Artwork for Print: When PDFs go Bad

Artwork for Print: When PDFs go Bad


In a previous look at providing PDFs to your printer, we deduced that if you don’t provide artwork to your printer as a PDF file, they’ll put a hex on your friends and family (at the very least) and your cozy working life will turn into a maelstrom of anguish and gnashing of teeth.

So hopefully you’re now firmly in the camp that has learned: PDFs = reduced pain.

But unfortunately, outputting to PDFs doesn’t always lead you skipping down the yellow brick road to printing happiness. You see, there can be errors that creep into to the PDF proof you supply too.

pdf logo

PDFs are (usually) your friend.

But enough of my rambling on. Here’s Adobe’s own list of the top 10 problems when using PDFs in artwork. Read, digest, assimilate into your own artwork output:

  1. The resolution of images is too low.
  2. Fonts are not embedded in the PDF.
  3. The wrong colour space is used.
  4. The information about trim or bleed is incorrect.
  5. There is an inconsistency with the native file. The original page, viewed in QuarkXPress or InDesign etc., looks different from the PDF.
  6. A spot colour is misnamed or it is accidentally converted to a process colour.
  7. Images are compressed too much causing quality loss.
  8. The page size is incorrect.
  9. There are problems with transparent objects.
  10. ICC profiles are missing or incorrect.

One potential reason I’ve heard of that may cause some of these problems is that designers make the (seemingly sensible) step of creating proofs from their layout. They check these proofs then make the PDF. What actually should happen is that proofs are made from the PDFs first, then checked. This removes many of the inconsistencies between the PDF and proof that can be caused by the software package itself.

For more information on how to check your artwork before printing, have a look at our quick guide (quicker than this one!) on preflighting.