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5 Reasons Why You Should Always Use PDFs

Are PDFs the best format for printing?

When working with digital files, understanding what the specific file formats are is vital. No matter what type of file you are working with, be it audio, video, image, text or any combination of the four, there are a myriad of ways to save and export your data. The intended use for the file will help you decide what format you need to use. When working with commercial printers, you should always send a Portable Document File or PDF.

There are pros and cons for any kind of file format. Compatibility, editability, file size, and quality are balanced differently based on the format that you choose. For the purpose of ordering print the PDF file format is the best to use for several reasons.

Why you should always send PDFs to a printer

When working with a commercial printer, in most cases, the exchange of digital files is required. The files you send to your printer are the source files that are used to produce your printed project. A PDF file is the best format to send because it has the perfect balance of file size, compatibility and quality.

To help you understand these points, and why they are important we will go over each individually.

The 5 Reasons PDFs are the best files to send to your printer

1. Compatibility

Just because you have the software to open a file, does not mean that the party you are sending it to does. Exporting your artwork as a PDF ensures that anyone can view your file. The PDF format is a standard used by nearly every industry and can be opened on nearly every modern device. Exporting your files to PDFs will ensure that your files are formatted correctly and look the same no matter what program you created them in.

2. File Size

Most native files like Adobe InDesign’s INDB or Adobe Photoshop’s PSD formats, are usually very large files. These file formats are referred to as native files. These native files are much larger than PDFs because they contain data that only the program they were created in use to unlock certain features.

For example, a Photoshop PSD file contains data for each and every layer that makes up an image. These layers are used in Photoshop to help the designer manipulate assets and filters within an image, giving them the ability to move and manipulate one part of an image without disturbing the others. Some PSD files can contain hundreds of layers and modifiers which can considerably inflate the files size with information that is not necessary for printing the file.

Since artwork files need to be transferred over the internet, the smaller the file size, the faster it can be sent.

3. Editability

When designers and publishers are transferring files between themselves they usually do so in a program’s native file format. When design teams are working on a project, using native files can be beneficial so team members have the ability to make changes to individual assets and take advantage of the powerful tools desktop publishing applications offer. However, this degree of editability is usually unnecessary when working with a commercial printer.

Ideally, files that are sent to a commercial printer should not need to be edited in any way. Unless you are taking advantage of design services, which can become very costly, commercial printers should not need to edit your files in any way. If there is a problem with your file, it’s your responsibility to make the necessary changes.

Using PDF files when working with a commercial printer and only sending them finalized files also helps to ensure that they are in possession of the most current version of your artwork. If the time comes for you to update your artwork, you can be sure that there are not any other versions floating around.

4. Quality

Just because your artwork looks OK on your screen, does not mean that it will print that way. Using a Dots Per Inch (DPI) setting of at least 200 is required in order to ensure quality and clarity.

PDF documents have the ability to preserve high quality artwork and keep file size down making it the ideal format for sending to a commercial printer. Although they are not as editable as native files are, some edits can be made using Adobe’s Acrobat Pro and other automated print processing. This helps your commercial printer optimize your files for their presses.

5. Portability

Like it’s name implies the PDF or Portable Document Format promotes portability of your artwork. What does that really mean though, aren't all files portable? Portable refers to the ability of the PDF to include all design assets in one file, including source images, preserving fonts and placement.

Other file formats rely on the computer’s file system that they were created in to pull these design elements together. For example, if you send someone a Adobe InDesign INDB file without packaging it, any linked images and fonts will be lost if the party you send it to does not have possession of those elements.

Always send a PDF when working with a commercial printer

Sending a PDF is the most ideal way to give artwork files to your commercial printer. The PDF file is easier for printers to processes without the time and effort required to export a file, and allows the client to quickly upload their files.

The PDF is the most reliable file format for trading art files, or any documents for that matter, It strikes the perfect balance of compatibility, file size, editability, quality and portability. To learn more about getting your files ready to send to your commercial printer and other print ordering essentials, check out our Ultimate Guide to Buying Print.

5 Reasons Why You Should Always Use PDFs

Whether you’re starting a small business, running a nonprofit organization or simply trying to increase your profit margins, sticking to a low marketing budget is a challenge. Putting your marketing dollars towards print marketing can make your money go further than any other marketing channel, and help you increase your bottom line.

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