As a graphic designer, we have to be flexible in how we do things, because everyone that we work with- clients, freelancers, printers, etc., have their own ways of doing things. As a designer it is often asked of us to send a proof to the client so that they can see what their product looks like. Another scenario is that we might be creating an e-version of a book for a client for sale on the web. If you are working in InDesign, a great solution for creating small files that can be sent via email is to convert your work to a PDF.

In the example, I have a sample page of my upcoming e-book, set to print resolution. I will walk through how to convert the file to a PDF so that you can view it at full resolution, and I will create a small web version that is quick to email and has a small file size.


As you can see, I have the file set up with 1/8th of an inch guides all the way around, to leave room for printing, and since this will be a right-side page, I left room on the left side for gutter space, so that the text wouldn’t get lost in the center of the book. There are 2 ways to convert your InDesign Document to a PDF. One is to go to File> Adobe PDF Presets> and then choose the one that suits your purposes. The other method is to go to File> Export> and when the dialog box comes up, under format you can choose either PDF(print) or PDF(interactive) which contains live links and interactive elements.

Go to the options under PDF Presets. These are broken down to make it easy to create a PDF for the right purpose. The options you want to pay attention to are High Quality Print, Press Quality, and Smallest File Size.


High Quality Print

High quality print is obviously for printing purposes. This ensures the best quality for when you are printing your document for others to read. There are several options in the dialog box. Under General, you will decide which pages (if you have multiple pages in your InDesign Document), whether you will have individual pages stacked one right after the next, or whether you will have spreads of 2 pages at a time. For printing, I would choose pages if you are only printing certain pages, such as for an insert.


The other options are important as well. You can choose to embed page thumbnails, which isn’t necessary if the document is going to be printed, because they won’t show up on the print. You can view the PDF after export, and you can optimize the document for fast web view. You can change which layers of your Indesign document are exported. You can choose from visible or all layers. I would leave it as visible, because if you have hidden unwanted layers that may include objects or guidelines, they will export at print time, giving you undesired results. You can also include interactive elements such as bookmarks and hyperlinks, but you should leave those out at printing time.



Under compression, this is how you will decide what to downsample. This can reduce unnecessarily large file sizes, but be sure to never lower the downsample values below 300ppi for anything that is to be printed. Leave the image quality at maximum for print, so that you will have the best quality images as possible.

Marks and Bleeds

This entire section needs to be left unchecked, otherwise they will be embedded in your PDF for print, which is not desired. Otherwise, crop marks and bleed marks will show in your document.


This is another section that you want to leave alone and leave unchecked. You should have created the document already in CMYK mode, so there is no need to convert it to anything, unless there are special instructions from the printer, or the project is a special job with special inks, etc.


Advanced should be left alone under normal circumstances.



Security is an important section, especially if your project is secretive or is confidential in nature. Here you can set a password just to open the document, so if an email is intercepted by the wrong hands, they won’t be able to open it. You can also restrict actions to be accessible only via password. This will keep someone from printing or making changes to the document and printing it before you get paid for the job.

Summary does what you would think, and summarizes the settings that you’d chosen. The results of our export is shown below:


Smallest File Size

Smallest file size allows you to send super-fast emails and file transfers with small file sizes. The settings for a web PDF or small file size PDF are similar to a high quality print one. The only differences are what you want to include, and how low you want the downsampling resolution to be for your images. For downsampling under the Compression menu, if the file is simply going to be viewed on screen, you can downsample the images to 72ppi for anything above 72ppi. Since 72ppi is the normal resolution for most screens, this should be sufficient for viewing on a computer or mobile device. However, the exception is if your client or viewer might be using a device with a retina display. At 72ppi, it might be slightly blurry.

Another exception is if you have interactive elements, you will want to include those under the settings in the General section, so that viewers have access to links, buttons and interactive elements.


Being able to export your work as a PDF is an essential skill that will make life much easier. You can export your work as a High Quality Print so that you can create a proof similar to the one that will be printed professionally. Another great use is to create a low file-size PDF that you can easily email to a client, or place on the web. You can export your work as a small file size pdf and market it as an e-book. With a small file size, it will be quick to download and easy to open and read on many devices.