PDF Print

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Preparing PDFs for Printing

The great majority of print production for books, articles and magazines has moved to purely digital printing. For some publications the document creation software used can generate output PDFs specifically designed for printing multiple pages on a single large sheet, and these are then folded and/or cut to produce the printed book etc. This approach optimizes the number of sheets to be printed (particularly important for some multi-color publications). However, for Print-on-demand (POD) publications, which includes both professional (industrial-scale) print operations, and for office and home-based printing, output should always be designed for single page formatting (also known as 1-up pagination). End users and print shops can then print single or double-sided from this generated PDF.

Recommended settings

Recommended general settings for digital printing are as shown below - detailed recommendations are discussed after these general recommendations:

  • Single page per PDF page
  • Embedded fonts (see detailed specification documents below for more information on font embedding)
  • Omit any crop, registration or other printer marks (crop pages to reveal just the page to be printed)
  • if the output is designed for double-sided printing which will be bound, use larger margins on the left of odd pages and the right of even pages (when printed) and include blank pages to ensure the layout of odd and even pages is exactly as you want it to look. It is usual to ensure the total page count of the interior of publications is an even number, adding a blank page or blank pages where necessary.
  • Text should be at least 12.5mm (0.5in) from the edge of the page (see further, below)
  • Avoid text and images that extend right to the edge of the page, as many devices will not print to the edge of the page but have a small "no print" area (3-5mms wide)
  • Use standard page sizes, even if this requires the PDF page to be embedded within a large "canvas" - the most common example overall page size for office/home printing would be A4 or US Letter
  • Any pages that include line drawings or other lines (e.g. table borders, horizontal lines etc., should ensure the lines are at least 0.125pt width - Adobe Acrobat includes an option to "Fix hairlines" (fine lines) by detecting any lines less than a user-specified width (e.g. less than 0.1in) and replacing these with lines of a user-specified width
  • Links - internal and external hyperlinks should not be highlighted (e.g. not shown in blue with underlined text)
  • No navigation (outline or bookmarks) tree is required, but if included in the file it will be ignored for print production
  • No PDF 'standard' security settings should be used (i.e. the PDF should be unprotected)
  • Black and White (B&W) files should be set with colorspace "Greyscale" for all images and text
  • Color files should be set with colorspace "CMYK" for all images and text

Detailed requirements for POD print operations

Every commercial POD business will have its own set of recommendations and requirements for the detailed format of the body PDF files (the "interior") and any associated cover PDF file. The latter tend to be much more complicated as they must embrace the front cover, back cover, spine (and its width based on the number of pages in the body of the document). To provide some initial guidance, we recommend reading the Ingram/Lightningsource guidance document and/or the LULU guidance document, available via the links shown below:

For Amazon's KDP service the guidance documents are provided online, including step-by-step guides for users creating their files using MS Word on PCs or Mac computers. The paperbook and hardback guidance details are provided here:

Although KDP stands for "Kindle Direct Publishing" Amazon have been providing a POD service for paperback titles for some years, which can be set up with or without Kindle ebook versions. They now also offer hardback POD and both B&W and Color options, so they handle both production and distribution of printed books if that is what the publisher decides is best for their book(s).