Creating print-ready PDFs

August 12, 2010

print ready pdfWhen someone purchases one of our logo templates or business cards from our website, we provide them with a print-ready PDF that they can take straight to their local printer. Sometimes this is all that our customers need. Other times, our customers want to make small changes to the original .ai files themselves and then, save this new .ai file as a print-ready PDF but they don't know how. This tutorial was created with these customers in mind and it will teach you how to create a print-ready PDF in Illustrator.

Step 1: Save as...

With the file that you want to have printed open in Illustrator, go to File -> Save As... Type in a file name and choose a location of where you want to save your PDF file on your computer. Choose Adobe PDF (pdf) as the file format and click Save. A Save Adobe PDF dialogue box will then open.

Step 2: The Save Adobe PDF dialogue box - General Options

There are several presets already available to you in the Save Adobe PDF dialogue box. Because we want to save our file for print, choose the Adobe PDF preset : [Press Quality]. This will automatically set most of the options that you need when you are creating a PDF for print. This preset will convert all colors to CMYK, it will downsamples images to 300 ppi and embed all of the fonts in your file. This is great and now, you just need to go through it and customize it to our specific needs.

If you want to be able to reopen your PDF file at a later date to edit it, make sure that the 'Preserve Illustrator Editing Capabilities' is checked. When you do this, you PDF file is stored with all of the file information in it. It will increase your files size however, I highly recommend that you keep this box checked. It leaves you with more options in the future.

I would also make sure that the 'Optimize for Fast Web View' is checked as well as the 'View PDF after Saving'. Having the 'Optimize for Fast Web View' checked is good so that you can view your PDF file quickly in a web browser. I also recommend that you have the 'View PDF after Saving' checked so that you can review your PDF after you have saved it to make sure that it is perfect before you send it to the printers.

PDf General Settings

Step 3: The Save Adobe PDF dialogue box - Compression Options

In general, if you've chosen to use the [Press Quality] preset, you won't have to change anything here. Simply check to make sure that the 'downsampling' option is not set for anything lower than 300 ppi because printers need all the images in your PDF file to be at least 300 ppi. Also, make sure that the image quality is set to 'maximum'. Like I said, this should already be done if you are using the [Press Quality] preset.

PDF Compression Settings

Step 4: The Save Adobe PDF dialogue box - Marks and Bleeds

This is where you set the printer trim marks and the bleed for your PDF. Generally, printers do not need all of the printer marks to be included in your PDF files. Usually, printers only need your PDF file to include the 'Trim Marks'. Trim marks tell the printer where they are supposed to cut your artwork once it has been printed. Your trim marks should be set to a weight of 0.25pts with an offset of 0.083 inches.

Remember that bleed is particularly important if you have an image or a coloured background that you want to have printed right to the edge of the page. If you set your bleed in your original .ai file, you can check the 'Use Document Bleed Settings' box. If not, you should set your bleed to 0.125 inches on all sides of your document.

PDF Marks and Bleed Settings

Step 5: The Save Adobe PDF dialogue box - Output, Advanced, Security and Summary Options

Generally, you will not need to change any of these settings if you have chosen the [Press Quality] preset. If however, you are using CMYK colours in your file, you may want to just make sure that the colour destination of your PDF is set to CMYK in the Output Options. If you are using Pantone colours in your file, you should make sure that the Colour Conversion is set to No Conversion.

Step 6: Save PDF and view

Now that you have set all of your PDF options, simply click 'Save PDF' and voila. Make sure that you view your PDF after saving it to make sure that everything looks exactly how you want it to. Below is an example of a PDF of one of our business cards. If you want to see more samples of our business cards, click here. Always make sure to consult with your printer just in case they need anything special.

PDF example of one of's business cards

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