Create a PDF that works:

Best Setting - Free PDF Software - Screenshots

How to create a high quality PDF file

It is a good practice to create PDF files, because it is one of the safest ways in which to create a file taht will look the same on every computer and will produce the same results when printed on printing devices.

Everything has its limitations and, if not created properly, a PDF file won't do it's job. I'm sure that you've tried to create one before. If you made mistakes in the past, let me quote John Powell so that you can do it better next time. John said: "The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing."

We'll cover the following topics:

1 - Advantages of PDF files vs JPEG or GIF files. - Click here to go to this topic

2 - Software that creates PDFs. Free and paid versions - Click to read about this topic

3 - How to create a PDF file that works - Click here read about this topic

So let's start right away:

Advantages of using PDF files for your projects

PDF is the abbreviation of Portable Document Format that was created by Adobe Systems in 1993 and it was created as a tool for document exchange. They created a bridge between different operating systems, computers and software. The same document can be used under different platforms still obtaining the same results.

As of July 1st, 2008, PDF was officially released as an open source and published by ISO. The file extension for a PDF document is "pdf"and will look like this: file-name.pdf

In PDF documents, the text and the fonts respond to text elements and typefaces that describe what the letters and symbols should look like, and will have enough information to do that with the requested style, as long as the fonts are embedded in the file. Embedding the fonts is crucial, because not all computers and not all operating systems have the same fonts available. Special fonts may be available in one computer that you are using but will not be available on a different computer if the font is not embedded in the file. The fact that a PDF defines the shape and style of text is very important because those definitions create sharp edges as opposed to the jaggy and "broken" edges that .gif and .jpg files create.

The "sharpness" factor occurs not only on text, but in curved edges and lines used in your artwork.

Key concepts:

  • In PDF documents, the text is sharper and more accurate that on *.jpg and *.gif documents
  • PDF documents can be moved from computer to computer and still perform well.

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Software that creates PDF documents

Since the PDF format became open source, many software developers created ways to create and modify these type of documents. Some provide FREE versions for personal use and others, such as Adobe, provide professional versions that cover the needs of the most sophisticated projects in the creative and reproduction arenas.

Here are some of the available PDF converters available in the marketplace:

  1. Adobe . Adobe offers Acrobat Professional; a very powerful product that integrates marvelously with their suites, and is the preferred tool for professional document creation. Adobe offers an online conversion option at a low monthly cost. Adobe PDF online
  2. Primped - Free version. Will convert PDF from files, including Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint. They offer a paid version for $99.00 that will create accurate PDF documents in a one-step action. PrimoPDF makes tutorials and manuals available at their web site.
  3. DoPDF - Free PDF converter. Instructions and tutorials are available at their web site
  4. pdf995 - Free PDF converter
  5. Microsoft offers a free plug in for their Office Suite that will allow you to export and save to the PDF and XPS formats in eight 2007 Microsoft Office programs. Download and installation instructions are available at their site.

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How to create a PDF file that works

Most of the tools used to create PDFs work as follows: when you install the PDF creation tool, it will install a driver that commands a "virtual printer". In order to create a PDF document, you will "print" it using this "virtual printer" (that you'll see listed among the printers available to your computer) and a PDF file will be generated and open in your screen.

Important to know: To view a PDF file in your computer you'll need a PDF viewer in addition to the PDF creation software, which can be found at the following Adobe download page. It is free to use.

These are the secrets you need to know to create a great PDF document.

  • Bleed: If your document will bleed, you must "tell" your software so. Otherwise your document will not bleed. We'll explain how-to include the bleed information. Click here to know more how.

  • Fonts: It is necessary to embed the fonts that are being used in your document. Those fonts might not be available on other computers where the file will be seen. In that case, the fonts will default to any of the available fonts on that other computer. The consequence is that your piece will look different than what you expect. To see how to embed the fonts, click here

  • Resolution: PDF documents are used for online publications, home-printed documents, and professional, high-resolution printing. The right parameters must be selected in order to get the right file for each necessity. Example: a "big" file is not optimal for online. A "low resolution" file will contain pixelated images that lack definition which will print very blurry. Pixelation is still visible if a low-resolution image is printed on paper. The higher the quality of the printing device, the more you get to see the pixelation. The screen resolution is much lower than the resolution used on high-end printers. Therefore a piece that looks OK on the screen will not necessarily print well.

To create a PDF, you must select a printer named PDF (it can have other names such as PrimoPDF, based on the software that you've installed in your computer).

Select your printer identified as PDF printer

Bleed & Resolution

If you are working on Acrobat Professional use the following parameters. On other PDF creators you'll need to find where these options become available. You can see at the bottom of this illustration that Bleed has a value of 0.125". Make sure to follow that selection.

The preset PDF/X-1a:2001 looks too technical, but it is the one that you should select if you are trying to create a file that will be printed professionally in a hig-resolution printer. For example, in PDF/X-1a all fonts need to be embedded and all images need to be CMYK or spot colors. Alternatively, PRESS QUALITY can be selected.

Settings to add bleed to your pdf document


The following image corresponds to the selectors found in a particular piece of software. Your actual screen might look different, but this is the information that you must select in your driver. Remember that embedding fonts prevents your piece from looking in a different way on different computers.

Font settings to create a PDF file

Each of the settings that you selected above can be edited by clicking on the EDIT button on the right of the selector. Select the FONTS folder and make sure to check "Embed all fonts".

Embed fonts
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