Creating PDFs in InDesign is now such a major, instinctive part of the design process that I could probably do it with my eyes closed, but in Adobe CS6, there are dozens of options to consider. This is a quick guide to the settings I use to get the best results when exporting to both print and interactive PDFs.
Export to Print
First, click Export in Adobe InDesign CS6, or use the ‘cmd+E’ keyboard shortcut, and select ‘Adobe PDF (Print)’ in the ‘General’ menu from the sidebar. Under ‘Adobe PDF Preset’ in the menu pane, you should enter any specific settings from your print company, but ‘PDF/X-1a:2001′ is a good base setting for most printers. My tip, although this might not be a universally approved method, is to bump my compatibility up to Acrobat 5 (PDF 1.4) rather than the default PDF 1.3. This seems to resolve any potential transparency issues.
Then select ‘Marks and Bleeds’ from the sidebar and turn them on, as they’ll all be off by default. Other settings to bear in mind are whether to set your documents as spreads or single pages, and the ‘Include’ option, which lets you add Bookmarks, Hyperlinks, Non-Printing Objects, and Visible Guides and Grids. Generally you won’t use Include settings for print-only PDFs.
Next, click Export, and any issues with links or fonts will be flagged up at this stage. Then open the Background Task palette to view your PDF’s progress (you’ll be able to see the monitor bars moving up and down in the menu area of InDesign). You can carry on working on it, but won’t be able to close the file until the PDF’s produced.
Export to Interactive PDF
For non-print PDFs, click Export as normal and choose ‘Adobe PDF (Interactive)’. You then have the option of either Spreads or Pages. I generally select Pages and then set the ‘Layout’ to ‘Two-Up (Cover Page)’, which gives the viewer the option to see the layout in spreads or single pages, or print in single pages. Selecting ‘Spreads’ locks the viewer into only being able to view the layouts in spread format.
The Page Transition setting lets you add transitions if you haven’t already set them within the document, and ‘Forms and Media’ relates to all the document’s video, buttons and interactive media. To produce the best PDF results, I find you need to strike a balance between file size and image quality using the Image Handling options (Compression, JPEG Quality, Resolution (ppi). This will depend on the number of pages, images and graphics within your document. You want it to look good without taking up a gig of your client’s memory!
– That’s how I like to tune my settings for exporting PDFs anyway, but far be it for me to have the last word on the subject – share your tips and best settings in the comments box below.
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