OS X only makes bitmap PDFs
June 20, 2006 7:05 AM   Subscribe

When I make a PDF from any application in OS X (10.3.x), they come out pixelated. Much like the steering well in the pirate's pants, it's driving me nuts.

Whenever I PDFify a file in OS X -- definitely Illustrator 10, and I think from Pages as well -- I get a very high-rez bitmap image instead of vectors. At first I thought it was just Illustrator -- something to do with "output resolution" -- but I believe I tested it in other vector apps and had the same problem.

I'm not in front of my computer right now -- well, not in front of that computer -- but I just realized that I'm going to have to send a PDF off on deadline this evening and I want it to be vectors, so I have to search to remember this and that. So if you have an Illustrator-specific solution, I'm happy to try that, but I think the problem is system-wide.
posted by blueshammer to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
No matter how many times you scan something, the big glaring errors ("steering well") always get past you.
posted by blueshammer at 7:06 AM on June 20, 2006

How are you making the PDFs? Using one of Adobe's printer drivers from the full version of Acrobat? Exporting from Illustrator? Using OS X's built in "Print to PDF" function?
posted by bcwinters at 7:15 AM on June 20, 2006

Yes; in every case I'm printing, and selecting "Print to PDF" instead of a printer.
posted by blueshammer at 7:32 AM on June 20, 2006

Do you own any other Adobe applications? If you have Acrobat or at least InDesign you should have other PDF generation options available to you--for example, you could place your Illustrator document onto an InDesign page and then export a PDF. You'd have a lot more control over compression, font embedding, etc.

Unfortunately I'm not much of an Illustrator user so I can't recall what other PDF options are available directly in that app: Export? Save As?. Personally, I wouldn't use Print to PDF for production work if it could be avoided.

Another, unrelated, thing that pops to mind: did you install 10.3 from scratch or was it an upgrade from 10.2 (or earlier)? The printing architecture in OS X changed a lot from version to version and I vaguely recall that I had some printing issues when I fiddled with CUPS in 10.2 and then upgraded to 10.3.
posted by bcwinters at 7:41 AM on June 20, 2006

It never occurred to me that the paths would yield different results. Apart from how fonts are imbedded, I've never really thought about what the different workflow issues would be. Vectors are vectors, CMYK colors are CMYK colors, etc. But clearly that's naive.
posted by blueshammer at 7:52 AM on June 20, 2006

In Illustrator, you should absolutely definitely use the built-in PDF output, rather than OS X's print to PDF feature.

I'm look at Illustrator 11 here, but 10 shouldn't be too different. If you go to File -> Save As..., and change the Format from 'Adobe Illustrator Document' to 'Adobe PDF', you'll get a native PDF straight out of Illustrator.
posted by chrismear at 8:04 AM on June 20, 2006

Are you SURE they are really pixelated? When Quartz makes the PDF, it embeds a low-res raster version; however, if you wait long enough or print the item, you should get the resolution-independent vector art.

For example - if you have illustrator, and you open these "pixelated" PDFs in it, what happens? Does editable vector art open up in Illustrator? If so, it's just a rendering problem - maybe you don't have enough ram, or your vram is somehow not being used correctly, etc. If it opens up as flattened raster art, then yeah, you have a very weird problem here, and as suggested above I'm sure it has something to do with the print drivers, because you're not using the Quartz or Adobe drivers.
posted by luriete at 9:27 AM on June 20, 2006

The PDFs I reopen in Illustrator are not editable. And yes, the problem shows up when I print -- that's how I noticed it. (It's a very high-rez raster, and you really have to crane your neck in to see the stairsteps.)
posted by blueshammer at 1:44 PM on June 20, 2006

So saving from Illo rather than printing did the trick. I'm glad it was a "duh" solution, I guess, although I don't know what's up with OS X.
posted by blueshammer at 7:55 AM on June 21, 2006

Illustrator isn't really a native application, as it's developed for windows too. It's not using OS X's nice Quartz drawing frameworks at all, it's doing nearly everything itself. It's probably not giving OS X's print frameworks vectors at all.

OS X's PDF creation frameworks are, IMHO, much better than Adobe's tools (at least for windows). But it can't make its usual flawless PDFs (if you set pdf as the screenshot format, all of the text are rendered as vectors!) out of high-res poop that Illustrator might be feeding it.
posted by blasdelf at 11:05 PM on June 21, 2006

In the print dialog, instead of choosing "Save as PDF..." choose "Save PDF as PostScript" This will allow you to retain your vectors.
posted by gwint at 8:30 AM on June 30, 2006

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