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How Can I Avoid PDF Printing Problems?

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Preflighting PDF files in Acrobat software should alert you to potential issues before actually printing the documents. In many cases, the problems can even be corrected. Both Adobe Acrobat 8.0 Professional and Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro software have preflight tools available to detect and correct common errors. While using Adobe Acrobat software can fix a good majority of PDF issues, it cannot fix every problem. As we have seen, there are just too many variables involved in PDF creation that affect printing.


One of the easiest ways to avoid a large majority of PDF printing problems is to use the PDF/X standard. PDF files can be easily created in or converted to the PDF/X standard using Adobe Acrobat software (and many third party applications). The PDF/X standard is supported by Adobe PostScript 3 software and most third party processing software when using the direct PDF printing method. It was designed for the exchange of print-ready pages in the graphic arts and prepress world. PDF/X-1a and PDF/X-3 are two versions of this standard. Either one should work well, but Canon Solutions America recommends using PDF/X-3 when possible.

The PDF/X standard requires that all fonts be embedded, appropriate PDF bounding boxes be specified, color be correctly defined and it eliminates transparency issues. Using PDF/X eliminates the most common errors in file preparation: missing fonts, color space issues, missing images, page box problems, and overprinting and trapping issues.

The PDF/X standard doesn't support transparency. So, the flattening is done when the PDF/X file is created. The result is that the PDF/X file generally processes more quickly than PDF files that contain transparency. It properly defines all page box settings. And because PDF/X encapsulates all the required page elements, such files generally have less printing issues. The one disadvantage is the file size can sometimes be larger than other PDF versions. When problems occur during the printing of a PDF file, the first course of action should be to convert it to PDF/X-3.

The PDF/X standard can also be set as a default for creating PDF files in Adobe products and other PDF generators. Standardizing on PDF/X may provide more consistent and reliable output with your printer or software.

There are many other preflighting tools available in Adobe Acrobat software that can correct printing problems. If the issues cannot be corrected, it should alert you to potential trouble. At the very least, you'll know there is a problem before printing and disturbing the documents.


Not all PDF files are the same. There are countless variables that influence how a PDF file is created and how it will print. As the popularity of the PDF file format increases in the AEC market, reprographers will need to be better equipped to handle their complexities. Understanding the issues is a good first step.

To learn more about PDF Printing, download the Free PDF Printing Explained White Paper.

PDF Printing Explained for the AEC Market - Tips and Tricks to Optimize Your PDF Files for Printing

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