.
CMYK - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black: The four colors used in full color printing.
Coated paper - Smooth finish paper with a Matte or Glossy finish. Available in Book and Cover.
Coil Bind - Book binding method that uses a plastic or metal coil to hold pages together.
Color Balance - Color balance is the process of maintaining the proper ratio of cyan, magenta, and
yellow ink to produce a picture with the desired color and without an unwanted color cast or color bias.
Color Calibration - Color calibration is a means or method of setting a computer monitor, scanner, or
color printer to a standard set of color values so as to ensure that all colors remain consistent throughout
each step of the imaging process.
Color Correct - To adjust the values of process colors to achieve the desired overall color.
Comp - Comp or mockup is a piece that is handmade by a graphic artist to show others how the
finished printed piece will look. It generally will be folded and bound the exact way the final piece will be
done in production.
Continuous Tones - Continuous tones represent an illustrative image that is not composed of halftone
printing dots. In essence, this is a bitmapped image that has an unlimited range of colors and shades of
Contrast - Contrast is the degree of tones in an image ranging from highlight (light tones) to shadow
Copy - Copy refers to the words that are used along with images to create a design that conveys a
Cover - Heavy weight paper used for book covers, postcards, folders, etc.
Coverage - Coverage is the total amount of ink per sheet side, usually given in percentages.
Crop - Crop or cropping refers to the process of positioning an image to ensure that unwanted portions
of the image are removed during the printing process. Cropping is also a way to properly proportion your
final artwork before approving your print job.
Crop Marks - Crop marks are small symbols placed in the margin outside of the image area that
indicate to the area to be printed and/or trimmed from the image.
Crossover - Printing across the gutter or from one page to the facing page in booklets or other multipage
CSV - Comma separated values or tab-delimited is a text file format that contains information separated
by commas or tabs. This format is commonly used to store mail list data.
Cure - To dry inks and coatings after printing to ensure good adhesion.
Deboss - Deboss means to press an image into paper so it lies below the surface.
Density - The degree of color in an image or photograph.
Die - Device made out of sharp steel that is used to cut irregular shapes,or to score, foil stamp, or
Die Cut - To cut irregular shapes using a die.
Direct to Plate - The transfer of information from a file directly to the plate, producing high-quality
DPI - Dots Per Inch: Term used in describing Resolution. Suggested image resolution for best print
quality is 300 dpi.
Drill - To punch holes in the printed sheet.
Emboss - Pressing an image into paper to create a raised image.
Encapsulated Postscript File (.EPS) - Encapsulated postscript file or .EPS for short is an Adobe
Systems-developed file format. It is a device-independent PostScript representation of a graphic or other
object. It stores files as vectors and includes a low-resolution bitmap representation for quick on-screen
EPS - EPS is abbreviation for encapsulated postscript file.
Estimate - Cost of producing a custom printing order.
Excel Spreadsheet (.XLS) - Excel spreadsheet or .XLS is a file format commonly used by clients to
store mail list data.
File Extensions - File extensions are three-digit designations at end of a file name that indicate what
format the file has been saved in. Common artwork file formats include: .eps, .jpeg, .pdf, .ps, .psd, .tiff.
Common mail list file formats include: .csv, .txt, .xls.
File Format - File format, which is unique for different file types, specifies how information is organized.
Common artwork file formats include: .eps, .jpeg, .pdf, .ps, .psd, .tiff. Common mail list file formats
include: .csv, .txt, .xls.
File Transfer Protocol (FTP) - File transfer protocol or FTP for short is a method used for logging into
remote computer networks, browsing and searching directories, and downloading or uploading files
without data loss.Finished Size - Size of product after completion of all bindery options.
Flat Size - Size of product after printing and trimming, but before all other bindery options.
Foil emboss - The combination of foil stamping and embossing.
Foil stamping - Using a die to print an opaque metallic image on paper.
Four Color Printing - The process of combining four basic colors to create a printed color picture or
colors composed from the basic four colors.
Gang Printing - The process of combining multiple print orders on one press run to minimize cost.
Gloss - Paper type with a shiny surface; best used with images.
Grain - The direction in which the paper fiber lie.
Graphic Arts - Graphic arts is the crafts, industries and professions related to designing and printing on
paper and other substrates.
Graphic Design - Graphic design is an arrangement of type and visual elements along with
specifications for paper, ink colors and printing processes that, when combined, convey a visual
Grayscale - Grayscale is a strip of 256 gray values ranging from white to black.
Halftone - Halftone is an image composed of tiny dots whose variations in size create the illusion of
variations in tone. In the past, a halftone screen was used to convert a continuous tone image into a
halftone; today, such screening is done electronically.
Headline - Headline is a sentence or a phrase created to communicate the key message to someone
receiving a postcard, brochure, or other direct marketing piece.
Hickey - Spots that appear in the printed image from dust or lint on blanket or plate.
High Res - High res is short for high resolution.
High Resolution - High resolution or high res for short refers to images that have resolution of 300 dots
per inch (dpi) to 2,500 dpi.
Image - An Image is a computerized representation of a picture or graphic.
Joint Photographic Experts Group (.JPEG) - Joint photographic experts group or .JPEG or .JPG for
short is a file format used for color images. This format retains a high degree of color while requiring less
storage space than needed for other file formats. Uncompressed JPEG files can be used for high-quality
JPEG - File format used for images requiring less storage space than needed for other file formats.
Please supply uncompressed for printing.
K Black - One of four colors used in Full Color Printing
Keyline - Keyline is an outline or set on artwork showing the size and position of an illustration or
Linen Finish- Paper finish that simulates linen cloth.
Line Art - Line art is artwork consisting of solid blacks and whites with no shades of gray.
Low Res - Low res is short for low resolution. Low resolution images are usually anywhere from 72 to
250 dots per inch (dpi). Although Low Res images are suitable for website use, they do not yield
sufficient quality for printing applications. Hall Letter Shop, Inc recommends replacing low resolution
images with a high res versions to ensure quality printing.
M Magenta - One of four colors used in Full Color Printing.
Matte - Paper type with a dull surface; best used with heavy text, and some images.
Micrometer - Instrument used to measure the thickness of paper.
Mockup - Mockup or comp is a piece that is handmade by a graphic artist to show others how the
finished printed piece will look. It generally will be folded and bound the exact way the final piece will be
done in production.
Offset paper - Basic uncoated book grade of paper.
Offset Printing - Main printing technique used on products offered on our site.
Offsetting - Images of one sheet transferring to sheet below it.
Opacity - The amount of show-through on a printed sheet.
Overprint - To print one image over another image, such as printing type over a screen background
Oversampling - In computer graphics, oversampling or anti-aliasing is a software technique for
addressing aliasing issue. Anti-aliasing reduces the prominence of jaggies by surrounding the stairsteps
with intermediate shades of gray (for gray-scaling devise) or color (for color devices). Please note that
although anti-aliasing may reduce the jagged appearance of the lines, it also may make the lines appear
Page - One side of a sheet. Page count Total number of pages in a book.
PDF - Portable Document Format is a file format developed by Adobe Systems to preserve all fonts,
formatting, graphics, and colors of the native file into a universal document.
Perfect Bind - Soft cover bookbinding method, that glues the cover and all pages together to form a
Perfecting press - A sheet fed printing press that prints both sides of a sheet in one pass.
Perforation - A line of small dotted holes for the purpose of tearing-off a part of a printed matter.
Pixel - Pixel is short for picture element. Pixel is the smallest unit (point) of an image displayed on a computer screen. The quality of an image, usually expressed as "image resolution", depends on the
number of pixels per inch that make up the image.
Pixels Per Inch (PPI) - Pixels per inch or PPI for short is a measurement of how many pixels can fit into
one inch. The higher the number of pixels, the sharper the image will be.
PhotoShop Document (.PSD) - PhotoShop document or .PSD for short is a file format for documents
created and saved in Adobe Photoshop as layered images, which makes editing different parts of an
image at a later date far easier. It is the only file format supporting all available image modes (Bitmap,
Grayscale, Duotone, Indexed Color, RGB, CMYK, Lab, and Multichannel), guides, alpha channels, spot
channels, and layers.
Point - In paper, a unit of thickness equating 1/1000 inch.
Portable Document Format (.PDF) - Portable document format or .PDF for short is a universal file
format developed by Adobe Systems to preserve all fonts, formatting, graphics, and colors of any source
document. PDF allows any file to be read by the Acrobat reader regardless of the hardware or software
platform on which the file was created.
Positive - Positive refers to the image created when film has been exposed. The image contains dark
and light values as well as color.
PostScript (.PS) - PostScript or .PS for short is a software language for printing that describes fonts,
images and graphics as mathematical expressions that do not require fonts or other dependent files.
PMS - Pantone Matching Systems or PMS is custom mixed inks that will provide a specific color. PMS
Numbers are used to specify spot colors. Process equivalents of spot colors do not always match true
to to individual PMS colors.
PPI - PPI is abbreviation for Pixels Per Inch.
Preflight - Preflight is the procedure used by PsPrint to make sure that client's digital files are correctly
prepared for production.
Print-Ready Files - Print-Ready files are digital artwork files that are 100% ready to print, requiring no
additional adjustments by Hall Letter Shop, Inc. other than preflighting and standard prepress work.
Primary Colors - Primary colors are the colorants of a system used to reproduce the colors for the
entire reproduction. Cyan, magenta, and yellow are subtractive primary colors while red, green, and blue
are additive primary colors. The substractive colors along with black are used in four-color printing
process used by PsPrint.
Process Color - Process color is using cyan, magenta, yellow, and black in various combinations to
create all other colors.
Proof - Proof, also known as hardcopy proof, is a close representation of the final printed piece
provided by PsPrint. A proof is provided to predict results on press and record how the final printed
piece will appear in terms of color, layout and accuracy. Production does not begin printing the final
piece until the proof has been approved by the client.
PS - PS is abbreviation for PostScript.
PSD - PSD is abbreviation for PhotoShop Document
Quotation - Estimated cost of producing a custom printing order.
Recycled Paper - Paper made entirely or in part from old paper.
Register Marks - Position marks on artwork to help keep printing in register.
Raster Images - Raster Images, commonly referred to as bitmap images, are digital images stored as
arrays of pixels for display and modification. The graphic's resolution is limited by the capabilities of the
display device. Adobe Photoshop is a popular image editor that rasterizes images that it opens.
Resolution - Resolution is the number of pixels displayed per unit of length in an image, usually
measured in pixels per inch (ppi) or dots per inch (dpi). Computer monitors are normally 72 to 96 dpi
while most printed pieces are 300 dpi or more.
RGB - RGB refers to the additive primary colors - red, green and blue - that are used in computer
monitors to create all colors. RGB is similar to CMYK used in process printing in that all colors are
created by various combinations of a few base colors. However, the colors seen on an RGB screen will
only accurately represent the colors printed in CMYK when calibrated computer systems and translators
Rich Black - Rich black is made by mixing other colors of ink with black ink to produce a much darker,
deeper black on press than can be achieved by using black ink alone. To create rich black on pieces
printed by PsPrint, your CMYK calibration values must be 50% Cyan, 40% Magenta, 40% Yellow, and
Saddle Stitch - Binding a booklet or magazine with staples in the seam where it folds.
Score - To pre-crease paper along a straight line so it folds more easily and accurately.
Self Cover - A booklet where all pages are made of the same stock.
Sheetfed Press - Press that prints sheets of paper, as compared to a web press.
Soft Proof - A preview, of an image or page to be printed, as seen on a computer monitor.
Tab Delimited - Comma separated values or tab-delimited is a text file format that contains information
separated by commas or tabs. This format is commonly used to store mail list data.
Tagged Image File Format - Tagged image file format or .TIFF for short is one of the most widely
supported file formats for storing images on a computer. TIFF can handle up to 24 bits of photographic
image, but TIFF is an older format that requires more storage space than needed for files in .JPEG
or .PSD formats.
TIFF - TIFF is abbreviation for tagged image file format.
Trim marks - Printed lines showing the edges for trimming.
Trim size - Size of product after printing and trimming, but before all other bindery options.
.TXT - ASCII text file or .TXT is a file format is commonly used by clients to store mail list data.
Uncoated Paper - Paper without clay coating applied.
Up - Printing multiple copies of same artwork on one sheet.
UV Coating - Liquid applied to a printed sheet, then bonded and cured with ultraviolet light.
Vector Images - Vector images are created using mathematical statements that define geometric
shapes. You can move, resize, and change the color of vector graphics without losing any image quality.
Unlike bitmaps, vector graphics are not dependent on resolution. You can scale a vector graphic to any
size and it won't lose detail or clarity.
Watermark - An image created in paper at the time of manufacture that can be seen by holding the
paper up to a light.
Wove paper - Bond paper with a smooth finish.