PDF Anomalies

I had a client with a recent PDF artwork problem. Usually PDF is a great way to share artwork across platforms, and more and more printers are preferring it. The problem is that PDF can be finicky. There are hundreds of PDF creators, distillers, and readers. Quite a few of them have quirks that don’t play well with each other. If created properly, PDF is great. On the other hand, there can be font issues, transparency loss, color matching problems, and much more.

My recently problem was with the client’s logo, which, only on their end, would print oddly, and inconsistently. My first thought was their reader, thinking it was either a non-Adobe reader, or not up-to-date. Turns out, that they are all up-to-date, and the issue had been replicated with another individual. The problem is that I could not replicate the issue. To this date, a vector PDF solution has not be found.

So what is the solution? Rasterize.

Rasterizing is the method where you convert vector to pixels. For example, converting an Adobe Illustrator line drawing to Adobe Photoshop. Whenever I create artwork where I am concerned with coloring matching or other PDF anomalies, I prefer to convert the artwork to CMYK TIFF. This way, what I see, is what the client gets from the printer. It allows me to verify color, trim, fonts, placement, and much more. There is no need to provide any additional embedded image, or be concerned with fonts, since the entire artwork is within a single flat file.

To solve the problem where printers exclusively prefer PDF, I bring the vector artwork into Adobe Photoshop to rasterize, then save as a Photoshop PDF.

Another recent example was with some business cards which used a brushed steel image as a background. The text was overlaid in white, with an Illustrator created drop shadow. An issue arose with the drop shadows, where thin white lines appeared around the drop shadows. Again, this did not show on the PDF I created, but once the cards were printed, it appeared. I converted the artwork to CMYK TIFF, and the cards were printed correctly, with the added bonus that the company’s trademark red color was vibrant and accurate.

So, when all else fails, rasterize.

This has been today’s Clarified Butter.