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How to Flatten a PDF for Digital Printing

by Sara Duane | March 9, 2016

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Smartpress.com requests “flattened” digital print files when placing orders for any of our products. Whether you’re creating your digital print file using Adobe Illustrator, InDesign or Photoshop, it’s easy to flatten your print file once you’ve created the design you like.

Before Flattening Your Design File

There is one very important step to take before you flatten your design file: Save a “working version” of before exporting it to a flattened PDF. Flattening the file prevents any of its elements from being edited. This is the best way to make sure your design matches the final printed product. However, if you notice a typo, you won’t be able to fix it in the flattened PDF.

When you save a working version of your file, all of its elements — such as text or design — are still available for editing. The process of creating a working version of your file is the same as saving the file as you normally would while you’re creating it. Once you’re ready to go to print, save your working file then create a flattened version with a different name.

How to Flatten a PDF File with Adobe InDesign

1. Create and save a working version of your file.

2. Click on “Window” then click “Layers” to open the Layers palette. A list of your document’s layers will appear.

3. Press the “Shift” key and select all of the layers in the list then click “Merge Layers” in the Layers menu. Next press the “Control” or “Ctrl” key and click on a layer. In the pop-up window that appears, select “Merge Layers” from the Layers menu. Note: This process is only valid if you have used more than one layer in your design.

How to Flatten a PDF for Digital Printing

4. Save this file with a different name than your working file.

5. Submit your flattened PDF file with your print order.

How to Flatten a PDF File with Adobe Illustrator

1. Create and save a working version of your file.

2. Click on “Window” then click “Layers” to open the Layers palette.

How to Flatten a PDF for Digital Printing

3. Click “Flatten Artwork” in the Layers drop-down menu.

How to Flatten a PDF for Digital Printing

4. Save this file with a different name than your working file.

5. Submit your flattened PDF file with your print order.

How to Flatten a PDF File with Adobe Photoshop

We highly recommend creating your digital print file with Illustrator or InDesign, but if you are using Photoshop:

1. Create and save a “working” version of your file.

2. Click on “Layer” on the menu bar then click “Flatten Image.”

How to Flatten a PDF for Digital Printing

3. Save this file with a different name than your working file.

4. Submit your flattened PDF file with your printing order.

If you’d like more information about getting digital print files ready for submission, please visit our file preparation pages for Adobe Illustrator, InDesign or Photoshop.

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