Exporting a PDF—easy, right? Even if you’ve done it a million times, it can feel daunting for an important project, especially one that you want to use to present your skills in the best light. That’s why we’ve compiled some helpful tips for you to make sure you can do it right!
Updated: added Adobe Illustrator PDF export information to the end
Use the right units, right from the start!
Since your portfolio only needs to be digital, you can set it up that way! Choose pixels as your units when making a new document and you can guarantee you’ll have a 1920x1080px document (In some versions of InDesign, you may have to choose “Web” from the “Intent” drop-down menu on the New Document window to let you use pixels properly).
Check your images!
You can use InDesign’s Links panel to check images easily—make sure the Effective PPI of your images is at least 144 PPI to make sure they’ll export at the highest quality possible. (Pro tip: you can even define a Preflight panel profile to have InDesign check this for you!) Be on the lookout for any broken/missing image links, too.
Skip print, go interactive!
Export as an Interactive PDF! They’re made for screens and it’s way easier to set a specific resolution! After choosing File > Export, choose “Adobe PDF (Interactive)” from the Format drop-down menu. Then, under “Compression,” you can set Resolution (ppi) at exactly 144. You can also alter the JPEG quality here if your file is too big on the first try—just be careful it still looks good when you export it.
Get things even smaller
Is your PDF still too big or forgot to output as an interactive PDF? There’s lots of tools that can help. Acrobat has a PDF Optimizer built in that you get for free with your Creative Cloud account. It can take a bit of getting used to. If you’re more pressed for time, Smallpdf can compress your files down and is super easy to use.
Working from Illustrator? There’s still options!
Illustrator isn’t the best tool for working with raster image-heavy layouts or type by any means—but if you’ve already started working there, you can still push forward. Illustrator can make PDFs too, but rather than exporting, Adobe PDF is one of the options in the File > Save As… window.
Once you’ve titled your file and clicked Save, you’ll need to toggle over to Compression. Change all the values on this screen to 144 ppi. The image below can give you a sense of what this looks like: