Ask a Smartpress.com Expert: PDFs

by Jill Alfano | April 15, 2013

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I know that online digital printing services like Smartpress.com need PDF files that are saved in certain ways for the order to be processed quickly and efficiently . Why do I need to use a PDF? What are the PDF settings for the quickest order processing and the best digital printing results?

– Imperfect PDFer

ask a digital printing expert - PDFPDFs are great. We love, love, love them at Smartpress.com. And the main reason why is because they can lock vital information about your digital printing order directly in the file.

PDFs maintain images, typeface, layout, style and design in one encapsulated package. That means when you send the file, no matter what fonts or images you have chosen, it will appear to your recipient exactly as you intended it to. With non-PDF files, there is a serious risk that the recipient will not have the right fonts or programs to view the file correctly.

PDFs are also compact. Sometimes when there is a lot of imagery or data, the file to be used for a digital printing order may be too big to send. PDFs have an incredible ability to hold a lot of compressed information, without losing resolution.

Finally, PDFs produce the most accurate reproduction of a digital format in print. If your document has been through a visual design process by a print production team, then the primary focus will be for the onscreen visuals to appear the same as the print version. PDFs can make this happen, ensuring your message and design isn’t getting lost during conversion.

What Program Should You Use to Create Your PDF?

When it comes to what program to use for the actual file creation, the decision is really down to your own personal preferences and what software you have access to.

digital printing - PDFIf you have the chance to work with software like Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop, then this is something I would definitely recommend. InDesign has endless options for the design, layout, and style of your file, plus its plethora of tools gives you the freedom to create something truly spectacular. If using Adobe products isn’t an option, then there are plenty of free programs online that can also get the job done. Microsoft Word or Microsoft Publisher is also a great option that most of us can easily access.

The Best PDFs for Smartpress

I mentioned we love PDFs here at Smartpress, right? We love them and rely on them so much, that we’ve created our own PDF job options file in order to help our customers streamline the saving, uploading and ordering process. This .joboptions file has predetermined presets for your PDF that make printing your file with Smartpress.com easy. The crop marks, bleeds, output options, and compression are all defined for you.

This .joboptions file is compatible only with Adobe Creative Suite programs. With this job options file, PDFs will be created with exact print specifications for Smartpress.com.

How to Set Up a PDF File Using the .joboptions File

It’s as easy as one, two, three… (well one, two, three, four, five in this case but you get the point)

  1. Download the PDF job options file from Smartpress.com and follow the instructions for unzipping and placing the file in the right location for it to work properly.
  2. Once you have created your file that you want to convert to PDF, open the authoring program. For this process, it would be Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, or Adobe InDesign.
  3. Open your desired document and make any necessary edits or alterations. It is much more difficult to edit your file once you have converted it to PDF format, so make sure it’s perfect before you advance to the next step.
  4. Under the File menu, select Adobe PDF Presets and then the Smartpress job options file.
  5. Select where you’d like to save the file, enter a name for it, and then click Save. Voila! PDF, with perfect Smartpress presets!

How To Set Up a PDF Without the .joboptions File

digital printing with PDFIf you don’t have Adobe Creative Suite programs and are unable to use the PDF job options file from Smartpress.com, there are other options. Libre Office is free and similar to Microsoft Word. You can still make a PDF with Microsoft Word or Publisher following these instructions:

  1. Once you have created your file that you want to convert to PDF, open the authoring program. For this process, it would be Microsoft Word, Microsoft Publisher, or any other PDF publishing program.
  2. Make any necessary edits or alterations and prepare the file for PDF conversion.
  3. Under the File menu, choose Save As and then PDF.
  4. Name and save the new PDF file in a suitable location on your computer.
  5. Locate the file and open it in Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader. From here you can manage the file and make any edits with regards to security features, etc.

When creating a PDF, especially if you’re not using an Adobe product, keep the following information in mind:

  • Set your images to 300dpi for anything small like business cards, flyers, brochures, sell sheets, newsletters, or booklets.
  • For larger items, such as signs, posters, tradeshow graphics and the like, set your images to 200dpi.
  • Use JPEG compression, high-quality, for all images.
  • Embed all fonts.
  • If you are including RGB images, please embed the RGB profiles you are using. If your RGB images are not tagged with a specific profile, they will be treated as sRGB.

So there you have it! The reasons why we like to use PDFs and some ways for you to save a file in PDF format. With this information, you will be more successful in efficiently placing your digital printing orders with less chance of needing adjustments to your print file.

Do you want to have your digital printing question answered? Leave your question in the comments below or email us at customerservice@smartpress.com and we will do our best to answer your questions.

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