Gustavo Baner from ColorCopiesUSA

Gustavo Baner


Date Published: 2015-03-01// Updated: 2020-09-29

Topic: File Preparation

Create a PDF that works for Print:

Best Setting - Free PDF Software - Screenshots

How to create a high-quality PDF file for print

In order to create a PDF document, you need a computer editor where you can create your piece, include images and copy that makes your piece perfect for your use,and you must have access to a tool that allows you to create a PDF document.

Some editing software already includes a PDF creating tool, such as the Adobe Suites, but other tools won't. And not all the available tools create PDF documents in the same way.

Free PDF and paid software sign

Free and Paid Software to create 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 Acrobat PRO DC . Adobe offers Acrobat Professional; a very powerful product that integrates marvelously with their suites and is the preferred tool for professional document creation.
  2. BullZip - Free version. It allows you to print (or create) PDF documents from Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. Their site offers a download file for you to install in your computer.
  3. Primo Nitro Pro Tools - Free version. Will convert PDF from files, including Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. PrimoPDF makes tutorials and manuals available at their web site.
  4. DoPDF - Free PDF converter. Instructions and tutorials are available at their web site
  5. PDF Creator - The Free PDF converter tool - Free PDF converter that offers a ton of resources on how to manage the software.
  6. Microsoft's Office 365 suite includes tools as part of the program.

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


This image shows that you can create a document in a computer and make it into a PDF

Don't get too frustrated when creating your first PDF document. Even if your print provider rejects if for lack of essential requirements, come back and find what the proper settings should be.

Our team at will help you nail it down. Just call us at 1-877-421-0668

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

4 - Checklist - 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 in 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 card card-body.

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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 about 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 card card-body.

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 high-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 prevent your piece from looking in a different way on different computers.

There are some suggested profiles, but there might be some could be ampler.  PDF /X-1a  is a profile typically used for offset printing, is very reliable. There are other profiles, such as 

Font settings to create a PDF file

High Quality Print introduces minimal image compression which helps to keep the intention in the design.
Never use "Smallest File Size" unless you intend to use that PDF to share via email at a low resolution. The images get degraded significantly

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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Checklist: What to look for

Your print provider will want to see the following elements in your print-ready file

  • Size: The size of the PDF should reflect the proper output size: Eg: if the size of the printed piece is expected to be tabloid, 11"x17", then that is the size of the document that you should generate.
  • Marks: Trim or Crop Marks - There are different styles that PDF creating software can include. As long as the cut marks are clear, it is fine. 
  • Bleed - Our recommended amount of bleed is 1/8" around all four borders
  • Image resolution: Both for digital printing and offset printing, the suggested resolution is 300 dpi. For large format printing, 150 dpi is usually good. Our suggestion is that you create high-resolution images and then downgrade them to get sharper images overall
  • Fonts: Fonts are always a big problem: Make sure that you embed them or outline them to prevent automatic substitutions that sometimes occur.

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