Join Claudia McCue for an in-depth discussion in this video Adjusting the presets, part of Acrobat DC Essential Training.
- When you're ready to create a PDF from an Adobe application such as Illustrator or InDesign, you're given a list of PDF Presets from which to choose. Well how do you decide which is the right choice? Well, let me explain what they do. We'll start with Smallest File Size and the name kind of tells the story. It's compatible with Acrobat 6 which means that anyone who has Reader or Acrobat 6 or above will be able to open the file. Now it converts all color content to sRGB which is a common monitor color space.
All RGB gets truncated down to sRGB, CMYK and spot colors do too. So that means if you've prepared a job for print you may see some color shift in that outgoing PDF. You have to decide if that's acceptable. It does support live, unflattened transparency. It downsamples image content to 100 pixels per inch and that's part of how it makes a smaller file size. It also uses low-quality aggressive JPEG compression on image content. So you may see some of those rectangular JPEG artifacts.
But that's how it gives you a smaller file size and the results are appropriate for online viewing or attaching to an email. High Quality Print has a compatibility with Acrobat 5 and above. There's no color conversion. RGB stays RGB, spot stays spot, CMYK stays CMYK and it supports live, unflattened transparency. It does perform some downsampling to 300 pixels per inch. So for example if you had placed an image that was 300 ppi and then scaled it down to 50 percent it effectively has a res then of 600 pixels per inch.
Well, this process would throw away half of those pixels. Consequently it can create large files but that makes it appropriate for in house printing or sending let's say to a remote office if they want to print let's say cell sheets, or brochures, or some such. It's good-looking output on an in-house printer. Press Quality and high quality printing have similar names so this can be a bit confusing, but Press Quality has compatibility with Acrobat 5 or above. It converts RGB content to the CMYK destination values depending on what you specify as the destination.
It's usually SWOP, S-W-O-P. It supports live, unflattened transparency. It performs bicubic downsampling to 300 pixels per inch and because it's maintaining at least 300 pixels per inch that means that it can create somewhat large files, but this is appropriate for commercial printing. Then we start to get into the presets that have "X" in the name. Now "X" stands for exchange. These are agreed upon specifications and the idea is to have a set of specifications that if a PDF meets those specs, we know that it's going to be printable.
We know that imaging devices will process them correctly. So this goes back to 2001, and that may seem kind of ancient, but bare with me. PDF/X-1a has compatibility with Acrobat 4. I know, that seems ancient. It converts RGB content to CMYK, it maintains spot color content though. It flattens transparency. It downsamples to 300 pixels per inch. It can crat somewhat large files if you have large images in your project and it's appropriate for commercial printing.
The idea behind X-1a is that if you have to send a PDF off to an unknown printer, you don't know what their capabilities are, you're sending out of the country, this will be able to be imaged on any device. No matter how old it is, they can print it. Over the years, the exchange concepts have become more sophisticated as workflows and devices become more sophisticated. Sp PDF/X-3:2002, still compatible with Acrobat 4 and that means that it flattens transparency, but it doesn't perform any color conversion.
That means that it maintains RGB content, spot stays spot, CMYK stays CMYK. It still performs bicubic downsampling to 300 pixels per inch and consequently it can create large files. But this is appropriate for commercial printing if the printer tells you that submitting RGB content is okay. PDF/X-4:2008 is compatible with Acrobat 7 and above. See, we're getting more modern. No color conversion. RGB stays RGB, CMYK stays CMYK, spot stays spot and this supports live, unflattened transparency.
It still performs bicubic downsampling. Consequently it can create large files since it's keeping those image pieces at 300 pixels per inch or above and this is appropriate for commercial printing as long as the printer tells you that RGB content is okay and live transparency is acceptable. Some older workflows don't support live transparency, or they don't process it well, and that's why it's always important to ask. Then here's a special case in Illustrator, something called Illustrator Default. Its compatibility is Acrobat 6 or above.
It doesn't perform color conversion, keeps everything the way it is. It supports live, unflattened transparency and it also contains the original, editable Illustrator file inside the PDF. It preserves layers and it can be round-tripped, it can be safely reopened in Illustrator and it's really the only PDF format that you can do that with safely. But it can create large files because you sort of have two files for the price of one, sometimes they get enormous. So, which PDF Preset is Right For You? Well if you're sending for print, the first thing you should do is ask your printer how they want the PDF created.
They should be able to give you specs for creating the PDF. They may be able to give you job options files that you can just import and use as your target preset. But if it's an unknown printer or the printer for some reason says, well I don't know, just make a PDF, and this does happen, well, choose the lowest common denominator, bullet-proof PDF/X-1a. Anyone can image that. If it's a more modern, up-to-date printer, especially if you're sending it to someone who uses digital presses, PDF/X-4 should be safe.
I'll still go back to point one, ask the printer. If you're sending this as an email attachment or you're going to post it online, well, smallest file size is a pretty clear choice. But remember this, you can start with any one of these presets and you can always modify it to customize your particular needs. So, get to know the presets, understand the destiny of the PDF that you're creating, and then make the best PDF you can.
- Searching PDFs
- Creating PDFs from Microsoft Office and Adobe CC
- Printing to PDF
- Converting a scan to searchable text
- Adding hyperlinks and bookmarks
- Combining multiple PDFs
- Exporting to Office, HTML, or RTF formats
- Commenting and reviewing
- Building fillable forms
- Adding interactivity
- Protecting content
- Ensuring accessibility