How to create a print-ready PDF

When you write your book on a computer, a file is created. If using MS Word, the file format will be a .doc or .docx file. If you’re using InDesign, it will likely be an .indd file. The program you choose, will determine the file type.

Your printing company likely has all of these programs, so then why do they always ask for a PDF? 
The simple answer: PDFs are like images, they don’t incorrectly map fonts, louse up spacing, margins, and other crucial formatting. They are universal — not dependent on software, hardware, or operating systems. 

Book Printing – Print Ready File Requirements 

Before we create a PDF, it will be important to understand the print-ready settings. 
In this post, I am going to focus on our file requirements. Although they are very universal, there is a small chance they won’t match every book-printer’s specifications — so always check with your printing company first.

Image Resolution

You’ll want to make sure that your images are at least 300dpi (dots per inch). When outputting to a PDF, you’ll need to confirm that the program you’re using is not compressing the images. 

Color Space

You’ll want to make sure the color of your images (e.g. book cover) matches closely to what you see on your screen. Always confirm your images are already using CMYK and not RGB. 

Trim Lines / Crop Marks

Trim lines (aka crop marks) indicate where to trim the page. Great for design, they should NOT be included in your print-ready PDF files. Make sure to turn them off before exporting your final PDF, otherwise there is a good chance the marks will appear as dark lines in the corners of your pages.

Bleed Lines

When a page has elements that touch the edge of the paper, leaving no white margin, it’s considered a bleed. Those pages are printed oversize and then cut down to achieve the bleed. 
A print-ready PDF must include the bleed if you have content that extends to the edge of the page. A file that does not include that extra 0.125” will still be printed with the bleed margin but will instead include a thin white border.


Using uncommon or paid fonts can present a number of problems, especially if your printing company does not have or own those fonts.
You absolutely need to embed all fonts into your file!
The process for embedding fonts varies by program. An easier way to ensure fonts are included is to create your PDF and then check it in Adobe Acrobat Reader — a free program you likely already have installed on your computer. If not, click here to grab it for free. 
  1. Open your file in Acrobat Reader
  2. Look under File > Properties > Fonts
  3. If you see, “Embedded Subset”, that indicates the font has been embedded properly. 

How to make a print-ready PDF

Now that you’ve learned about the print-ready requirements, let’s look at various programs to see how to create them.
Microsoft Word – Mac/iOS
1. Choose File menu, click Print, and then click Save As PDF.
2. In the Save As box, type a name for the file.
3. Locate the folder and disk where you want to save the file, and then click Save.
Microsoft Word – PC/Windows
1. Choose File Print
2. Select “Adobe PDF” as the printer
3. Under Properties
4. Select: “Press Quality” for Default Setting
5. Uncheck “Rely on system fonts only; do not use document fonts”
6. Select the appropriate size
Adobe InDesign
1. Choose File > Export.
2. Specify a name and location for the file.
3. For “Save As Type” (Windows) or “Format” (Mac OS), choose “Adobe PDF”, and then click Save.
4. Choose Adobe PDF Preset “Press Quality”
5. Then select the following options: Under “Marks and Bleeds” select a. crop marks b. bleed (.125”)
6. Click Export (Windows) or Save (Mac OS).
Adobe Illustrator
1. Choose File > Save As or File > Save A Copy
2. Specify a name and location for the file.
3. Choose Adobe PDF (*.PDF) as the file format and click Save
4. Choose Adobe PDF Preset “Press Quality”
5. Then select the following options: Under “Marks and Bleeds” select 
  • a. crop marks
    b. bleed (.125”)
6. Click Export (Windows) or Save (Mac OS).
Adobe Photoshop
1. Choose File > Save As, and then choose Photoshop PDF from the Format menu.
2. Click Save. In the Save Adobe PDF dialog box, choose an Adobe PDF preset specifying whether the Photoshop file will be printed on a desktop printer or proofer, sent to a commercial printer, distributed by email, displayed on the web, and so on. For details, see Adobe PDF presets.
3. Choose Adobe PDF Preset “Press Quality”
4. Click Export (Windows) or Save (Mac OS).