To those of us who don’t use PDFs for artworking, a PDF is a PDF is a PDF. They’re all the same, surely? But say that to a printer and they’ll give you some very dark looks indeed.
You see, one major source of headaches for anyone who handles artwork at any printing company, is artwork delivery. Not only is the PDF pretty much the de-facto standard format in which to provide artwork to printers, but most will point you towards the street should you darken their door clutching an InDesign or Quark file.
They need you to provide artwork in the correct format to stop errors creeping in. PDFs are particularly useful because they include lots of information within the file – including fonts, images, text and layout – pretty well all the information required by a printer to print the job.
Which PDF Version?
So you need to output your artwork to a PDF file.
However, not all PDFs are created equal. You see, the PDF format (standing for Portable Document Format) has gone through several iterations to become the uniquitous document format it is today – adding in support for new features as they were demanded by specific industries.
The latest version is PDF v3.0 but the first version came out in 1993 as version 1.0.
Since that first version, there were regular updates all the way to 2009 when V3 popped out, but there was a point before that when most printing organisations drew a line in the sand. And for many, that was when the PDF format contained enough print-ready data to make the format stable and viable – and that was the point PDF V1.3 came out.
(here’s a handy link to the PDF reference document for you - all 696 pages of technical nonsense (you can thank me later!)
PDF Printing Guidelines
So, it’s important to check with your printing services company or commercial printer to get a copy of their PDF artwork guidelines before you send your artwork through. Here’s a download of Webmart Proofing Guidelines 2011 so you can see the kind of document to look out for.
Notice the checklist (in the doc and, for your delectation, below). We’re entering a particularly technical arena here so it’s important that you try and comply with all the items otherwise you may be disappointed with the end results. Sorry it’s so long but it’s compiled from experience – everything on the list has (and does!) go wrong.
Anything we’ve missed or any anecdotes over what can go wrong? We’d love to hear!
More to come on what can go wrong with your PDF (even PDF’s aren’t infallable!)