How do I achieve crisp text in a Photoshop PDF?
June 21, 2010 6:21 PM   Subscribe

How do I achieve crisp text in a Photoshop PDF, and how can I ensure that Photoshop-created type will come out OK when commercially printed?

This is actually a two-part question. Feedback welcome on one or both parts.

1. I'm creating a one-page press release to email to potential book reviewers and venues for readings. Of the various formats (doc, jpeg, PDF), PDF seems best for this purpose. I don't have InDesign, so I created the press release in Photoshop; the file has 8 layers and is mostly text (plus two images). After converting the file to PDF, I'm also hoping to add hyperlinks in Adobe Acrobat.

My question is how to save the file as a PDF while ensuring that the text can be clearly read on screen at any size, and also when printed out? If you could provide specific instructions for either Photoshop 7 or CS3, that would be very helpful (do I flatten any layers? What boxes do I check or uncheck?). Also, how do I ensure the file isn't enormous, and won't take tons of time to print out, while still maintaining a crisp, clear look?

2. I've created the front cover and spine of my book in Photoshop as well (I know, I know, Photoshop isn't good for type). The designer asked me to save the PSD file as a layered TIF and is planning to somehow add that to her InDesign layout of the back cover to send to the printer.

Is this going to work (i.e., will the type turn out OK?), and/or should I be sending her a flat TIF or a layered PDF or some other type of file? My main concern is that the printed book cover turns out exactly the same as I designed it on screen--no type shifting, and crisp, clear type.

*Bonus question: what is this message I keep getting in Photoshop when I open my PSD file? "Some text layers may need to be updated before they can be used for vector-based output. Do you want to update them now?" *

Thank you so much, type gurus! I've spent so much time online searching for answers but only seem to come up with conflicting information.
posted by roxie110 to Computers & Internet (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You're going about this the wrong way. Start by making the graphic for the book cover and let your designer do her thing to it and give you a tightened-down PDF file. Then write a press release in ordinary flat text and append the PDF with it.

Do not attempt to do the press release in Photoshop with live links. Nobody wants to receive one of those, even if you can somehow create it. It will be a huge file and some of your recipients will not be able to accept it, see it, etc. and it will annoy people.

The problem with the text layers is that fonts are missing. Either you started the file on a different computer, or you closed fonts between creating the file and reopening it. You will need to have the fonts open again on the box you're working on, and if you plan to send layers to your designer, she will need the fonts also.

*Bonus question: if you have a designer, why are you breaking your head on this yourself?
posted by zadcat at 6:29 PM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

My question is how to save the file as a PDF while ensuring that the text can be clearly read on screen at any size, and also when printed out?

Photoshop is not the tool for achieving this, because it is a raster based program and not designed to ensure clearly read type. Ask your designer to do it in Indesign, it should be easy.

Is this going to work (i.e., will the type turn out OK?), and/or should I be sending her a flat TIF or a layered PDF or some other type of file?

It may turn out...ok, but it won't be great, probably. Let your designer do the type in Indesign, using the graphics from Photoshop.

Quit doing type in Photoshop in you want clear, crisp type in the final product. Your questions here show that you're don't know what you're doing and you're probably going to screw it up. I don't mean to sound harsh, but if you have designer, why are you doing these things yourself?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:39 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm going to start by saying what I always say to this question, which is, "never set type in Photoshop."

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, some quick experimenting shows me that Photoshop CS3 will keep type as type so long as you don't flatten the layers. Got to File -> Save As... and select Photoshop PDF as the format. You'll probably want to de-select the "Layers" checkbox. (this is different from flattening the layers)

Select "Press Quality" from the Adobe PDF Preset drop-down menu at the top of the window and save your PDF. So long as you didn't flatten your layers, the type should remain crisp at any magnification.

Do what the designer has asked you to do, and trust her to know what she needs to get the job done.

Bonus Question
The type in the file you have opened has not been flattened, and therefore can be modified. PS is updating the font and character info to reflect the state of the fonts on your computer.

But yeah, I'm going to echo zadcat and say let your designer handle this.
posted by lekvar at 6:41 PM on June 21, 2010

Do what the designer has asked you to do, and trust her to know what she needs to get the job done.

Actually, ask for proofs from the printer, before they do the final printing, so you can ensure everything is as you want it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:46 PM on June 21, 2010

ask for proofs from the printer
Oh, yes, absolutely this. Speaking as a printer, designers screw up, and printers screw up. Ask for a hard proof, not a PDF proof.
posted by lekvar at 6:50 PM on June 21, 2010

Response by poster: I was trying to be concise, but I guess I need to provide more context.

Question 1: I'm creating the press release myself, and do not have InDesign. My only choices without getting new software are Photoshop or Word. Needless to say, Word is awful for design purposes. It seems there must be a way to get decent text results with a Photoshop PDF.

Question 2: I was assigned a designer for this book, which is being published by a reputable press, and she is one of the freelancers they use. The designer provided one set of cover mockups and they were awful. When I provided constructive feedback, she suggested I do the next round of mock-ups. I created a cover/spine design, it was approved by my editor, and the designer was supposed to copy it. In her "copy," she formatted the text differently than my version. When I told her I'd spent much time configuring the text, and wanted it exactly as shown, she suggested I provide a TIF file that she would bring into the InDesign file for the rest of the layout (both paperback and hardcover dust jacket). It was definitely not my first choice to create the text in Photoshop. I'm just doing damage control at the moment--my designer is either unwilling or incapable. (I did talk to another designer this weekend who says she could copy my text exactly in Illustrator, but files are meant to go to the printer this week, and I also don't have money to spend on this.)
posted by roxie110 at 6:51 PM on June 21, 2010

You could try Inkscape, which is an open source tool similar to InDesign.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 6:54 PM on June 21, 2010

Response by poster: I definitely am going to ask for a hard proof, not a digital proof, which would be useless to see what the cover will really look like.
posted by roxie110 at 6:55 PM on June 21, 2010

If the designer is asking you to do type in Photoshop, she sounds nutty.

What's the dpi and line screen of the final piece?

Nitpicking: inkscape is like Adobe illustrater, not indesign. Scribus is the free, open source page layout program, maybe try that for the type?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:13 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ugh, please don't do this. Press quality PDFs created in Photoshop are going to be too big to email, and you'll end up pissing off anyone you send it to. No one wants an unsolicited 10MB attachment in their email.

It's a press release. It should be set up in text only, in Notepad or in Word if you want to get fancy. It makes it easier for someone to copy and paste your information into whatever they're using it for. Copying text from a PDF is a pain in the ass. If you want to include a cover image of your book, include it as a separate PDF or JPEG.

May I see your press release and book cover? You can MeMail me a link if you don't want it public.
posted by MegoSteve at 7:22 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: DPI is 300; not sure what line screen means?

If I send a press release in Word, won't I have issues with layout if they don't have exactly the same versions of type? That sounds like a nightmare... plus PDFs are so common these days...
posted by roxie110 at 7:32 PM on June 21, 2010

Nitpicking: inkscape is like Adobe illustrater, not indesign. Scribus is the free, open source page layout program, maybe try that for the type?

You're correct - I wrote the wrong name. I meant to write Illustrator.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 7:33 PM on June 21, 2010

Can you save PDF from Word? There should be a button to do so.

Feel free to send me the pshop file if you like, email is in profile
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:47 PM on June 21, 2010

If you send a press release in PDF, nobody will open it.

I'm an author myself, and I create one nice looking release in Word, convert it to PDF, and send it to the printers. That's the release that goes via snail mail, or that I hand directly to booksellers. I also put this press release in my digital press kit for people to download from my website.

Digital press releases should be sent in the body of the e-mail. so you may as well just set it up as nicely as you can in a text format, and use that. You don't have to take my word for it, this guide from booksellers should do.
posted by headspace at 9:32 PM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

won't I have issues with layout if they don't have exactly the same versions of type?

I'm not familiar with Word, but PDFs have the option of imbedding the fonts used, either whole or a subset of used characters. So long as the font is embedded, it won't matter what fonts are on the viewer's system.

I know you're dead set on creating this PDF in PS, but I beg you to reconsider Word, and I say this as someone who hates Word.
posted by lekvar at 10:10 PM on June 21, 2010

Response by poster: To clarify, my press release is a bit more of a flyer than a conventional press release--it's a nicely designed sheet with cover image, descriptive blurb, endorsements, bio, and a small picture.

The Photoshop PDF turns out to be about 800K at "smallest file size" setting. On a quick experiment the Word PDF is only about 30K, so I do see your point. If I can stomach recreating the design with text boxes and other atrocities, that route does seem logical(although the graphics seem to come out horrible if a Word PDF is printed out).

But... let's say that headspace is right that no one will open an attachment, and I'm not going to go the opposite direction--a link to a web page (will anyone click a link, even if it's a gorgeous cover image?) . . . How could I create an email that is as nice-looking as a PDF? (Regular text isn't going to cut it; I want this to look good.) Would I need to use HTML?
posted by roxie110 at 11:18 PM on June 21, 2010

If the goal of a press release is for it to not just be read but referenced/quoted, you need to make it easy for your text to be copied. You need to make it as easy as possible for the recipient. If you're lucky and they're pressed for time and/or lazy, they will use the majority of your press release as an article. Or the whole thing. I'm not kidding. Copy and paste.

(For example, this is word-for-word from a press release that our current PR Manager wrote.)

How involved is the layout of your press release? Mine have a header (our logo), a footer (our address, phone, and accreditations), and standard Times New Roman text in the middle. You shouldn't have any problem between versions.
posted by radioamy at 11:23 PM on June 21, 2010

The purpose of the press release is the info, which is the type. You want to do this in Word. Especially as some people may cut and paste directly from the .doc or .pdf. If you have Acrobat Pro, you will have the option to export to PDF out of Word, although, with any fancy layout, a PDF may not cut and paste in the order you want it to. You want to make sure that your file info is correct such as title and author. If you want to get fancy, make a letterhead style image for the top (small file, please).

I'm going to add to this don't do it. Your files will be huge and your type will be fuzzy. Even in the best possible outcome, the engine driving the leading/kerning/line breaks in Photoshop isn't nearly as sophisticated as those in a true layout program. A real printer will probably consider a file like this as a step below a cover in Publisher, which ain't saying much. You are running the risk of packaging your precious book in a cover that makes it look like a two-bit piece of trash written and published by a complete hack. You want better for your baby. If you are worried about the designer fucking things up, I would lay out the thing as you want it in Photoshop, with the type and everything, keep it in layers, then ask her to copy it exactly. Keep in mind that you had better tell her what fonts you used and perhaps even send them along (copyrightbreakingbuteverybodydoesit). Also, said file will be frickin' huge and may need to be sent via an ftp server as it may be too big to send by email what with size limits and such. I would think a publisher with contractors would have an ftp option.

I am incredibly picky about design, which is why I became one, so I can understand your concern. Just realize that you may be your own worst enemy. Which is better, a boring layout that looks professional or a great layout that looks like it was hacked together?
posted by Foam Pants at 11:41 PM on June 21, 2010

Response by poster: Foam pants: As I said in an above note, I already tried having the designer copy my Photoshop cover in InDesign, and she was either incapable or unwilling, as her formatting turned out very different. When I asked her to fix it, she told me to give her a TIF from my Photoshop file. That's how this started. I didn't know until this weekend, researching something else, that there could be an issue with the type. The files are supposed to go to the printer this week. The layered TIF cover files I sent her via were quite large--maybe 20-30 megs.

I should reiterate that we're talking about just the front cover and the spine here, not back cover or flaps, which she has done in InDesign and will be fine. The only text is the title, my name, two informational lines on the front, and name/title/publisher name on the spine.
posted by roxie110 at 12:23 AM on June 22, 2010

Yeah, Scribus would be a good free way to do this (by just arranging the text in Scribus and doing everything else as a raster image imported from Photoshop.) That was actually the very first thing I thought of upon reading this AskMe when it was posted but I held my tongue in case there really was some kind of export-layer-to-vector functionality in Photoshop.
posted by XMLicious at 12:32 AM on June 22, 2010

Having seen a comp of the cover, there no reason when you shouldn't be able to give the designer a layered Photoshop or Tif file, tell her what font is used, and she could reset the type in Indesign to match the Photoshop files, turn off the type layers in Photoshop and then produce a print quality PDF using the art and Indesign set type. It would take 15-20 minutes top.

The designer is either ignorant, incompetent, doesn't care or is pissed 'cause you didn't like her design and doing little things to make sure what you did doesn't look that good. I'd mention this antics to the editor, because they're unprofessional and potentially damaging to sales of your book.

As to the press release, DO IT IN WORD. Let go of whatever controlling feeling you have about making it a beautiful masterpiece, that will inspire reviewers to fall in love with. Include, in the email, a high quality, print ready, CMYK JEPG (300 dpi, at least 8 inches wide or tall, whichever is shortest) version of the cover. That way the writer/editor can easily read the information and if they use it somewhere, they have good art they use with it. I can't tell you how many times we've had to choose between stories about writers and their new book and they one with good art included wins.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:49 AM on June 22, 2010

Seriously, my printable press release is gorgeous. Has my cover on it, my picture, the typography matches the typography on my book, has lovely little graphic elements- but it's solely for sending out postal mailers and handing to booksellers directly.

If the way the press release looks is most important to you, then I suggest hitting up Printrunner, getting your press release printed, and mailing it to booksellers.

You can't create an e-mail that looks as nice as a PDF. You could design it in HTML, but many people have HTML mail turned off. Thunderbird ships with HTML and graphics turned off. Gmail comes default with HTML turned off.

So you'd be mailing those people a bunch of garbled garbage that they can't immediately see when they open the e-mail. A nicely spaced text press release will be clean and easily read by everyone.

I understand the desire to be BRANDING AWESOME and TOTALLY GORGEOUS. But I've been working on author marketing for three years now, and there are some places where readability trumps all else. Your digital press release is one of them.
posted by headspace at 9:51 AM on June 22, 2010

The designer is either ignorant, incompetent, doesn't care or is pissed 'cause you didn't like her design and doing little things to make sure what you did doesn't look that good. I'd mention this antics to the editor, because they're unprofessional and potentially damaging to sales of your book.

I don't want to dump on someone who can't respond directly, but from what you said above, roxie110, this sounds pretty accurate. Sadly, as you said, you're up against a deadline, so your best bet is to give her what she's asked for and make good and sure that she's not involved with your next project.
posted by lekvar at 11:44 AM on June 22, 2010

Response by poster: OK, I am definitely hearing that a Photoshop PDF is not the way to go for a press release/informational flyer, and that a Word PDF may not be the way to go either, since it's quite possible no one will open it (except contacts I know personally), and HTML isn't reliable either, because people may just end up getting gobbledygook. I will look into what I can do with just plain text, with perhaps a cover JPEG that COULD be clicked on to go to a gorgeously designed online page, should someone be moved to actually click on something. :)
posted by roxie110 at 12:58 PM on June 22, 2010


There are supposedly ways to do crisp type in Photoshop, but I can't swear by them and haven't used them professionally.

Here's a tip

Don't flatten the layers, if you do the type won't be flat (i.e. vector).

Don't not use fake bold or italics, i.e. don't click the bold or italic option in Photoshop for the type.

Here's the official documentation about it from CS3:
Print vector data

If an image includes vector graphics, such as shapes and type, Photoshop can send the vector data to a PostScript printer. When you choose to include vector data, Photoshop sends the printer a separate image for each type layer and each vector shape layer. These additional images are printed on top of the base image, and clipped using their vector outline. Consequently, the edges of vector graphics print at the printer’s full resolution, even though the content of each layer is limited to the resolution of your image file.

Choose File > Print.
Choose Output from the pop‑up menu.
Select the Include Vector Data option.
If necessary, you can select an encoding algorithm (ASCII, ASCII85, Binary, or JPEG) from the Encoding pop‑up menu. This allows you to choose the way the data is saved and how much disk space it requires. If Include Vector Data is dimmed, your image doesn’t contain vector data.
Click Print.
Note: If you get a warning that your image is larger than the printable area of the paper, click Cancel, choose File > Print, and select the Scale To Fit Media box. To make changes to your paper size and layout, click Page Setup, and attempt to print the file again.
Again, I've never tried this professionally and am leery of it, but hey, it just might work.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:09 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Agree with Brandon Blatcher and lekvar. This would not be difficult in InDesign.

You know, if you have a Mac, it should be pretty easy to convert to PDF from Word. Just save as PDF.
posted by radioamy at 2:19 PM on June 22, 2010

Response by poster: Some follow-up... I haven't drafted a press release email yet, but I have with much aggravation reconstructed my Photoshop press release flyer in Word, and created a PDF from that file--it is far smaller and posts really well online (as opposed to the monster Photoshop PDF file)... I've added a couple hyperlinks, and it looks great. Thank you for insisting I use Word!

The files have now gone to the printer--with layered TIFs for the covers. We'll see if that ends up a nightmare or not.

I still have yet to figure out how to approach the emailed press release, but I'll work on that. I'm thinking of just plain text with a JPEG of the cover that's hyperlinked to the full PDF release posted online. That way they can click if they want, and the PDF can be printed out as well.
posted by roxie110 at 11:40 PM on June 29, 2010

Response by poster: Follow-up on printing... as I feared, the type on the front covers is pretty atrocious. We'll see what happens from here!
posted by roxie110 at 12:55 PM on July 5, 2010

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