Print-Ready PDF/X-1A AND PDF/X-4 Files

PDF/X is a special sub-pdf standard that meets ISO standards. All details and specific information required for print production is embedded into the graphic file.  For instance, PDF/X-1A requires all fonts to be embedded and images to be designated as cmyk or spot colors. PDF/X-4 takes it a step further accepting calibrated rgb color and cielab colors, but the file must still meet the basic requirements of the standards of a  PDF/X-1A.

Why use the PDF/X format? Pros & Cons

Ease.

Pro. Simple single file is now available to upload or email to the printer easily.

Con. If changes need to be made to the file, the file will have to be updated by the originator as the flattened file most likely will not be able to be corrected by the prepress department.

Save Time.

Pro. The file is ready to rip and therefore runs through the process very quickly saving prepress time.

Con. Any errors made in the design and production of the file may not be caught until after the project is printed, negating time and cost savings.

Quality Assurance.

Pro. The designer is specifying all the details in the PDF/X file. So print production is defined and no other person is entering that information. Information cannot be lost as all is included in the PDF/X.

Con. If a designer enters misinformation or omits information, it may not be caught until the project is printed/produced.

PDF/X-1a

PDF/X-1a is a decade old format that is a robust but rigid way to deliver a job. RGB elements are converted to CMYK as the InDesign file is converted to a PDF, photos are downsampled to 300 ppi, and transparency and layers are flattened. This format keeps all the processing in your court. It’s perfect for sending an ad to a magazine and will work for printing at Premier Press.

PDF/X-4

PDF/X-4 is a newer standard that takes advantage of modern prepress processes. Built into Creative Suite applications since CS3, it retains live transparency and layers, as well as CMYK, RGB, Lab, and spot colors. With PDF/X-4, our sophisticated color-managed RIP handles transparency at the highest quality level and converts colors to CMYK. PDF/X-4 files must be exported directly from InDesign. PDF/X-4 is the preferred standard to use when sending a PDF to Premier Press.

Before Exporting Your PDF

We will preflight your PDF, check for bleed, impose it (lay it out on a press sheet) and hit “print”, so be sure to check all of these things before you export the PDF:

  • The document is built to size. Floating your document with trim marks on an oversize page won’t work with imposition software.
  • The file is built 1-up: 12 business cards is a 12-page InDesign file.
  • There is at least .125-inch bleed on all sides; for wide format jobs, at least .25-inch. Specify bleed in Document Setup.
  • Any grayscale Photoshop art is truly grayscale, not RGB black.
  • Colors are specified the way you want them to print, as spot and/or 4-color process.
  • Registration color is not used as a super black.
  • A saddle-stitched job is built in readers order, not in printers spreads.

How to create a PDF/X file

Here are the steps to make a PDF/X-4 from InDesign.

  1. Go to Export in the File Menu.
  2. Choose Adobe PDF (Print) Format and Save.
  3. Set the Adobe PDF Preset to PDF/X-4:2008 and check Pages (not Spreads).
  4. Under Marks and Bleeds check Crop Marks and Page Information.
  5. Set Bleed to 0.125 inch for Top, Bottom, Inside, and Outside. Do not include Slug Area.
  6. Then Export.

Here are the steps to make a PDF/X-1a from InDesign.

  1. Go to Export in the File Menu.
  2. Choose Adobe PDF (Print) Format and Save.
  3. Set the Adobe PDF Preset to PDF/X-1a:2001 and check Pages (not Spreads).
  4. Under Marks and Bleeds check Crop Marks and Page Information.
  5. Under Advanced set Transparency Flattener to High Resolution.
  6. Set Bleed to 0.125 inch for Top, Bottom, Inside, and Outside. Do not include Slug Area.
  7. Then Export.

 

If you found this article useful you may be interested in our other design tips.