Carnegie Mellon University

Make Adobe PDF's

The way to create problem free files for digital output

Portable Document Format (PDF) is the preferred file format for digital output for many reasons. First and foremost is that PDF files are platform independent, that is, they can be viewed on any operating system that has the Adobe Acrobat Reader. PDFs can have all the fonts used in a document embedded in them. This means that the fonts that you used when creating your document do not have to be installed on another machine where the file is being viewed. Your documents fonts will appear as you had intended. The same goes for images. They are embedded right along with the fonts. PDF files also have a much smaller files size than your original working document making them easier to store on disk and faster to transport over a network.

Carnegie Mellon faculty, staff, and students can purchase Adobe Acrobat at a reduced cost through University Store Computer Sales.

Things to consider when creating PDFs

Embed your fonts!

You always want to embed your fonts when creating PDF files. This will ensure that your document will look just as you designed it no matter what machine it is viewed on. There are check boxes for embedding your fonts in the setup dialog boxes for creating PDFs or PostScript files. Make sure that they are set to "Embed All Fonts."

Check your image resolution

When you put images in your documents, you want to make sure that they are at the proper resolution for whatever type of output they will be used for. For example, if you plan to have your PDF output to our large format inkjet printer, your images should be 200dpi at the size it is intended to be printed at. If you use an image downloaded from the web it is most likely at a resolution of 72 or 96dpi. When printed it will look pixelated. Unless it is by design, this look is undesirable.

ASCII, not Binary

There are two ways that PostScript files can be coded. One is binary and the other is ASCII or text. When creating your PDF files you want to make sure that you check the box labeled ASCII data or ASCII data only. There are several ways to create PDFs from your applications.

  • Saving directly to the PDF format with Adobe Illustrator 9.0 or higher
  • Using a PDF writer already available with some software
  • Creating PostScript files with your printer driver and then converting the PS file to a PDF using Adobe Distiller
  • Or printing to PDF using the full version of Adobe Acrobat - Saving Directly to PDF

You can save directly to PDF using Adobe Illustrator 9.0 or later. You just save your file as you would any other going to the File menu and choosing "Save As." All you do is change the file type from Adobe Illustrator file to Adobe Acrobat PDF.

Using a PDF writer*

Some software packages now come with a PDF writer included in the software. The location of this feature will vary depending on the software. You can make all your setup adjustments with the PDF writer's dialogue boxes. *Note that PDF Writer is not recommended for documents that contain images. For best results with images you should use native PDF software, such as Illustrator, or convert your file to PostScript before converting to PDF.

Creating PostScript files

For computers where Save As PDF or PDF Writer are not available, you can create a PostScript file first. To do this you choose File and then Print. In the print dialogue box change the destination from "Send to Printer" to "Send to File" or "Print to File." In the options for your printer, make sure that all fonts are embedded and that the resolution is set to an acceptable level for your printing needs. The PostScript file can then be converted to a PDF using Adobe Distiller. Distiller comes with some packages such as PageMaker. Open Distiller and make sure that fonts are embedded and that there is no compression and that the resolution is set properly be fore converting your document. If Distiller is not available on your machine you can convert the PostScript file on a machine that does have it. If you do this, make sure that you also copy over all of the fonts that were used when creating your file as Distiller will look for these when it goes to embed the fonts.

Printing to PDF

If you have the full version of Adobe Acrobat, you can create PDF files from any application on your computer that you can print from. Simply choose "File" and then "Print." From the printer dialogue box change your active printer to the Adobe Acrobat Distiller. As before, make sure that all of your settings are correct before clicking OK. Distiller will ask you what you want to name the PDF and where you want it saved on your computer.