Preparing a PDF for printing

I have not made a layout for printing before.  The printing company requests a CMYK PDF which is scaled to the actual print size, with a 0.125" white margin on all sides, which they call a "bleed."  They also want crop marks, showing where the image must be trimmed.  I have found this difficult to accomplish with Acrobat 11 Pro.

At there are three files:  One is 8.5 x 6 inches, which is how the finished product should appear.  It will be folded in half.   Another file is 8.75 x 6.25 inches, consisting of the finished product surrounded by the 0.125"  bleed, or white margin.  However, I haven't succeeded in placing trim marks properly.  The third file has trim marks, but when I printed it to a file, most of the image information was lost, and the size reverted to 11 x 8,5".

I'd appreciate instructions on how to place trim marks on the 8.75 x 6.25 file, such that the white margin is maintained, the page size is maintained, and the trim marks indicate that the finished product is to be cropped so as to eliminate the marginal bleed area.  Also, please verify that the PDF files in that folder are CMYK.
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Dave BaldwinFixer of ProblemsCommented:
You should probably do this in Photoshop especially the conversion to CMYK.

And 2 times 6.25 is 12.5 which is not going to fit on 11.5.

In addition, you put a overly compressed JPG into that PDF and I can see the artifacts around the letters in the text.  It will show up in the printing.

You really should consider hiring someone to do this properly.  The details of doing this well can be more difficult than designing a web page.
Karl Heinz KremerCommented:
DO NOT DO THIS IN PHOTOSHOP! This will render your document into an image, and you will lose the platform independence that PDF offers.

Acrobat XI Pro does allow you to convert colors. However, your print shop should be able to work with what you have. Based on your question, I assume that you don't have a background in printing, which is not surprising, not a lot of people have. This is why good print shops do this kind of work for you. Unless you are a designer who is working with this stuff every day, you should not have to know how to convert colors (that's why this tool is hidden under the "Print Production" tools), and you should also not have to know what a bleed is and how to create it.

I can teach you (but that will take a while). My suggestion is that you look for a different printer that does this kind of work for you.

If you want instructions, let me know.
Dave BaldwinFixer of ProblemsCommented:
Since you can save a PSD project in Photoshop PDF, that isn't very good advice.  And it will still be readable on any platform that is supported by Adobe PDF.  If you're not saving a copy of the original, you're kind of sabotaging future editing anyway.  I have successfully sent quite a few things to the printer in Photoshop PDF format.

But if you're going to help him, you should also recommend that he start with better source material, especially the text, because that overcompressed JPG is not going to look good when it is printed.
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ddantesAuthor Commented:
Thank you both for commenting.  

khkremer:  You're quite right, I have never done a print layout before.  This project is for producing gift cards for a local church's new gift shop, and my wife & I are contributing the first run of 250 cards.  The printing vendors we have interviewed are very helpful, but they charge extra if they must create the layout.  By the time you add up the printing cost, envelopes, and polypropylene sleeves to display them, the unit cost approaches what the gift shop could charge for them!  So I'm trying to economize by performing the layout.  I'm retired, and have the time and interest to learn.  As to whether I have the aptitude to learn, that's another question!

If you're willing to teach me, I'd appreciate it.  The card may go through some changes over time, or prior to the next run, and I'd like to be able to maintain the project without needing a professional to revise the layout each time.  I have Acrobat 11 Pro, Paint Shop Pro, and an application which resizes a PDF page, preserving the file size.

Regarding source material, the original text is in Word format, and I'm willing to do whatever I can to produce a cleaner rendition of the text.
Dave BaldwinFixer of ProblemsCommented:
First thing is minimize compression when you are printing to the PDF writer.  Use lossless compression if it is available to you.  Yes the file size will be larger but for printing you should not worry about that.  On a web page you would want to keep the file size down but not in printing.  You want as much detail as you can get because printing will show much finer details than a computer monitor.
Karl Heinz KremerCommented:
I finally was able to take a look at the documents you've attached.

Dave is right, make sure that you have the best possible source files. The text on the left side is an image too. You mentioned that it started out as a Word document, so I would assume to see "real" text, and not a rendered image of that text. You should definitely correct that. It will actually make your file smaller, but you will get better quality. The interesting thing is that you have plenty of resolution in your original file, but somewhere along the lines, you've lost that.

There is one other problem with your document - it has way too much white space around the page. When you bring up the page thumbnail pane on the left, then right-click on the page and select "Crop", you get the crop dialog that shows the "media box" and in it the "crop box" (and other potential boxes). As you can see, the "media box" is huge, and the crop box is cutting out a certain piece that you can actually see. It would be much easier if the media box would be closer to the size of the document. This should be the case when you create the document with Acrobat.

When you converted your Word file to PDF, how did you do that? The preferred way is to use the "PDFMaker" icon on the Word toolbar. When you do that, you should get a nice and clean PDF file.

I've created a file for you that has no additional white space around the crop box

Load that file and bring up the crop dialog again. Now we add the white space we need:
At the bottom you'll see  a "Change Page Size" group. Select "Custom", and then specify the correct new size (8.75x6.25"), and make sure that "Center" is checked. Apply by clicking OK.

Go back into the crop dialog and select the trim box. Make sure that you have your 0.125" margins for top, bottom, left and right.

With the trim marks, we have a problem: Your printer specified a page size that is too small to actually add trim marks using Acrobat's printer marks feature.

Let's assume you would have added 0.5 around the page (final page size 9.5x7), you would select Tools>Print Production>Add Printer Marks. Print Production may not be shown, if you don't see it, select View>Tools>Print Production.

On the Add Printer Marks dialog, select only "Trim Marks", and select OK. You may have to check with your printer to see if they can deal with layers, if not, then you should uncheck "embed printer marks with layers". If you don't know if they support layers, then just uncheck this setting.

As you can see, the marks don't show up when you only have a 0.125" white "border".

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ddantesAuthor Commented:
Thank you for taking time to details those instructions, which are easy for a beginner to comprehend.  After working with your example, I uploaded a revised template, at

I used the Add Text tool to recreate the text.  However, it went through some file format changes (PDF -- PNG -- PDF) in order to incorporate the new text section into a single page with the photo.  Thanks to both Experts for encouraging me to improve the text quality.

I added the .125" white margin, but am still having trouble with the Trim Marks overlapping the artwork.  Any suggestions?

Two other questions.  The file size is quite reduced, compared with the original.  To my eye, an inkjet printout appears indistinguishable from the larger file.  Do you think this file will print acceptably?   As to the colors, I don't know whether they are CMYK or RGB.  I don't have Photoshop or an equivalent application, and am not sure how the colors on my monitor will appear when printed.
Karl Heinz KremerCommented:
You can find out what color space an object is in by using the "Output Preview" (Tools>Print Production>Output Preview). There is a control named "Preview" about half way down the dialog. Set this to "Object Inspector", then click on different objects. It will show you what color space is used for the different objects. Your old document is a CMYK document, the new one is RGB.

Why are you using this PDF/PNG/PDF trip? This is what is destroying your text (and potentially changing color spaces, adding rendering artifacts, ...) It's not doing anything good for your PDF file. This may also be the reason why your file size is reduced, and this usually also means image degradation.

You need to create the PDF file out of Word without any further operation. Anything you do after that needs to be done in Acrobat.
ddantesAuthor Commented:
Thank you for your comments.  I put that file through the format changes because of inexperience with Acrobat -- not knowing how to make changes to a page in that application.  It didn't occur to me to start over, creating a new file in Word.  A professional photographer using Photoshop provided me with the original pdf, so I wasn't involved in the inception process.

I'll start over with Word and then post again.
ddantesAuthor Commented:
Sorry to say, I had too much difficulty trying to create a two-column Word document, with the photo on the right, text on the left, and a background color for the text.  But I was able to start with a blank pdf, add the photo, and create text in Acrobat, instead of using an image of text.  Hopefully this represents an improvement.
Dave BaldwinFixer of ProblemsCommented:
That is Much better.
Karl Heinz KremerCommented:
Almost there... The problem now is that the document contains RGB data and not CMYK. However, your printer should be able to process that file without any problems. If they insist on CMYK, they are behind the times. But, there is an easy way to convert the whole document to CMYK: Select File>Save As Other>Press Ready PDF (PDF/X) - this will create a press ready file that confirms to the ISO standard 15930, and any modern press equipment should be able to deal with that.

For the future, you would not do a two-column layout in Word. Instead, add a text box on the left, and then add the image on the right.
ddantesAuthor Commented:
Great info, thank you for those details.  Converting to CMYK messes up the background color, turning it pink, so the printing company agreed to use the RGB version.
I've seen a proof from the printer, and it looks fine, except for ink chipping off of the "spine" where the card is folded.  The proof wasn't folded, and I think they have a method of creasing the card stock which avoids that issue.
You've been a great help.
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