In this Photoshop Lesson, we’ll learn about ‘Adobe PDF Presets in Photoshop‘ and ‘Save as PDF dialog box’. Adobe PDF Presets command is found under Edit menu in Photoshop.

My name is Lalit Adhikari and we are at LTY. Let’s begin!

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Photoshop PDF Format

Photoshop PDF document can save Photoshop data such as Layer, Channels, Notes, Spot Color and even Color Modes like RGB, indexed-color, CMYK, Grayscale, Bitmap, Lab color and duotone.

If you are an advanced user, you can also make the document PDF/X complaint which is an essential step when you have to send your document to a large commercial press.

PDF/X stands for Portable Document Format Exchange. It is a subset of Adobe PDF that eliminates color, font and trapping variables which may cause printing problems.

You can also apply security options for restricting access of the PDF document.

PDF settings could also be saved as PDF preset for creating consistent Photoshop PDF files. These PDF preset and settings could be shared across Adobe applications like Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator and Acrobat. PDF files could be edited using Photoshop, Illustrator or SodaPDF.

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Adobe PDF Presets

Adobe PDF Presets command under Edit menu in Photoshop
Adobe PDF Presets command in Photoshop

Adobe’s PDF presets are a group of settings which will affect the whole process of creating a PDF. Depending on how you are going to use the PDF, these settings are designed to balance the PDF’s file size with PDF’s quality.

Adobe PDF Presets dialog box
Adobe PDF Presets dialog box

Most predefined presets are shared across Adobe applications including InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop and Acrobat.

A few of the presets are not available until we move them from the ‘Extras’ folder to the ‘Settings’ folder.

Extras & Settings folder of Adobe PDF
‘Extras’ and ‘Settings’ folders of Adobe PDF

Always review your PDF settings periodically. These settings do not automatically revert to the default settings. Photoshop uses the last set of PDF settings defined or selected.

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High Quality Print

It creates PDFs for quality printing on desktop printers and proofing devices.

This preset uses PDF 1.4, downsamples color and grayscale images to 300 ppi and monochrome images to 1200 ppi, embeds subsets of all fonts, leaves color unchanged, and does not flatten transparency (for file types capable of transparency).

These PDFs can be opened in Acrobat 5.0 and Acrobat Reader 5.0 and later. In InDesign, this preset also creates tagged PDFs.

PDF/X-1a (2001 and 2003)

PDF/X-1a requires all fonts to be embedded, the appropriate marks and bleeds to be specified and color to appear as CMYK, spot colors or both.

Compliant files must contain information describing the printing condition for which they are prepared.

PDF files created with PDF/X-1a compliance can be opened in Acrobat 4.0 and Acrobat Reader 4.0 and later.

PDF/X-1a uses PDF 1.3, downsamples color and grayscale images to 300 ppi and monochrome images to 1200 ppi, embeds subsets of all fonts, creates untagged PDFs and flattens transparency using the High-Resolution setting.

Note: The PDF/X1-a:2003 and PDF/X-3 (2003) presets are placed on our computer during installation but are not available until you move them from the Extras folder to the Settings folder.

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This preset creates a PDF based on the ISO standard PDF/X-3:2002. The PDF created in this setting can be opened in Acrobat 4.0 and Acrobat Reader 4.0 or later.

PDF/X-4 (2008)

This preset creating ISO PDF/X-4:2008 files supports live transparency (transparency is not flattened) and ICC color management. PDF files exported with this preset are in PDF 1.4 format.

Images are downsampled and compressed and fonts are embedded in the same manner as with the PDF/X-1a and PDF/X-3 settings.

You can create PDF/X-4:2008-compliant PDF files directly from Creative Suite 4 and 5 components including Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop.

Acrobat 9 Pro provides facilities to validate and preflight PDF files for PDF/X-4:2008 compliance as well as convert non-PDF/X files to PDF/X-4:2008 if possible.

Adobe recommends PDF/X-4:2008 as the optimal PDF file format for reliable PDF print publishing workflows.

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Press Quality

Creates PDF files for high-quality print production (for example, for digital printing or for separations to an imagesetter or platesetter), but does not create files that are PDF/X-compliant.

In this case, the quality of the content is the highest consideration. The objective is to maintain all the information in a PDF file that a commercial printer or print service provider needs in order to print the document correctly.

This set of options uses PDF 1.4, converts colors to CMYK, downsamples color and grayscale images to 300 ppi and monochrome images to 1200 ppi, embeds subsets of all fonts, and preserves transparency (for file types capable of transparency).

These PDF files can be opened in Acrobat 5.0 and Acrobat Reader 5.0 and later.

Note: Before creating an Adobe PDF file to send to a commercial printer or print service provider, find out what the output resolution and other settings should be, or ask for a .joboptions file with the recommended settings. You might need to customize the Adobe PDF settings for a particular provider and then provide a .joboptions file of your own.

Smallest File Size

Creates PDF files for displaying on the web, an intranet, or for email distribution. This set of options uses compression, downsampling and a relatively low image resolution.

It converts all colors to sRGB and embeds fonts. It also optimizes files for byte serving.

For best results, avoid using this preset if you intend to print the PDF file.

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Save in Photoshop PDF format

To demonstrate different options while creating a PDF, I’ve selected the following image.

Image from Pexels

I’ll simply go to File > Save As

Save As command under File menu in Photoshop
Save As command in photoshop

Choose Photoshop PDF from the format menu.

Photoshop PDF format
Photoshop PDF format

Photoshop may show a warning dialog box as shown below. It warns us that the setting we choose in the Save Adobe PDF dialog box can override our current settings in the Save As dialog box.

You can check the ‘Don’t show again’ checkbox, so it will not be shown again and click OK.

Warning dialog box
Warning dialog box

Following Save Adobe PDF dialog box will open up:

Save Adobe PDF dialog box
Save Adobe PDF dialog box

The first option is Adobe PDF Preset which we had already discussed above.

Then we have Standard menu and Compatibility menu. They specify the PDF/X compliance and the Acrobat version compatibility for the PDF document.

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What is PDF/X and PDF/A standards

Before we can go further in our discussion for Photoshop PDF, it is important to know a little about PDF/X and PDF/A.

PDF/X and PDF/A standards are defined by the ISO.

PDF/X standards apply to graphic content exchange; PDF/A standards apply to long-term archiving of electronic documents.

During PDF conversion, the file that is being processed is checked against the specified standard.

If the PDF will not meet the selected ISO standard, a message appears, asking you to choose between canceling the conversion or going ahead with the creation of a non-compliant file.

The most widely used standards for a print publishing workflow are several PDF/X formats: PDF/X-1a, PDF/X-3 and (in 2007) PDF/X-4.

The most widely used standards for PDF archiving are PDF/A-1a, and PDF/A-1b (for less stringent requirements).

For more information on PDF/X and PDF/A standards, see the ISO website.

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PDF compatibility levels

While creating a PDF, we need to decide which PDF version to use. Generally, if there’s no need for backward compatibility, we should use the most recent version. As the latest version will include all the newest features and functionality.

However, if you’re creating a document that will be distributed widely then consider choosing Acrobat 5.0 (PDF 1.4) or Acrobat 6.0 (PDF 1.5) to ensure all users can view and print it.

General options

General tab in Save Adobe PDF dialog box
General options in Save Adobe PDF dialog box

On the left pane we have different options available for Adobe PDF starting with General options. Here we have the following options:

  • Description: Displays the description from the selected preset and provides a place to edit the description. You can paste a description from the clipboard. If you edit the description of a preset, the word ‘(Modified)’ is added at the end of the preset name.
  • Preserve Photoshop Editing Capabilities: Preserves Photoshop data in the PDF such as layers, alpha channels and spot colors. Photoshop PDF documents with this option can be opened in Photoshop later for changes.
  • Embed Page Thumbnails: Creates a thumbnail image of artwork.
  • Optimize for Fast Web View: Optimizes the PDF for faster viewing in a web browser.
  • View PDF after saving: Opens the newly created PDF file in the default PDF viewing application.

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Compression options

Compression options in Save Adobe PDF dialog box
Compression option in Save Adobe PDF

Artworks while being saved in Adobe PDF, we can compress ‘Text’, ‘Line Art’ and Bitmap images could be compressed and downsampled. Depending on our settings chosen, compression and downsampling can significantly reduce the size of a PDF file with little or no loss of detail.


Downsampling options in Save Adobe PDF dialog box
Downsampling drop-down in Save Adobe PDF

If our PDF file is meant to be used on the web, we should use downsampling to allow for higher compression. If its meant to be printed at high resolution, do not use downsampling. Select the Do Not Downsample option to disable all downsampling options.

Downsampling refers to decreasing the number of pixels in an image. To downsample images, choose an interpolation method:

  • Average Downsampling
  • Subsampling
  • Bicubic Downsampling

After that enter the desired resolution (in pixels per inch). Then enter a resolution in the For Images Above box. All images with resolution above this threshold are downsampled.

The interpolation method we choose determines how pixels are deleted. Different downsampling methods available are discussed below:

  • Average Downsampling To: Averages the pixels in a sample area and replaces the entire area with the average pixel color at the specified resolution. Average downsampling is the same as Bilinear resampling.
  • Subsampling To: Chooses a pixel in the center of the sample area and replaces the entire area with that pixel color. Subsampling significantly reduces the conversion time compared with downsampling but results in images that are less smooth and continuous. Subsampling is the same as Nearest Neighbor resampling.
  • Bicubic Downsampling To: Uses a weighted average to determine pixel color, which usually yields better results than the simple averaging method of downsampling. Bicubic is the slowest but most precise method, resulting in the smoothest gradations.

For full information on Interpolation methods, read our blog on ‘How to enlarge an image in Photoshop‘.


compression option in save adobe pdf dialog box
Compression option in Save Adobe PDF

Here we will determine the type of compression to be used. They are as follow:

  • ZIP compression: Works well on images with large areas of single colors or repeating patterns, and for black-and-white images that contain repeating patterns. ZIP compression is lossless.
  • JPEG compression: Is suitable for grayscale or color images. JPEG compression is lossy, which means that it removes image data and may reduce image quality; however, it attempts to reduce file size with a minimal loss of information. Because JPEG compression eliminates data, it can achieve much smaller file sizes than ZIP compression.
  • JPEG2000: Is the new international standard for the compression and packaging of image data. Like JPEG compression, JPEG2000 compression is suitable for grayscale or color images. It also provides additional advantages, such as progressive display and lossless compression not available with JPEG. JPEG2000 is only available if Acrobat 6 (PDF 1.5) or later is selected from the Compatibility menu.

Image Quality

Image quality in Save Adobe PDF dialog box
Image quality in Save Adobe PDF

It specifies the amount of compression to be applied. The options available under it depends on the method of compression chosen earlier.

For JPEG2000 compression, Photoshop provides Lossless, Maximum, High, Medium, Low, and Minimum options.

For JPEG compression, Photoshop provides Minimum, Low, Medium, High, and Maximum options.

For ZIP compression, Photoshop provides an 8-bit Image Quality option. The 8-bit Image Quality option is lossless; that is, data is not removed to reduce file size, so image quality is not affected.

Tile Size

Specifies the size of the tiles used in images with JPEG 2000 compression.

When low Image Quality values are used to optimize images smaller than 1024 x 1024 pixels, using the largest tile size produces better results.

In general, a tile size of 1024 is best for most images.

Lower tile sizes are generally used for images with small dimensions (for viewing on devices such as mobile phones).

Convert 16 Bit/Channel Image To 8 Bit/Channel

Converts 16-bits-per-channel images to 8-bits-per-channel images (selected by default).

ZIP is the only compression method available if the Convert 16 Bits option is unselected.

If the document’s Compatibility setting is Acrobat 5 (PDF 1.4) or earlier, the Convert 16 Bits option is unavailable, and images are automatically converted to 8 bits per channel.

For full information on Bit system in Photoshop, read our blog ‘Bit Depth‘.

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Output Options

Output option in Save Adobe PDF dialog box
Output option in Save Adobe PDF

Here, we can adjust the Color Management and PDF/X options for the Adobe PDF. Output options’ interaction changes depending on whether Color Management is on or off and which PDF standard is selected.

Color Conversion

Specifies how to represent color information in the Adobe PDF file. When you convert color objects to RGB or CMYK, also select a destination profile from the pop-up menu.

All spot color information is preserved during color conversion; only the process color equivalents convert to the designated color space.

It can have either of these two values:

  • No Conversion: Preserves color data as is.
  • Convert To Destination: Converts all colors to the profile selected for Destination. Whether the profile is included or not is determined by the Profile Inclusion Policy.


Describes the gamut of the final RGB or CMYK output device, such as your monitor or a SWOP standard.

Using this profile, Photoshop converts the document’s color information (defined by the source profile in the Working Spaces section of the Color Settings dialog box) to the color space of the target output device.

Profile Inclusion Policy

Determines whether a color profile is included in the file.

Output Intent Profile Name

Specifies the characterized printing condition for the document. An output intent profile is required for creating PDF/X-compliant files.

This menu is available only if a PDF/X standard (or preset) is selected in the Adobe PDF Options dialog box.

Output Condition

Describes the intended printing condition. This entry can be useful for the intended receiver of the PDF document.

Output Condition Identifier

A pointer to more information on the intended printing condition. The identifier is automatically entered for printing conditions that are included in the ICC registry.

Registry Name

Indicates the web address for more information on the registry. The URL is automatically entered for ICC registry names.

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Security option

Security options in Save Adobe PDF dialog box
Security options in Save Adobe PDF

A password protection can be added to limit not only who can open the file but also who can copy or extract contents, print the document and more.

There are two passwords which could be setup:

  • Document Open Password
  • Permissions Password

If we use any security restrictions in our file, we should set both passwords; otherwise, anyone who opens the file could remove the restrictions.

If a file is opened with a permissions password, the security restrictions are temporarily disabled.

The RC4 method of security from RSA Corporation is used to password-protect PDF files. Depending on the Compatibility setting (in the General category), the encryption level will be high or low.

Note: Adobe PDF presets don’t support passwords and security settings. If you select passwords and security settings in the Export Adobe PDF dialog box, and then click Save Preset, the passwords and security settings won’t be preserved.

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Summary option in Save Adobe PDF dialog box
Summary option in Save Adobe PDF

It shows the summary of all the setting chosen by us in the previous options.

At the bottom we have ‘Save Preset’ button to save the settings as a preset.

Lastly, click on the ‘Save PDF’ button to create PDF file.

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Lalit Adhikari
Lalit Adhikari

Lalit Adhikari is the Main Author and Admin at Learn That Yourself. He has work experience of more than 10 years in the field of Multimedia and teaching experience of more than 5 years.

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