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If your printer asks you to submit your job as a PDF, ideally they should give you a PDF preset to use in order to create the PDF. So we're going to look at what I call the bulletproof preset in case the printer doesn't give you any kind of preset. The first thing you want to do though before you even commence to making a PDF is take one good last look at your document and make sure that there aren't any problems. If you've been running preflight and I hope you have, look down on the lower left-hand corner, make sure you have a green light and no errors.
Make sure you have bleed, that you don't have any change in text wrap, no typos have crept in, because keep in mind when you make a PDF you're sort of freeze-drying your job to send to the printer. It's really difficult to edit PDFs. You can't count on it. That's why you want to make sure that everything is healthy at this point. First, we're going to look at making a PDF using a preset supplied by the printer. To import that preset, I go to File > Adobe PDF Presets and Define, and here on the right I click the Load button, and there is the preset supplied by my printer, and I choose that and click Open and now you can see that it's added to my list of Presets.
Let's take a look and see how they've set this up. They've turned off some of the things that aren't pertinent for print like Optimize for Fast Web View, Create Tagged PDF, and under Compression, they are letting it be downsampled to 300; that's okay and they're using a bit of JPEG compression. Some printing companies will turn that off, but most of them will leave them at about these settings. Under Marks and Bleeds, oh this is good, they've made sure that even if the designer didn't set up a bleed zone, it's still going to pick up bleed as long as there's stuff out there, and they've checked all the printer's marks and they are having to convert to a particular destination profile, which is obviously for their press.
So we're good to go. So when I click OK and then I click Done, now I can commence to making my PDF. So we've taken a look at the preset; now let's make the PDF. So I can just choose Adobe PDF Presets. I can choose their preset and then it say, well, where do you want to save this? I'll put this on my desktop, and I'm not going to hide my extensions I like to see my extensions. So this is going to be my flyer and when I click Save, notice that it's invoked that preset because I chose it sort of on the way out the door.
There are my marks and bleeds, my output settings, and if I want I could say View PDF after Exporting, but I know my job is okay, so I'm just going to click Export. If you look up here, you'll notice that there is this little vertical band. It's really easy to overlook. What that's telling us is that even though it looks like nothing is happening, InDesign is making the PDF. It's making it in the background. So now I've made my PDF and I can send that off to the printer. But here's another scenario. If you're sending to a small print shop that doesn't supply presets to designers or you're sending off to a publication, at any point when you are asked to submit a PDF and you say okay send me a preset and they say, oh I don't know just make a PDF.
Well, then you are kind of on your own. That's not the best circumstance but here's what you can do in that circumstance. I'm going to go to File > Adobe PDF Presets and I'm going to use PDF/X-1a. I'll just call this one my X1. That's built up by a standards body the X-1a, X-3, and X-4, and you notice that they have dates after them, and by the way they stand for Exchange; that's what the X stands for. The reason they are different years is that as workflows have become more sophisticated, there are features that you can have in a PDF and have them be safe in a workflow as things get more modern.
But if you have no idea where this little PDF is going to end up and you want to make sure that it can be imaged in any ancient workflow, choose X-1a. Notice that the compatibility seems way back, Acrobat 4, well that's because there's sort of an interesting thing that happened between Acrobat 4 and Acrobat 5. Acrobat 5 and above support live transparency and older workflows that were built on PostScript don't understand transparency; later workflows do understand it. So this, when you have no idea where you're going ensures that any fancy transparency stuff you created, it's going to remain, but not as live transparency.
It's going to get flattened out into opaque objects that older workflows can digest. We won't go deeply into what happens; just know that InDesign does a great job of flattening out your transparency for these older workflows. As far as the Compression settings leave them as they are. But one thing that X-1a doesn't check is Marks and Bleeds. So if you know that you need to include marks and you want to make sure that if you have a bleed zone you check Document Bleed. If you didn't make an official bleed zone, make sure that you have appropriate bleed amount in here.
That's the only thing you really need to add to X-1a, and then you're good to go. So when I click Export, you will notice again I have the little background task monitor, but keep this in mind in the future. Always ask the printer or the publication, or whoever the recipient is, ask them how you should make the PDF. When they give you the specs, follow them. If they can't give you any specs, remember X-1a, even though it seems like an ancient format is sort of your bulletproof lowest common denominator form of PDF and that should be easily printed no matter how old the workflow.
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