PDF/X Files and Adobe Creative Suite 3 whitepaper

PDF/X Files and
Adobe Creative Suite 3
1The PDF/X standard
Creating PDF/X files
Customizing PDF/X settings
11 Preflighting a PDF/X file in Acrobat 8
17 Best practices for creating valid PDF/X files
19Additional resources
You can create Adobe® PDF files from almost any application, using a wide variety of
settings and features. But to successfully exchange those files with others and achieve
the expected results, it helps to have a set of agreed-upon parameters. The PDF/X
standard eliminates many of the color, font, and trapping variables that could cause
printing problems. PDF/X makes it possible to deliver files ready for print production
to nearly any print service provider with the highest possible confidence that they will
print as you intended.
Adobe® Creative Suite® 3 Premium, including Adobe Acrobat® 8.0 Professional, gives
you the tools you need to create and verify PDF/X-compliant files. Here’s how you’ll
benefit by using PDF/X in your print production workflow:
• The standard is based on high-end printing requirements used worldwide.
• The standard ensures that the file is print-ready.
• PDF/X files created using a PDF/X setting (job option) yield valid PDF/X files.
• Adobe Creative Suite 3 components—Adobe InDesign®, Adobe Illustrator® CS3,
and Adobe Photoshop® CS3—directly export or save valid PDF/X files.
• Adobe Acrobat 8.0 Professional can preflight a PDF, correct common errors
using built-in fixups, validate against the chosen PDF/X standard, and
convert the PDF to a PDF/X file. Preflighting a PDF file in Acrobat is a good
practice, especially if you’ve received the file from another, such as a client
or colleague, and don’t know how the file was created.
Talk with your publisher or print provider to determine whether the PDF/X format is
appropriate for your project. Many workflows, particularly in the printing, publishing,
and advertising industries, are well-suited for the PDF/X standard. When in doubt
which PDF format to supply, ask your printer for a custom preset or recommendations
to follow; and, if your printer can accept files with live transparency, choose PDF/X-4,
the latest variant of the PDF/X standard.
The PDF/X standard
Who should read this guide
Anyone who wants to know how to create valid
PDF/X files for high-end printing—creative pros,
production staff, IT professionals, prepress and
print staff—should read this guide. For details
on how to use features discussed in this guide,
see Acrobat 8.0 Professional Help.
The PDF/X standard responds to the challenge of ensuring that graphic arts files are
written in a way that will reproduce on press exactly as the files’ creators intended.
This simple sounding, yet daunting goal requires successful “blind” communication
between two or more production tasks across a plethora of platforms, operating
systems, software applications, color spaces, font types, file formats, and media.
(Blind communication or exchange means that the file is thoroughly validated, so that
a provider can “blindly” accept it.) Over many years, several industry organizations
have developed the PDF/X standard—actually a set of standards—to meet this goal.
A subset of the Adobe PDF specification, PDF/X is designed for the blind exchange of
final print-ready pages, and is one of the most predictable ways to deliver files bound
for press. PDF/X-1a and PDF/X-3 are the most popular PDF/X formats; PDF/X-4 is a
new standard, which is expected to be ratified as a CGATS (Committee for Graphic
Arts Technologies Standards) and ISO standard in 2007. Adobe Creative Suite 3
supports all these PDF/X standard formats.
Using PDF/X-compliant files eliminates the most common errors in file preparation:
fonts that aren’t embedded, incorrect color spaces, missing images, and overprinting
and trapping issues. These issues don’t arise with PDF/X files because, by definition,
these standards require that all fonts be embedded, appropriate PDF bounding boxes be
specified, and color be correctly and consistently defined. PDF/X-compliant files also
must describe the printing condition for which they are prepared.
If you send PDF/X-compliant files, you won’t have to worry about being asked to supply missing
fonts or images. Nor will you have to be concerned about a service provider converting an image
from RGB to CMYK without your seeing the results. And, the printer will know if the file was
prepared properly for high-quality print output.
Many creative professionals prefer to prepare all the PDF files they will submit for printing in the
PDF/X format, even when the print provider does not specifically require it. The PDF/X format is
an efficient way to ensure that a file is validated against industry standards for high-end printing
and is print ready.
Choosing a PDF/X file format
PDF/X has three variants, PDF/X-1a, PDF/X-3, and PDF/X-4; in some cases, a specific variant
has different versions. Each variant has an arena of use, depending on the kinds of files you
work with and the workflow you require; all variants share the PDF/X advantage of consistently
describing a “reliable PDF file for print.” But as with any printing options, you lose some flexibility
when you gain greater control.
The following Table 1 details each variant, including its use and compatibility.
Table 1: PDF/X file formats available in Adobe Creative Suite 3 components
P D F/ X f o r m at
(All PDF/X-1a
files meet the
requirements for
PDF/X-3 files.)
Co n t e n ts
CMYK colors, named
spot colors. (No RGB or
(color-managed) data.)
CMYK, spot, calibrated
RGB and Lab colors, ICCbased color.
CMYK, spot, calibrated
RGB and Lab colors, and
ICC. Can contain live
(unflattened) transparency and layers.
S ta n da r d
Co m pat i b i l i t y
T r a n spa r e n c y
supp o r t o n
o utput
Transparency must
be flattened
Blind exchange of
documents; streamlined and validated for
use in high-end press
Acrobat 4.0/PDF 1.3
Acrobat 5.0/PDF 1.4
ICC color-managed
workflows. ICC color
profiles are included in
PDF/X file. Allows RGB
images that include
enough information to
be treated as deviceindependent.
Acrobat 4.0/PDF 1.3
Acrobat 5.0/PDF 1.4
Color-managed workflows and workflows
using Adobe PDF Print
Engine. Transparency in
artwork stays live.
PDF/X-4:2007 (draft)
Acrobat 7.0/PDF 1.6
Transparency must
be flattened
Live transparency
and layers supported
When deciding which PDF/X variant to use, in general:
• Choose PDF/X-1a when CMYK files are required; you’re sending digital ads to
be reproduced on a press characterized to a printing standard such as SWOP
(Specifications for Web Offset Publications) or SNAP (Specifications for Non-heat
Advertising Printing); or when you want to maintain absolute control over a file’s
content and color appearance.
• Choose PDF/X-3 if your workflow requires transferring data in CIELab or RGB color
spaces, with conversion to CMYK occurring later. Use PDF/X-3 for complete files
that you will send to digital presses or other color-managed environments, or for
some digital ads, where you expect the printer to optimize color reproduction for the
specific printing environment.
• Choose PDF/X-4 for printing artwork with live transparency and layers. Expected to
be ratified as a standard in 2007, PDF/X-4 supports transparent artwork and effects,
as well as layers. Print workflow systems based on the Adobe PDF Print Engine will
be able to process PDF/X-4 jobs natively, without flattening artwork or converting
the file to PostScript.
PDF/X Files and Adobe Creative Suite 3
Note: CS3 and Acrobat 8 users will soon be able to take advantage of print workflow systems and
RIPs powered by the Adobe PDF Print Engine. This technology allows PDF documents and jobs
to remain unconverted and independent of printing devices throughout a print workflow. The
technology, for example, eliminates the need to flatten transparent artwork and effects to ensure
accurate and consistent reproduction of complex artwork, in all stages of the production process—
print preview, proof, and print. For the first time, prepress and print production tasks now can
be done using the same technology in Adobe applications—such as PDF rendering libraries and
color management systems. Licensed to Adobe print OEM partners and not available off-the-shelf,
products based on the Adobe PDF Print Engine will be available beginning mid-2007. For more
information on the Adobe PDF Print Engine, visit www.adobe.com/products/pdfprintengine/.
About PDF/X file contents
PDF/X files require certain contents, prohibit others, and leave some open. It’s helpful to know
what’s allowed and prohibited in PDF/X files before creating, preflighting, and correcting them;
and when customizing any settings.
Here’s what must be included in a PDF/X file:
• Fonts and images embedded.
• Page geometry (the trim box and bleed box) defined.
• Intended printing condition (output intent).
• Trapping key (Yes = True, No = False) defined.
• Title, creator, producer, creation, and modification dates.
Here’s what’s prohibited in PDF/X files:
• Live transparency, except in PDF/X-4 files.
• Layers, except in PDF/X-4 files.
• Encryption (security).
• Form fields.
• Interactive elements including movies, sounds, buttons, and hyperlinks.
• Annotations within the bleed box.
• Preseparated PDFs.
• Transfer functions.
• Actions and JavaScripts.
• Embedded PostScript®.
PDF/X files do not set a minimum image resolution nor limit the plates used.
About the PDF/X standard and transparency
Originally released in 2000, PDF/X standards continue to evolve, mainly with the wide adoption
of newer versions of the PDF specification. Here is the evolution of these standards and how they
handle transparency in files:
• The PDF/X-1a:2001 and PDF/X-3:2002 standards are based on PDF 1.3 (Acrobat 4.0).
Creating a PDF 1.3 file—such as from InDesign CS3, Illustrator CS3, or Photoshop CS3
—flattens transparency.
• The 2003 versions of the PDF/X standard (PDF/X-1a:2003 and PDF/X-3:2003)
are based on PDF 1.4 (Acrobat 5.0), but can also accommodate PDF 1.3 files. This
standard does not support transparency. You can still use transparency in your design,
but you must flatten the transparency before creating a PDF/X-1a or PDF/X-3 file.
• The PDF/X-4:2007 format saves PDF 1.6 or later files. This format preserves
transparency (does not flatten it) and layers.
PDF/X Files and Adobe Creative Suite 3
In general, it is best to leave transparency live in artwork, until the end of the workflow. If flattening is necessary, a print provider can use the appropriate flattening resolution at print time.
Discuss these PDF/X file formats with your print provider or the publisher you will send files to,
and use the format and settings recommended.
PDF 1.4 and later files support live transparency, but until the PDF/X-4:2007 standard, PDF/X
files did not. Thus, you can save a PDF 1.4 file from InDesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop, and any
transparency remains live; but the resulting PDF 1.4 file is not a valid PDF/X file. For this reason,
CS3 components create PDF/X files in PDF 1.3 format, as valid PDF/X files, with properly flattened transparency.
CS3 and Acrobat 8 support all PDF/X formats (PDF/X-1a:2001, PDF/X-3:2002, PDF/X-a1:2003,
PDF/X-3:2003, and PDF/X-4:2007). CS3 components create PDF/X-1a:2001, PDF/X-3:2002, and
PDF/X-4:2007 versions by default.
Creating PDF/X files
You can create PDF/X files in Adobe CS3 applications and Acrobat 8 Professional four ways, by:
• Directly saving or exporting a PDF/X file from InDesign CS3, Illustrator CS3, or
Photoshop CS3.
• Converting a PDF file in Acrobat 8 using either the Preflight tool or the Save As
dialog box.
• Using Acrobat Distiller® 7.0 or 8.0 job options to print to a PDF/X file using the
Adobe PDF Printer; or by first printing a PostScript file and then converting it using
Acrobat Distiller.
• Using a PDF-JDF workflow. See www.adobe.com/products/jdf/ for more information.
Before creating a PDF/X-compliant file, prepare the original document to ensure that it conforms
as closely as possible to the requirements of the PDF/X format and any other publisher or printer
requirements. Ask your print provider or publisher which PDF preset to use when creating the
PDF/X file; your print provider or publisher may provide you with custom PDF presets. See “Best
practices for creating valid PDF/X files” on page 17 for more information.
Once the file is created, you can use the preflight and preview features in InDesign, Illustrator,
or Acrobat to help you verify that the file is ready for printing. In InDesign or Acrobat, you can
check the status of fonts, images, and inks in a document. Additionally, you can preview color
separations, transparency flattener effects, and overprinting on-screen. See “Preflighting a PDF/X
file in Acrobat 8” on page 11 for more information.
Even if the original document did not meet all the requirements of the PDF/X format, a CS3
component usually can make conversions or corrections for you as it creates the PDF/X file, to
produce a PDF/X-compliant file. For example, InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Acrobat
can convert RGB colors to the CMYK color space, define boundary boxes, and assign an
output intent. Acrobat Distiller 8.0 can convert colors, check image resolution, and make other
corrections for you as it creates a PDF/X file.
Once the file is in PDF/X format, don’t encrypt it or use security or passwords. The PDF/X
standard does not allow security.
Using PDF/X-1a, PDF/X-3, and PDF/X-4 presets
So that you can create PDF files consistently, Adobe Creative Suite 3 components—InDesign,
Illustrator, Photoshop, and Distiller 8.0—share PDF presets (called PDF settings files in Distiller),
with all the settings used to create a PDF file. These include default PDF/X presets for creating
PDF/X-1a, PDF/X-3, and PDF/X-4 files; use them as they are, or as a basis for custom presets for
your workflow.
Note: Distiller processes PDF files using PostScript, which does not support live transparency or
layers. Thus, Distiller cannot create PDF/X-4 files, which maintain live transparency and layers.
As an alternative to Distiller, you can use the Acrobat 8.0 Preflight feature to convert a PDF file
to PDF/X-4.
PDF/X Files and Adobe Creative Suite 3
Adobe Creative Suite 3 installs presets for the PDF/X-1a:2001, PDF/X-3:2002, and PDF/X-4:2007
standards so that you can create valid PDF/X files from InDesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop.
Presets and standards for the 2003 versions are included in the Extras folder on the Adobe
Creative Suite 3 installation DVD, and, after you install Adobe Creative Suite 3, in the Extras
folder on your hard drive in the following location:
• Windows®: Documents and Settings/All Users/Documents/Adobe PDF
• Mac OS®: Library/Application Support/Adobe PDF
For information on customizing PDF/X presets, see “Customizing PDF/X settings” on page 8.
Creating PDF/X files from Adobe Creative Suite 3
Creating PDF/X files from InDesign CS3, Illustrator CS3, and Photoshop CS3 is straightforward
because they share a common user interface. These CS3 components can convert RGB images to
CMYK or make other necessary conversions to create a valid PDF/X file, and will alert you of any
errors during the conversion. After these components create the PDF/X file, they list any problems
encountered or conversions made.
Because conversions may alter the document’s appearance, always review the PDF/X file before
sending it to your printer or publisher to ensure that the final document meets your expectations.
After you’ve created the PDF/X file, you may want to verify it. See “Validating a PDF/X file” on
page 13 for more information.
To create a PDF/X file from InDesign CS3, Photoshop CS3, or Illustrator CS3:
1.Choose an option, depending on the component:
• In InDesign, choose File > Export, and then choose Adobe PDF from the Format menu.
• In Illustrator, choose File > Save As, and then choose Adobe PDF from the Format menu.
• In Photoshop, choose File > Save As, and then choose Photoshop PDF from the
Format menu. Photoshop PDF files meet all the requirements for general Adobe PDF
files, and retain editability in Photoshop.
2.Name the file, and specify a location. Then click Save. The Export Adobe PDF (InDesign) or
Save Adobe PDF (Photoshop and Illustrator) dialog box opens.
Photoshop CS3 Save Adobe PDF dialog box, similar to that in Illustrator CS3 and the InDesign CS3 Export
PDF dialog box
3.Choose a PDF/X preset from the Adobe PDF Preset menu. By default, Adobe Creative Suite 3
installs PDF/X-1a:2001, PDF/X-3:2002, and PDF/X-4:2007 presets, which use settings that
conform to the PDF/X standards. You can also create your own presets, or your printer or
publisher may provide you with one to use. (See “Customizing PDF/X settings” on page 8.)
PDF/X Files and Adobe Creative Suite 3
4.Choose a Standard and Compatibility option:
• Choose PDF/X-1a 2001 or PDF/X-3 2002 from the Standard menu, and Acrobat 4
(PDF 1.3) from the Compatibility menu. These settings flatten transparency.
• Choose PDF/X-4 and Acrobat 5 (PDF 1.4), if your artwork includes live transparent
effects or layers.
5.Make other changes as appropriate. Be aware that some changes may invalidate the PDF/X file;
if the PDF/X standard option is dimmed, a change has invalidated the conversion to PDF/X.
Note: Security panel options are dimmed because the PDF/X standards do not support encryption.
6.Click Save PDF.
Using Acrobat Distiller to create PDF/X files
Using Distiller to create a PDF/X file is a simple matter of selecting a PDF/X-1 or PDF/X-3 preset in
Distiller, and then in your application, selecting the Adobe PDF printer, which uses the Distiller
settings, to print the PDF/X directly. The Adobe PDF printer is included with Adobe Creative Suite 3.
Note: For best results, CS3 users should create a PDF/X file the native (direct) way by exporting or
saving the file as PDF/X, rather than use the Adobe PDF printer. Distiller cannot create PDF/X-4
files, which can contain transparency, because it creates PostScript files, which do not support live
To create a valid PDF/X file from non-CS3 software, you can print to the Adobe PDF Printer
using an Acrobat Distiller PDF/X preset, or you can print an Adobe PostScript file from any
application and then distill it into a PDF/X file in Acrobat Distiller 8.0.
Converting a PDF file to PDF/X format in Acrobat 8
Using the Acrobat 8 Preflight feature, you can convert an existing PDF file to a PDF/X file using
several methods.
To convert an existing PDF file to a PDF/X file in Acrobat 8 Professional:
1.Open the PDF file.
2.Choose Advanced > Preflight.
3.Choose from the following options in the Preflight dialog box:
• Choose Options > Convert Current PDF To PDF/X from the menu at the top right,
or click the Convert Current PDF To PDF/X button at the bottom of the dialog box.
• To use a preflight profile, under Preflight Profiles, scroll to PDF/X Compliance and
click the arrow button to expand the list. Choose a Convert preflight profile from
the top of the list, indicated by a gray wrench, to check and convert the file. (Verify
profiles at the bottom of the list, with colored magnifying glass icons, only check a
file for PDF/X compliance.) Click Execute. Skip to step 5.
You can convert a PDF file to PDF/X several ways using the Preflight dialog box.
PDF/X Files and Adobe Creative Suite 3
4. Do the following in the Preflight: Convert To PDF/X dialog box:
• Choose the PDF/X-1a, PDF/X-3, or PDF/X-4 option.
• If the artwork contains trapped colors, set the trapped key to True; if it does not, set
it to False.
• Set the output condition to the recommended printing condition or standard.
Convert To PDF/X dialog box
5. Click OK to convert the document. If Acrobat cannot convert the document, it reports that
the conversion failed and lists the issues encountered. To correct any issues, you can apply a
fixup in Acrobat (see “Applying fixups” on page 14), or return to the application in which you
created the PDF file to correct it.
Preflight Results window
A green check mark in the Preflight Reports window indicates that the file was converted
6. Click the Close button to close the Preflight window.
The Preflight feature also lets you validate a file against a specific printing condition using a
Verify preflight profile, such as Verify Compliance With PDF/X-1A:2001; see “Validating a
PDF/X file” on page 13. In addition, you can correct any issues that would prevent the conversion
by applying a PDF/X fixup profile to a copy of the PDF file; see “Applying fixups” on page 14.
PDF/X Files and Adobe Creative Suite 3
Customizing PDF/X settings
The default PDF/X settings files assume you are preparing a PDF/X file for SWOP that is
to be printed on a web offset press on coated stock. If you are preparing a file for different
press conditions, you’ll need to create a custom PDF/X settings (preset) file. You can create a
single custom settings file for use in all the Creative Suite 3 components, including Acrobat
Distiller 8.0. For information on permitted and prohibited contents in PDF/X files, see
“About PDF/X file contents” on page 3.
Because the PDF/X format doesn’t require a minimum image resolution, it’s useful to set up
a pref light profile to check for resolution.
The default PDF/X settings files are locked and cannot be edited, but you can use them as the
basis for a custom PDF/X settings file. Use caution when creating a custom PDF/X settings file.
Change only the settings you need to for your output conditions. Consider the PDF/X standard
requirements as you edit the settings. If the PDF/X standard remains visible in the General panel
when you edit settings in an Adobe Creative Suite component, the settings are PDF/X-compliant.
Because only a few options typically need to be altered, Adobe recommends that you open
the PDF/X settings file, make the necessary changes, and then save the file with a name and
custom description that identify the PDF/X standard and the press conditions (such as
Customizing a settings file
You can customize your settings file in Acrobat Distiller, InDesign CS3, Illustrator CS3, or
Photoshop CS3. Acrobat Distiller settings files (with the .joboptions extension) are the same files
as Adobe PDF presets in the other components. The settings files are stored in the Settings folder,
which has shared PDF presets for use by all CS3 components, located as follows:
• Windows: Documents and Settings/All Users/Documents/Adobe PDF/Settings.
• Mac OS: Library/Application Support/Adobe PDF/Settings.
For information on installing settings files, see “Installing a custom settings file” on page 9.
To customize a PDF preset file in InDesign CS3, Illustrator CS3, or Photoshop CS3:
1.In the Export Adobe PDF dialog box (InDesign CS3) or the Save Adobe PDF dialog box
(Photoshop CS3 and Illustrator CS3), choose the PDF/X-1a, PDF/X-3, or PDF/X-4 preset.
Export Adobe PDF dialog box in InDesign CS3
2.Select options in each panel, as appropriate.
3.Click Save Preset.
PDF/X Files and Adobe Creative Suite 3
4.Name the preset and update the description as needed. The component adds a .joboptions
extension to the preset and saves the file to the common location so that it will be available in
other CS3 components, including Distiller.
To customize the file in Acrobat Distiller 8.0:
1.Choose the original settings file (such as PDF/X-1a:2002) from the Default Settings menu
in Distiller.
2.Choose Settings > Edit Adobe PDF Settings.
3.Select options in each panel, as appropriate for your output conditions. Click General to
update the description of the settings file.
Standards panel of the Adobe PDF Settings dialog box
4.Click Save As, and name the file.
5. Choose where to save the file:
• To make the settings file available to other CS3 components, accept the default
• To email the PDF preset or distribute it to others, save a copy to the desktop.
Installing a custom settings file
You can easily install custom settings files, such as those sent to you through email, for access by
all CS3 applications.
To install a custom settings file:
Choose from the following options:
• Double-click the .joboptions or PDF custom settings file. Distiller starts automatically
and saves the file in the Settings folder, accessible to all the CS3 components.
• Open Distiller and choose Settings > Add Adobe PDF Settings, select the settings file
you want to add, and click Open.
• Choose File > Adobe PDF Presets (InDesign CS3) or Edit > Adobe PDF Presets
(Illustrator CS3 and Photoshop CS3) to open the Adobe PDF Presets dialog box.
Click Load, and select the preset you want to add. Then click Done.
PDF/X Files and Adobe Creative Suite 3
In InDesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop, load presets in the Adobe PDF Presets dialog box.
Selecting options for the settings file
Options in Acrobat Distiller 8.0 differ slightly from those in other Adobe Creative Suite 3
components. Adobe recommends that you create the custom settings file in the component you
use most often to create PDF files.
Table 2: Selecting options for the settings (.joboptions) file
Opt i o n s
Ac r o b at
D i st i l l e r
I l lust r ato r ,
a n d P h o to s h o p
R e co m m e n dat i o n s
Standards panel
All panels
Choose a PDF/X-1a, PDF/X-3, or PDF/X-4 standard.
General panel
All panels
Choose Acrobat 4.0 (PDF 1.3) for most uses. The 2003 PDF/X versions support Acrobat 5.0 (PDF 1.4) .
(Use PDF 1.4 only if there is no transparency; otherwise, use PDF 1.6 for PDF/X-4.)
Embed fonts
Fonts panel
Select Embed All Fonts to meet the requirements of the PDF/X standard.
embedded fonts
Fonts panel
Advanced panel
Subset fonts when the percent of characters used is less than 100% to reduce the file size and avoid
potential name conflicts with similar fonts.
Color settings
Color panel
Output panel
For PDF/X-1a files, convert all colors to CMYK. In Distiller, choose Convert All Colors To CMYK; in other
CS3 components, choose Convert To Destination and specify a CMYK destination profile. Because the
PDF/X-3 and PDF/X-4 formats support color management, you can choose different color modes when
you’re preparing a PDF/X-3 or PDF/X-4 file.
TrimBox or
Standards panel
Choose what happens if the required TrimBox or ArtBox is not specified. By default, the TrimBox uses
the MediaBox values. Note: When you print from InDesign, Distiller recognizes the trim and bleed
boxes based on the page size and artwork.
Standards panel
Choose what happens if the required BleedBox is not specified. By default, the MediaBox values are used.
Output intent
Standards panel
Output panel
Choose an output intent profile and, if applicable, an output condition and an output condition identifier and the registry where it’s listed. The output intent conveys the printing condition for which the
file was prepared, such as a sheetfed press printing coated paper or a web offset press printing newsprint. You can use an ICC profile or a characterized printing condition for the output intent. The default
setting uses the U.S. Web Coated SWOP v2 output profile and the CGATS TR 001 characterized printing
condition. Ask your printer or publisher what you should choose for the output intent.
Trapping status
Standards panel
Output panel
In Distiller, choose Insert False or Insert True; in other CS3 components, select the Trapped option if the
entire document is trapped. PDF/X standards require trapping status, but the data does not affect the
contents of the file. A Trapped value set to Insert True (or selected, in the Adobe PDF Options dialog
box) assumes that every component in the file is trapped. Because most native applications do not
trap every component in a file, Adobe recommends that you use the default Insert False setting.
Advanced panel
Advanced panel
Although overprinting is not a requirement of the PDF/X standard, preserve overprint settings when
distilling the file. Select Preserve Overprint Settings in Distiller; choose Preserve from the Overprints
menu in other components. Additionally, Adobe recommends that you enable Overprint Preview
(Advanced > Overprint Preview) when you view the file in Acrobat 8.0 Professional.
PDF/X Files and Adobe Creative Suite 3
Preflighting a PDF/X file in Acrobat 8 Professional
It’s a good idea to preflight any document before you send it to a printer. The preflight feature in
Acrobat 8 Professional can perform several functions in the creation of PDF/X files:
• It can quickly convert and validate a PDF file to the PDF/X-1a, PDF/X-3, or PDF/X-4
standard. See “Converting a PDF file to PDF/X format in Acrobat 8” on page 6 for
more information.
• It can validate a PDF/X file created by a CS3 component or by another application,
if you want to verify the PDF/X file.
• It can convert PDF files to PDF/X standards using several built-in and custom
preflight profiles, created for specific workflows or print conditions. These preflight
profiles can analyze the file for any problems and verify that it meets the PDF/X
standard as well as any additional criteria you provide (such as minimum image
resolution). PDF/X preflight profiles also contain fixups, which correct common
errors as the file is validated against the chosen PDF/X standard.
Work with your print provider or publisher to determine which preflight profile to use to
confirm that the file meets your requirements. Your print provider or publisher may provide
you with custom preflight profiles.
About preflight profiles
Acrobat 8 Professional includes two types of profiles in the Preflight dialog box:
• Analysis, or verification profiles check and report errors without correcting them. They
appear at the bottom of the category list, indicated by a magnifying tool icon.
• Fixups, or correction profiles, correct PDF files as they are converted; a gray wrench
icon indicates these profiles. (Profiles with a hollow wrench icon don’t include fixups.) Fixups can correct a broad range of errors that affect color, fonts, images, print
production, compliance with international standards like PDF/X and PDF/A, and
other areas. The Preflight tool also includes a toolkit for creating your own fixups.
For example, a verification profile would report that a file being converted to PDF/X-1a had RGB
images, whereas a fixup would report the error and convert the images to CMYK color mode,
according to the fixup rules in the preflight profile.
Magnifying glass icon indicating verification profile, and gray wrench icon indicating fixup
PDF/X Files and Adobe Creative Suite 3
Preflighting PDF/X files
You can preflight a single document or use a preflight droplet to automate the process for
multiple files, as described in “Automating the preflight process” on page 16.
To preflight a PDF/X file in Acrobat 8 Professional:
1 Open the PDF/X file.
2 Choose Advanced > Preflight. The Preflight dialog box opens, with the PDF/X status of the
document at the bottom of the dialog box—either an icon labeled Not a PDF/X, indicating
that the file has not been converted to PDF/X; or a PDF/X icon with a yellow question mark,
indicating that the file’s conversion needs to be verified.
Acrobat 8 Preflight dialog box with PDF/X status
Convert Current PDF To PDF/X button
Verify PDF/X button
3.Do one of the following:
• Click the Convert Current PDF To PDF/X button, next to Not a PDF/X.
• In the Profiles tab, click the arrow next to the PDF/X compliance category to expand
its contents, and choose a profile that converts to the chosen PDF/X standard, such
as Convert to PDF/X-1a (SWOP). A gray wrench icon indicates that the profile’s
built-in fixups will correct PDF files to make them PDF/X compliant; a solid magnifying glass icon indicates that the profile will check for errors and report them
without correction. Check Run Preflight profile without applying fixups, if you are
sure that the PDF file was saved correctly in the originating application.
4. Click Execute to have Acrobat preflight the document and report any problems.
5. To display more information about the file, select the options at the bottom of the dialog box,
Show Detailed Information About Document or Show Selected Page Element In Snap View.
PDF/X Files and Adobe Creative Suite 3
Validating a PDF/X file
If you’ve created a PDF/X file from a CS3 component or from Acrobat Distiller, you should
have a valid PDF/X file. If you want to verify the file against the same standard used to create
it—especially if you received the file from someone else—you can use the Preflight feature in
Acrobat 8 Professional to verify that the file is PDF/X compliant.
To validate a file against a specific printing condition in Acrobat 8 Professional:
1. Open the PDF/X file that was created in another application.
2.Choose Advanced > Preflight to open the Preflight dialog box. The Verify PDF/X icon with a
yellow question mark appears at the bottom of the dialog box, along with the PDF/X standard
used to create the file.
3. Do one of the following:
• Click the Verify PDF/X button. Preflight reports whether the PDF/X complies with
the standard used to create it, displaying a green check mark next to the icon if the
verification succeeds, and a red X if it fails.
• In the Profiles window, click the arrow button next to PDF/X Compliance to display
its contents, and choose a verification profile such as Verify Compliance With
PDF/X1-a: 2001 Profile. A hollow wrench icon next to the profile indicates that the
profile does not include fixups. Click Execute to run the preflight profile; click OK if
an alert appears.
Verify compliance to a PDF/X standard in Preflight
4. Click the Results tab to view the results of the preflighting in the Results pane.
View the results of the verification profile
PDF/X Files and Adobe Creative Suite 3
Applying fixups
You use the Preflight Profiles window to apply Acrobat profiles that include error corrections,
called fixups. The Preflight feature includes more than 75 fixups that you can add to a profile;
these cover a broad ranges of errors that affect color, fonts, images, and print production. A gray
wrench icon next to a profile means that it has a fixup; a profile with a hollow wrench icon has no
fixups associated with it.
In some workflows, you may need to customize a PDF/X profile, including its fixups. For
example, you may need to customize a PDF/X preflight profile to convert colors to an ICC press
profile supplied by your print provider, that differs from the default press specification. For
more on customizing profiles, see “Creating a custom preflight profile” below; see Acrobat 8.0
Professional Help for more information on using fixups.
To apply a fixup to a PDF file:
1. Save a copy of the file to which you’ll apply the fixup, and continue this procedure using the
backup copy. Fixups overwrite the existing file.
2. Choose Advanced > Preflight.
3. Click the Profiles tab at the top of the Preflight window, scroll to PDF Fixups and expand
the list.
PDF/X fixups in Profiles window
Preflight Results window
4. In the PDF Fixups list, select an appropriate fixup for your document or workflow—such as
Flatten Transparency (high resolution), and click Execute.
A green check mark in the Preflight Reports window indicates that the file was converted
5. If desired, repeat step 4 to run additional fixups on the file to correct it.
Creating a custom preflight profile
Verifying that a file meets the PDF/X standard eliminates many common file preparation errors,
but not all. For example, the standard doesn’t include a minimum resolution or limit the number
of plates used. To ensure that your file meets all your printer’s requirements—not just those for
the PDF/X standard itself—create a custom preflight profile or use one that your print shop provides. You can create profiles from scratch or by duplicating an existing profile.
To create a custom preflight profile in Acrobat 8 Professional:
1.Choose Advanced > Preflight.
2.Click the Edit tab at the top of the Preflight dialog box. The Preflight: Edit Profile dialog
box appears.
PDF/X Files and Adobe Creative Suite 3
3. Choose from the following options:
• To base the new profile on an existing profile, in the left pane of the dialog box, scroll
to PDF/X Compliance; if needed, click the arrow button to display its profiles. Select
the basic profile (such as Verify Compliance with PDF/X-1a:2001). If the profile is
locked, choose Unlocked from the pop-up menu to gain access to options.
• To create a new profile from scratch, click the New Profile button at the bottom left
of the dialog box, and skip to step 5.
4. Click the Duplicate Profile button at the bottom left of the dialog box. Acrobat duplicates the
profile and appends the words “(Copy 1)” to its name.
5. Use the Name box to rename the profile, and in the Purpose box add a custom description.
Customize a preflight profile by duplicating it and modifying the copy.
6.Select the area you want to edit in the left pane, such as Images. You can customize the checks
and fixups within the profiles.
7. Click the button next to the issue you want to identify, and enter a value, if needed.
For example, to warn you of any images with a resolution lower than 300 ppi, click the button
next to Lower Than 0 Pixels Per Inch and choose Error (red X) or Warning (yellow caution
sign) from the pop-up menu, and enter 300 in the box.
Note: Rounding imprecision in the printing process may cause some images to be down­sampled
to values below what the user specified. For example, if the setting is 300 ppi, a file containing an
image that is 299.998 ppi will fail. You can avoid this problem by increasing the rounding by a
small margin during the preflight operation.
8.When you have finished editing the profile, choose Locked to prevent changes.
PDF/X Files and Adobe Creative Suite 3
9.Click Summary to display a summary of the errors the profile will identify.
View a summary of the profile’s criteria.
10. Click Save. Acrobat adds the preflight profile to the list.
Automating the preflight process
You can use preflight droplets to preflight multiple files at a time to verify that they comply with
the PDF/X standard and any other requirements specified in your preflight profile.
To create a preflight droplet in Acrobat 8 Professional:
1.Choose Advanced > Preflight.
2.Choose Create Preflight Droplet from the Options menu in the Preflight dialog box.
Choose Create Preflight Droplet from the Options menu.
PDF/X Files and Adobe Creative Suite 3
3.In the Preflight: Droplet Setup dialog box, choose the preflight profile to use.
Set up a preflight droplet to automate preflighting.
4.Specify where to move each PDF file if it meets the preflight criteria (Success folder) or if
Acrobat identifies errors during preflight (Error folder). You can also create reports for
successful and failed files.
5.Click Save.
6.Name the droplet and specify a location for it (usually the desktop).
To use a droplet, just drag individual PDF files onto the droplet icon.
Best practices for creating valid PDF/X files
Start by asking your print provider or publisher which PDF preset to use when creating the
PDF/X file, and which preflight profile to use to confirm that the file meets your requirements.
Your print provider or publisher may provide you with custom PDF presets and preflight profiles.
Creating a valid PDF/X file requires certain settings, as described in “About PDF/X file contents”
on page 3. For best results, follow these guidelines when creating PDF/X files from CS3 components
and Acrobat 8 Professional.
Before converting files created in InDesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop to PDF/X, do the following:
• Verify that all the fonts used in the document are available on the system. All fonts
must be embedded.
• Make sure that links to images are current, and update links to high-resolution
images. You do not want to flatten transparency on low-resolution images.
• Make sure that all images are in the correct color mode: for PDF/X-1a files, CMYK
or spot colors; for PDF/X-3 or PDF/X-4 file, RGB colors if color profiles are included,
Lab, or CMYK mode.
PDF/X Files and Adobe Creative Suite 3
• Specify the appropriate image resolution for the final output device. PDF/X standards
do not require a minimum image resolution. However, you can create a custom PDF
settings file with a policy that warns you or cancels the job when image resolution is
below a specified level; see “Creating a custom preflight profile” on page 14.
• Confirm that the mechanical specifications, such as bleed and trim values, are
correct. The CS3 components automatically define the page geometry (MediaBox,
ArtBox or TrimBox, and the BleedBox values) for digital output; Distiller recognizes these values. If you’re creating a PDF/X from a non-CS3 application using
the Adobe PDF printer, and the BleedBox has not been specified, you can set it in
Distiller, equal to the MediaBox. You can also define these boxes manually using the
Acrobat 8 Crop Box feature.
Before converting files created in Acrobat 8.0 to PDF/X, do the following:
• Be sure to preflight any PDF files whose originating software is unknown. (For
example, a client may have supplied a PDF 1.6 file with live transparency.) If preflighting reports transparency that the PDF/X format can’t support, you must flatten
the transparency in Acrobat 8 before conversion. To flatten transparency, in Acrobat
8, choose Advanced > Print Production > Flattener Preview; choose the High
Resolution flattener preset, and click Apply. Then convert the file to PDF/X.
• If you are converting a PDF whose originating software is unknown, make sure that
the file includes a title. In Acrobat, choose File > Properties; click the Description tab
in the Document Properties dialog box, enter a title, and click OK.
• If you plan to run a PDF/X fixup to have Acrobat automatically apply the required
PDF/X settings, first make a backup copy of the file; run the fixup on this backup
copy. A fixup permanently changes a file.
On converting files to PDF/X, for best results, do the following:
• Use PDF/X-4 or other PDF formats that maintain live transparency. Adobe recommends that designers not flatten transparency, but rather leave that to the print
service provider. If flattening is required, use the High Resolution flattener preset;
converting to PDF/X-1a or PDF/X-3 automatically uses this preset. See “A Designer’s
Guide to Transparency for Print Output” at www.adobe.com/studio/print/ for more
• For PDF/X-1a, select Convert Color To Destination and set the destination to CMYK.
PDF/X-3 and PDF/X-4 support color management, so the color settings may differ.
• Set the trapping status.
• Specify a default output intent to use if one is not defined. An output intent is required.
PDF/X Files and Adobe Creative Suite 3
Additional resources
Be sure to use the online Help in Acrobat 8.0 Professional for detailed information and
instructions on how to use the features covered in this guide.
To learn more about the PDF/X standard, PDF/X workflows, and tools that support
PDF/X documents, visit the following sites:
CS3 Printing Guide (www.adobe.com/studio/print/) contains information, including
step-by-step procedures, for preflighting files, handling transparency, and printing
from Adobe Creative Suite 3 components.
PDF/X Resources, Tools, and Links (www.pdfx.info). This privately maintained site
provides information about PDF/X technology and resources.
“A Designer’s Guide to Transparency for Print Output” (www.adobe.com/studio/
print/). Learn how to use transparency effectively for the best print results from
Adobe Creative Suite.
“The Ultimate PDF/X Guide” (www.ipa.org/ProdServ/PDFX.php3). This PDF document
offers detailed information about the PDF/X standard and creating valid PDF/X files.
European Color Initiative (www.eci.org). The European Color Initiative provides
information about using color management in PDF/X-3 files.
PlanetPDF (www.planetpdf.com). Search the PlanetPDF site for articles about PDF/X,
including “A Look Under the Hood of a PDF/X File” and “From PDF to PDF/X.”
DDAP (Digital Distribution of Advertising from Publications) (www.pdf-x.com).
The DDAP created this site to focus on PDF/X information and developments in its
ISO (International Organization for Standardization) (www.iso.ch). Search for “PDF/X”
for technical information about the PDF/X standards.
NPES (The Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing, and Converting
Technologies) (www.npes.org/standards/cgats.html). NPES is acting as secretariat for
ISO technical committee 130, which develops the PDF/X standard.
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