PDF maker
August 23, 2010 2:27 PM   Subscribe

How can I create a high-quality but small file sized, multi-page PDF? I am assembling a design portfolio and have access to Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Bridge and Indesign.

Although there are arguably better alternatives to sending your portfolio (making a website, hard copy, or uploading it to something like issuu) a lot of firms in my line of work still want a pdf you can email.

So far, I've been creating my multi-page PDFs through Adobe Bridge. Unfortunately, if you want the PDF to be <25MB (so you can send it through email) you sacrifice a lot in quality. The next level up becomes too big of a file.

Illustrator has a limit on how many pages you can turn to PDF. I think Indesign has an option to make pdfs but I don't really know how to use Indesign.

Any suggestions?
posted by pulled_levers to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What is your source material? If it's high-resolution bitmaps, you have no choice but to expect a large file when putting them into a PDF unless you reduce the images' resolution or quality. If it's vector images made in Illustrator, they can be very, very small in a PDF.
posted by zsazsa at 2:33 PM on August 23, 2010

I'm not too familiar with InDesign either, I do almost everything in Illustrator. forgive me if this is obvious, but you know there's an export setting on PDFs to [Smallest File Size], right? you can go under the Compression tab to mess with the settings and change how images get downsized.

if that compresses things too much, another option might be to link to the pdf (or zip file) inside the email, instead of attaching the pdf itself. do you have a web server you could throw it on? or use a service like YouSendIt?
posted by wundermint at 2:45 PM on August 23, 2010

You can also install CutePDF. The program creates a PDF printer that you can use in any program. Try to print directly from your various programs to a PDF. This tosses out all the vector goodness of converting from one of those programs to PDF and just gives the end result. You lose the ability to convert the PDF back into an editable form but for sending out that's probably better.
posted by msbutah at 3:27 PM on August 23, 2010

Indesign makes it super easy. Command-E (on the Mac) and you're good to go. The settings are logically labeled; just try it and see how big the files are, then adjust accordingly.
posted by bink at 3:32 PM on August 23, 2010

InDesign, like Illustrator has a [Smallest File Size] setting in the PDF export. I can't say if Illustrator has equally good control of the export process, but in InDesign you can set a DPI to which all of the images will be resampled (under File > Export... > Compression) when you export to PDF. So you can decided to output the PDF at 150dpi or 72 or 600 and compare filesizes/quality.

Sidenote; it's kind of silly that people want you to email this shit, you should really be able to put up a PDF on the web somewhere and send them a link. Email is pretty much the worst way to send this kind of data.
posted by beerbajay at 3:33 PM on August 23, 2010

Response by poster: @zsazsa: A lot of the images are scanned so they should be raster images.....Often I edit/compile my page in Photoshop and then I drag it over to Illustrator to add text. I guess whatever I zip over to Illustrator becomes vector images, but I still have the same problem in the end.

@wundermint: Illustrator has a limit to creating a multi-page PDF. It's great for single pages though. Adobe Bridge should have that option to change the settings and I'll try that if there are no other available options. As for attaching a link to the pdf...I guess I should clarify: the problem with a large file size isn't so much an email problem as it is a downloading time problem. I don't want to send a portfolio that requires a lot of download time, because then, it just becomes annoying to have to wait for it.
posted by pulled_levers at 3:37 PM on August 23, 2010

Do you not also have access to Acrobat (Standard or Pro)? I only ask because it seems like if you have Ps, Ai, and Id, you would also get Acrobat. And Acrobat gives you some options for managing the filesize of a multi-page PDF (as well as the Acrobat PDF print driver, which is a helpful way to generate smallish PDFs)
posted by misterbrandt at 3:39 PM on August 23, 2010

pulled_levers: "I guess whatever I zip over to Illustrator becomes vector images, but I still have the same problem in the end."

No. Raster images are raster images.

You should be doing all of this in InDesign, especially if you're having trouble exporting from Illustrator; InDesign is built to do multi-page PDF exports. The text tools are super simple if you've used Photoshop.
posted by beerbajay at 3:41 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, you should be doing this in InDesign, and it is really not that difficult, if you already know basic Illustrator and basic Photoshop.
posted by leigh1 at 4:04 PM on August 23, 2010

Everybody already beat me to it... But... Yeah. Nthing InDesign.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 4:51 PM on August 23, 2010

Rules for smaller Pdfs
1. Lower your image resolution - most monitors are 96 dpi, go at most 200. Really think in terms of the number of pixels in any given image.
2. Use jpeg2000 compression if you can live with off v 1.6
3. Put as much text in as honest to goodness text and not rasterized text layers.
4. Keep number of fonts to a minimum and make sure you are embedding font subsets.
5. Try to do backgrounds with real gradient//patterns and not with pixels.
posted by plinth at 5:53 PM on August 23, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks all. I will try to do it in inDesign--the only reason I haven't so far is because I don't have it installed in my laptop, but I will have access to it on one of the computers in my school. If everything goes smoothly I'll come back to mark this question as resolved.
posted by pulled_levers at 6:26 PM on August 23, 2010

If you do have access to full Acrobat, give it a run it through Distiller.
posted by sageleaf at 7:38 PM on August 23, 2010

there are lots of issues to consider. the points below are not universally applicable but should be true for you.
1. vectors are always smaller than raster (bitmap) images. once you convert a vector to bitmap, you can't go back. make sure your workflow is not flattening vectors to bitmap.
2. text should be stored as embedded font subsets, not as raw vectors or (shudder) bitmaps.
3. you need to know if people will only be viewing on-screen, or printing it out. If only on-screen, your pdf should downsample all bitmaps to 100-200 dpi. If for printing, 300.
4. illustrator is not for photos or page layout, it's for vector graphics and minimal text. photoshop is not for graphics or text, it's for photos. indesign is not for graphics or photos, it's for page layout, text, and publishing.
5. Acrobat pro has some additional features beyond the indesign pdf export, but the indesign PDF export is pretty good. Just keep tweaking the settings to find out what works.
6. If you can get a copy of acrobat, then export from indesign on the highest settings, and then optimize through acrobat's "reduce file size" and "optimize PDF" tools.
7. how many pages is your portfolio? With a mix of photos, graphics and text, I think it's unlikely you'll get down to less than 1 MB per page at print resolution. If you have more than 25 pages, start looking at other options.
posted by Chris4d at 11:56 AM on August 24, 2010

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