High Contrast Mode:

What are PDF files? Why do Printing Companies prefer them?

Computer icon of an Abode PDF file

What is a PDF File?

PDF stands for "Portable Document Format." PDF technology allows an electronic document to be captured in a format that has cross-platform compatibility. Once converted to a PDF file, the document can be shared with virtually anyone for viewing or printing, regardless of the software, hardware, or operating system they are using.

Also, a PDF file preserves the layout and formatting of the original document. This ensures that the appearance of the document remains consistent as it is shared across multiple devices, regardless of where or how it is viewed.

Prior to the development of the PDF, electronic documents could only be shared between users that had compatible platforms and software versions. Now, almost every mainstream computer application allows a document to be easily saved or exported as a PDF file.

Origins of the PDF

In 1991, Dr. John Warnock, the co-founder of Adobe Systems Inc. (now Adobe Inc.) began working on an application that would enable the universal sharing of electronic documents. His goal was to capture documents created on any software program, allow digital versions of these documents to be sent anywhere, and to be able to view and print them from any device.

In 1993, the Portable Document Format (PDF) was officially introduced, along with the first rendition of Adobe Acrobat software. Though the PDF was adopted fairly early by the desktop publishing industry, its popularity with other business segments started off slowly. Of course, the PDF file format now sees widespread use across almost all industries and it is hard to even imagine life without PDF files.

In fact, with over 2.5 trillion PDF documents in existence, the PDF has become the most popular and trusted format for business documents in the world today.

A female worker and a male worker in a printing plant
Commercial printing companies prefer that clients submit PDF artwork files for their print projects

Why do Printing Companies prefer PDF files?

When working with a commercial printer, the artwork files you provide to them are the source files used to produce your print project. As such, almost all commercial printing companies prefer that your artwork files be submitted in PDF format.

Below are the main reasons why PDF files are the preferred choice...

PDF files have cross-platform compatibility

Unlike other file formats, a PDF is compatible across different platforms. Once a document is converted to a PDF file, it can be viewed, shared, and printed on various operating systems without needing to have the same software that was used to originally create the document.

This is an extremely valuable feature for commercial printers because they work with clients who use a variety of different software programs and operating systems. Whether a client's system is a Mac or PC, or their layout software is InDesign, QuarkXPress, or something else, saving the file as a PDF allows for reliable viewing and printing without incurring formatting or compatibility issues.

This universal accessibility streamlines the printing process for commercial printers and enhances the collaboration efforts with clients.

PDF files preserve the original formatting

Another major reason why commercial printers prefer PDF files is because a PDF retains the original formatting, regardless of the application used to open, view, or print the file. By preserving the exact layout, images, fonts and other design elements of the original document, the artwork will print exactly as intended by its creator. This allows commercial printers to produce high-quality output without experiencing any unexpected shifts or changes in the document's content.

Color accuracy is another critical component of commercial printing. PDF files do an excellent job of maintaining consistent color profiles when shared across various devices and software applications. Employing the use of PDF files helps commercial printers ensure the colors of the finished printed pieces will accurately match the colors of the original design.

A male graphic designer working at his computer
PDF files preserve the formatting of the original document

PDF files can handle complex layouts

PDF files are well-equipped to handle the complex layouts and graphics commonly found in commercial print projects. Whether it's elaborate artwork or intricate designs, PDF files will maintain the integrity of these elements during the printing process.

PDF files also support vector graphics, which allows for high-quality resolution and scalability without loss of quality. This is essential for ensuring that images and logos appear crisp and clear when printed.

In addition, PDF files can embed fonts within the document, ensuring that the correct fonts are used during printing even if they are not installed on the printer's system. This helps prevent unwelcome issues with font substitution.

PDF files allow efficient size compression

Another advantage PDF files offer commercial printers is efficient file compression technology. PDF files can reduce the size of large documents without compromising image resolution or text quality. The smaller size allows for faster file transfers and reduced storage space requirements.

This feature is particularly beneficial for printers managing large volumes of print-ready documents and needing to optimize their workflow for maximum efficiency.

PDF files allow secure sharing

Even though sharing a PDF file can be as easy as forwarding an email attachment or dropbox link, security is a top priority for commercial printers handling sensitive client information. So another reason why commercial printers prefer PDF files is the enhanced security features they offer.

PDF files can be encrypted and password-protected to prevent unauthorized access or tampering. This level of security gives commercial printers peace of mind when dealing with confidential projects and sensitive materials.

PDF files have some editing capabilities

One of the attributes of a PDF file is that it can be set up as a non-editable, read-only document. This feature can help maintain the original design and layout of the file without the risk of unexpected changes.

However, sometimes issues are found during the preflighting or proofing stages of print production. Maybe the file for a brochure needs to have crop marks added or the contact information on a postcard is showing a mistyped phone number.

Whether the printer notices the issue during preflighting, or the client catches the issue during proofing, the matter should be discussed between the client and the printer to determine the most efficient way to correct the file prior to sending it to press.

Fortunately, most commercial printers have the software needed to make certain edits to a PDF file. Making any needed changes in-house can help save valuable time and keep the project on schedule.

Have Questions? Color Vision is always ready to help!

If you have any questions about submitting your PDF artwork files, or want to discuss an upcoming print project, get in touch with Color Vision Printing. Our professional and experienced staff is always ready to serve you. Plus, you'll be pleased with our affordable pricing on digital printing, offset printing, finishing, and binding.

We are always happy to discuss your projects, so give us a call at 800-543-6299. Or, use our Quote Request form to submit your specifications and we will email you a quote.

As always, we look forward to assisting with your custom printing needs!

American Express Discover Mastercard Visa

High Contrast Mode: