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If you're asked to submit a PDF either to a printer or to a publication, ask if they have a spec that they can provide to you, either a list of the settings that you want to use or even a preset file that you can incorporate and invoke. That's the ideal, but sometimes nobody gives you any information. So what do you do in that case? Well, let's look at our options. First, when I choose to make a PDF, it's not an Export function; it's a Save As function. So I'm going choose Save a Copy, and I'll just put this little guy on my desktop and choose PDF.
I can choose to either have a single page of my two-page document or all my pages. Of course, I want all of them, so I click Save. And now here comes the dialog box. And again, here's our scenario. We need to submit a PDF, but nobody has told us how to make it. I'm going to tell you that in that situation the Illustrator Default option is not a good option. It's an interesting option because essentially it's your Illustrator file encased in a PDF wrapper. To other applications, it looks like a PDF, but it's the only kind of PDF it's safe to roundtrip; in other words, to reopen in Illustrator.
Preserve Illustrator Editing Capabilities is what gives you that option. It also makes for a really big file because essentially it's two for one, Illustrator file and PDF. Let's look at out other options. Smallest File Size, less appropriate if you're going to send a PDF by email maybe for your customer to check the text. It's not going to be appropriate for print. But then you have two options that look very similar, High Quality Print and Press Quality. They're actually very similar. The intention for High Quality Print was this scenario, you have sell sheets and you want to send them out into the field so that salesmen can print them out when they need them instead of having to keep a big inventory of printed pieces.
So that's what High Quality Print is intended for. Press Quality is pretty safe, but remember we're talking about a scenario where you have no idea how old the workflow is. You want to make sort of a bulletproof, safe PDF that can go anywhere into the world and be printed. That's when we start looking at the X standards, PDF/X-1a, X-3, and X-4. You notice that there are dates after them. There's actually a governing body that creates these specifications with the idea being, hey, let's set up specifications for PDFs that will ensure that they will print successfully.
Why are there dates? Why are there multiple versions? Because over the years, workflows have gotten more sophisticated. Back in 2001, there were some things that didn't image well, like transparency. So PDF/X-1a says, hey, you can have CMYK content and grayscale content; you can have spot colors. You can't have RGB. You can't have live transparency; it has to be flattened. Your fonts have to be embedded in subset and where the bleed and trim lines fall that has to be defined internally in the PDF, which Illustrator does. X-3 says, well, we're starting to see more color management here in the modern year of 2002, so we'll let you have RGB content, but you still cannot have live transparency that has to be flattened, fonts have to be embedded, and so forth.
In other words, it's the X-1a spec with now a permission to include RGB content. PDF/X-4, dating back to 2008, says you can have live transparency, you can have RGB content, you can have all the fun in the world. And this is because modern workflows were now able to handle live transparency. But if we're flying blind and we have no idea what kind workflow this PDF is going to land on, your safest bet is PDF/X-1a. When you choose that you'll notice that it goes all the way back to ancient times to Acrobat 4. Why is that? Acrobat 5 and above allow live transparency; Acrobat 4 was before live transparency and doesn't understand it.
Does that mean that you're going to lose components you've created that involve transparency like translucency on an object or blending modes or drop shadow? No, but they'll get recreated in an opaque fashion. They'll look like what you made but they'll be sort of older stuff that an older workflow understands. So you're pretty much safe using X-1a when you have no other guidance that you need to change one thing. If there's bleed on this document that X-1a preset doesn't include bleed. In this document, I don't need bleed but I just want to call your attention to this; you need to make sure that you add bleed to it.
Now some printers want marks, some don't. If you give them marks, it's always easy for them to take them off, so I would just add Trim Marks and Page Information and I think that would do it. And so now, I've modified my PDF setting and I'm ready to go. When I submit this, I guarantee you anybody that can print a PDF can print this PDF. So you're safe using that X-1a format.
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