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The Acrobat PDF file format is without a doubt the most important core technology in the professional creative space today. If you want to send a proof to a client, you will likely send them a PDF. If you want to send a finished document to a printer, you should probably send them a PDF. If you're trying to put documents on the Web that can be viewed, as well as printed, you're going to use PDF. So it's crucially important that as an InDesign user, you be able to create robust PDF documents. Now, there are two ways to make PDF files from InDesign. First, you could print PostScript to disk from the Print dialog box, and then use Acrobat Distiller to turn it into a PDF file.
And that's what I call the ridiculously archaic method that we used back in the 20th Century. Instead, I am going to focus on the 21st Century method, and that is to go to the File menu, and choose Export. InDesign lets you export PDFs directly out of the program. You don't have to use any other software. The PDFs that you get are much higher quality than the ones you used to get anyway. When you have the Export dialog box open, you could name it, choose where you want to save the PDF, and then, you have to choose from two different PDF formats: PDF (Interactive), or PDF (Print).
As I mentioned in an earlier chapter, the Interactive option should only be used if your document has movies, buttons, page transitions; those sorts of interactivity. You're going to use Adobe PDF (Print) for pretty much everything else. Even documents that are primarily designed to be viewed on screen, but only have a little bit of interactivity, like hyperlinks, or bookmarks, you'd want to use Adobe PDF (Print). It just gives you more options when you export. Now I will click Save, and up comes the Export PDF dialog box. There are a lot of options in here, but I recommend that everybody start by choosing one of the Adobe PDF Presets.
Everything you choose in this dialog box is going to be based on where this PDF is going to, who is going to be viewing it, and what they're going to be doing with it. For example, if you're sending this PDF to a commercial printing press, you're probably going to want to use either PDF/X-1a, or X-3; X-1a is typically used in North America; X-3 is more used in Europe. But this is the decision that you should make with your printer. Ask them, do they want X-1a or X-3? The main difference has to do with what colors are allowed in the PDF file.
If you're lucky, your printer will come back and say, give us PDF X-4. X-4 is a much better quality, much more robust PDF, and it allows them to print all kinds of things, like transparency, without any problems. If you're making a PDF that's not going to a commercial press, but you're simply going to be sending for a proof, or you're sending it to someone to view on screen, and maybe they're going to print it out on their Desktop printer, then I recommend that you choose High Quality Print. You might be tempted to use smallest file size, but I don't like that preset. It tends to dumb down your PDF too much, and sometimes it will change your colors in unexpected and unpleasant ways.
I choose High Quality Print. From there, I start making changes to customize it to the output that I want. For example, I almost always change the Compatibility to 6. Next, you can choose your page range; do you want to print all the pages, or just a couple of them? For example, I'll print pages 21 and 22. One of the things you get when you change the Compatibility to Acrobat 6 is the ability to do things like Tagged PDF. I highly recommend that you turn on Create Tagged PDF, because that allows better Web SEO, and it also allows people with visual disabilities to use this PDF in a screen reader software.
It's not perfect, but it does give more flexibility, so I like turning that on. Also, if you've used a table of contents, or made any hyperlinks, you want to turn on the Bookmarks and Hyperlinks checkboxes. Those are the only interactive features that are saved out in a Print PDF. Now, I'll jump to the Compression pane, and I am going to make some changes here. Because this is a PDF that I'm going to be putting on a Web site, or I'm expecting people to mostly see on screen, maybe print out a little bit, I'm almost certainly going to lower the resolution in here; let's say 150, and I will change grayscale down to 150 as well.
It updates the second fields by itself, but you can change those if you want. The other thing I'm going to do is change the Image Quality to Medium. You don't need Maximum quality if you're primarily printing on a desktop printer. So I will change that down to Medium. This is going to make the PDF smaller when I export. In the Marks and Bleeds pane, I can turn on Printer Marks, like Crop Marks, but I generally don't need to do this for anything that I am going to be putting up for primarily onscreen viewing, of course. If I were sending this to a commercial printing press, I would want to ask them, do you want Crop Marks, Bleed Marks, and so on? Certainly, if you're printing a document that has bleed, like this document, then you do want to turn on Document Bleed Settings, again, if you're going to a commercial printing press.
If you're just putting it on the screen, then you don't want to see that bleed; you want it to be cropped off at the edge of the page. I'll leave that turned off here. Next, I am going to visit the Output pane. This is all about what's going to happen to your color. If you're making a PDF that's primarily for onscreen viewing, and maybe printing to a desktop printer, then you want to use this setting: No Color Conversion, and Include Tagged Source Profiles. That's very safe. That means your RGB files will be included, your CMYK files will be included, everything should print out as nicely as possible; it's going to be safe.
If you're going to be printing to a commercial printing press, then you might want to change this. I often use RGB images in my files, but I never send an RGB PDF to a printer. So instead, I change my Color Conversion setting to Convert to Destination (Preserve Numbers). Then I choose a Destination CMYK. By default, I get U.S. Web Coated (SWOP), but I tend to get better results by choosing Coated GRACoL if I'm printing on coated paper, like matte or glossy stock, or if I am printing on uncoated stock, I'd rather use something like Uncoated FOGRA.
In this case, you definitely want to leave Profile Inclusion Policy to Include Destination Profile. So this is good for sending a final output to a printing press. But again, in the instance where we're putting something on the Web, or just sending a proof, I don't use that. I just say, No Color Conversion, and Include Tagged Source Profiles. Now, there is actually one more option that you might want to choose here. If you're trying to get a grayscale PDF, where you only have black, white, and shades of gray in the PDF, then you'd choose something different.
You change this to Convert to Destination; this is the one instance where you don't want to use Preserve Numbers, and then you choose from the Destination pop-up menu, one of the grayscale profiles down here. They're way down at the bottom; things like Dot Gain 20%, or Dot Gain 25%. Those are all the Grayscale options. Now, when I make my PDF, everything is going to be in grayscale; no color. There is a bunch of other features that we can choose in here; for example, in the Security pane, we could require a password in order to open up this PDF.
Once you're done with choosing all of these options, it's time to click Export. But when I click Export, look up here in the application bar, just below this dialog box, right up here under the word Object. You're going to see a little animation for a moment. And that animation is the PDF exporting, because PDFs actually export in the background. You don't see the dialog box saying Page 1, Page 2, and so on; they export in the background, and the only way you know they're exporting is by watching that little animation. There we go! It exported the PDF, it saved everything out as grayscale instead of color, and it opened it in Acrobat.
Let's go ahead and make this larger, fit the screen, and we can see that the pages look great, and they're in grayscale, just the way we wanted. Making PDF files isn't difficult at all from InDesign. What is sometimes difficult is making the right decisions for the quality that you're trying to achieve.
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