Saving An Illustrator File As A PDF

Portable Document Files can be read on any computer with Adobe Reader, a free program.


In a PDF file, your layout, illustrations, and type will look the way they did when you created your document.

Within PDF, there are several categories. In ART 280, you will use two.

SMALLEST FILE SIZE: to show people a low-res version of your work or for posting online.

PRESS QUALITY: for sending to a printer.

Once you have selected Save As and chosen PDF (at the bottom of the dialog box), you will go to a screen with a variety of options.

If you choose SMALLEST FILE SIZE, the default will be RGB and color illustrations saved at 100ppi, higher for grayscale, even higher for black and even higher for type so it is readable. Crop marks will not show. These default settings can be changed, but for these purposes, you don’t need to.

If you choose PRESS QUALITY, the default will be CMYK and illustrations saved at 300ppi.


When there is printed artwork that should print right up to the edge of the paper, you need to extend the art beyond the edge of the page. That is so if the paper moves in the press or is not cut exactly right, there will be some extra image to avoid white edges showing. The extra color is called a bleed.

For print, you need to retain  this color in your pdf. You also need to show the printer where to trim (cut) the printed piece. You do this by creating crop marks

After you have selected PRESS QUALITY, go to the Marks and Bleeds dialog box (left side of the pdf dialog box). Here there are three basic options:

  • If your document was created in the beginning with a bleed setting, you can now check “Trim Marks” and  “Use Document Bleed Settings.”
  • If  your document was not created with bleed settings, click on trim marks and fill in the bleeds at either .125 inches or
    9 points if you are working in picas and points.
  • If your document is not a square or rectangle, none of the crop marks or bleed settings should be active. Crop marks should be drawn into your document. The artwork should, of course, still bleed where necessary.