How to Make a Print-Ready PDF/X1a File: Save Time and Money

PDF stands for Portable Document Format… a friend of mine says it really stand for “Pretty Darn Fast.” And they do travel with much lower file size than your root documents and images. However there are many different “flavors” of pdfs that can be created with different end-uses in mind. Think of a pdf as a suitcase – you will have to decide what and how much to “stuff” into that suitcase so that everything needed at its destination will be there… and nothing that is not needed (therefore saving on file size).

Creating a print-ready PDF/X-1a file from your desktop application will save you time, money, and is your best bet to ensure error-free printing from your digital files. Unless you want your printer to be able to alter or edit your documents, just follow these easy steps to “pdf” your files.

  1. Choose File – Export. At the bottom of the dialog box, for Format choose Adobe PDF (Print). See Fig. A below.
  2. In the Export Adobe PDF window, you will initially start on the General tab (they are listed at the left). On this tab, at the top under Adobe PDF Preset, choose [Adobe PDF/X1-a: 2001]. This will adjust ALMOST all of the settings you need to create your print-ready file. See Fig. B below.
  3. Click on the Marks and Bleeds tab. Under the Marks section, check the box for crop marks, leaving the others unchecked. Notice that the Offset is set to 0.0833 in. by default. Under the Bleed and Slug area, enter 0.5 in. bleed for all four sides and leave other boxes unchecked. Whether or not your document has a bleed, we prefer all PDF/X-1a files to be submitted with crop marks and the 1/2 inch bleed area around the outside edges. See Fig. C below.


And that’s it!

File Export to PDF from InDesign
Figure A: File – Export
Step 2: the Export Adobe PDF window
Figure B: the Export Adobe PDF window
Marks and Bleed Area
Figure C: Crop Marks and 1/2 inch Bleed Area

These steps are specifically for Adobe’s Creative Suite and InDesign. You can create your pdf files directly out of PhotoShop and Illustrator as well. If you are using another desktop application, such as QuarkXpress or even Microsoft Word or Excel, all these controls will be there in different locations… you will still need to find where to select the PDF/X-1a preset and the accomodations for crop marks and bleed area.

We have many tools and tricks to adjust and control the output of properly made print-ready pdf files for offset printing. By using the pdf workflow, we bypass the problems of the past that included unwanted font substitutions, missing images, and accidental changes that could occur when reopening or editing root documents.

Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.