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You know, one of the worst things that can happen to you if you work for prepress at a commercial printer is to get a PDF and have it not be a standard PDF, meaning like, PDF/X-1a, 3Xa, or 4Xa, or all those kind of standard ISO sorts of things, because you have no clue what is in that PDF. It's an evolving thing over the past few years of printers and graphic designers and publishers trying to figure out, okay, if I want to send over PDF, I can assure the printer that I have specified some sort of color management, or output intent, that all the fonts are there, that kind of thing.
If all this is true, it will validate as a certain standard PDF. For example, you may have heard magazines ask you for an advertisement in PDF/X-1a format. PDF/X-1a is a very common format when you have no idea who the printer is going to be. It's kind of like a common denominator format. So like, for example, if I go in Acrobat and I open up a PDF that's been saved to that X1a standard, I can tell immediately, because I'll get a new panel on the left called the Standards panel, where it'll say this is a PDF/X-1:2001.
I can do things like verify the conformance. It says that what the output intent is? It's to U.S. Web Coated, Standard Web Offset Press version 2. I can do all sorts of things. That's how I know in Acrobat that have opened up a standards-compliant PDF. So how do you create a standards-compliant PDF? Usually, you do it in the originating application. For example, in Adobe InDesign if you take your live file here and you want to convert this file to PDF, you want to export it to PDF to hand off to a commercial printer, you go to File > Adobe PDF Presets, and save in one of these standard formats.
So I can easily create a PDF/X-1a version-- that's 2001 version--of this file for my printer. PDF/X-4 is the same thing as PDF/X-1, except it contains live transparency, which is usually better for both the designer and the prepress operator. It makes a lot easier to edit the PDF in case they need to, like fix hairlines or something. In Microsoft Word for Windows only--this doesn't work with the Mac version of Windows-- the PDFMaker lets you specify a standard. It's not real obvious.
But if you click Acrobat, and go to Preferences before you create your PDF, you can see that the Conversion Settings are Standard. You might not know what that means. You do see one kind of standard down here. It says PDF/A-1a. This is not the same thing as PDF/X. PDF/A is for archiving the file. That's what the A is. It's kind of a newer standard. That means if you open up a PDF/A in Adobe Acrobat or Reader-- well, especially Adobe Acrobat--because normally you can change a PDF in Acrobat, you cannot change a PDF/A. It's archive.
So it's for just long-term storage after you're doing using a PDF. So this is not the one you want to use. Instead, you go to Advanced Settings. Here is where all the goodies are for Adobe PDF settings. Go to Standards, and choose a compliance standard from this dropdown menu. So we do have PDF/X-1a. We don't have PDF/X-4, the live transparency one. But at least the PDF/X-1a would be good enough. Let me click Cancel out of here. However, if you are in Acrobat, and you are working with a PDF that is not standards-compliant, you can make it standards-compliant.
I'm going to go to File > Open, and open up a version of that same document that is not standards-compliant. You can see we don't our friendly little Standard panel on the left. You can do this with one of the Print Production tools. So open up your Tools panel, and go down to Print Production. If you don't see Print Production, go to the Tools Panel menu and choose it. What you want to do is go to Preflight. It doesn't say it makes standards-complaint. It's not that easy. Sorry. Go to Preflight.
We're going to go right here to the Standards panel. We want to save this document as PDF/X. We'll Continue. All right, so it says, "Well, there is various flavors of the PDF/X. Which one do you want?" So you would get this information from your commercial printer. But mainly, it's going to be PDF/X-1a, or PDF/X-4 is the same thing as PDF/X-1a, except that it supports live transparency. But we'll just leave it as PDF/X-1a-- it's going to flatten anything that's transparent here--and click Continue.
Now it wants to know, which of the following conversion profiles should it use, because it's probably going to have to convert some things inside this file before it can make it compliant? So you can choose which one of these that you want: you know, Magazine Ads, Newspaper Ads. I have selected here Sheetfed offset (CMYK and spot colors), so we can keep the spot colors. If it's low-res, you can select that. So it won't have a problem if you have low-res images. Go ahead and choose one of these. Again, this is the best way to figure out which of these you should choose is to ask your printer. Sheetfed offsets.
Which of the printing conditions? The last time I use this, I had US Web Coated (SWOP), which it says might have a problem. I could try something else if I wanted to like going to the ISO Web Coated, or whichever. Again, my printer says I like to stay with US Web Coated. So it's not having a red X, which is saying there might be an issue. Then finally down here, depending on the chosen conversion profile, sometimes it might run into things where it has to actually make a change. We're telling it, "Yes, please go ahead and apply the corrections." So I'll just click Save as.
It wants to know, what do you want to call this? I'll say "my-x1a". Click Save. Now it goes through the PDF, every single page, and it gives you report of what it's doing. Now it actually did make it compliant, as you can see--we have it right here in the left. But it had a few warnings, some things that you might want to look at. If it has a red X, then that's a problem. You need to fix it yourself. It's something that Acrobat couldn't fix. So, for example, it doesn't like that destination profile, the US Web Offset.
It found some slightly thin hairlines, 0.124, a couple of other issues, but none of these actually make it not PDF/X-1a. So I'm perfectly fine with this. I'll close it. We can verify for ourselves by opening up this panel, and see that yes, it is a standard-compliant PDF/X-1 for our printer. That is how you can create a standards-compliant PDF for your commercial printer right in Adobe Acrobat.
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