Adobe Photoshop CS5 : PDF Essentials - Compression Options for Adobe PDF

10/4/2012 4:01:25 AM
The Portable Document Format (PDF) is a file format invented by Adobe. PDF was unveiled in 1992 and was intended to be an extension of PostScript. A PDF can describe any combination of text, images, multimedia, and layout. It is independent of the device it was created on and can be viewed on virtually every operating system.

The PDF is an open standard, which means that the computer industry is able to create applications that can read or write PDFs without paying Adobe additional fees. This openness led to the quick adoption of PDF, and it is utilized online extensively.

The most powerful PDF authoring tool is Adobe Acrobat, which is bundled with Photoshop in the Adobe Creative Suite packages or sold as a stand-alone product. However, Photoshop (and most Adobe programs) have the ability to create PDFs. The PDF file format is an excellent way to send files to a service bureau or print shop because the file can be stored at print resolution with embedded vector files and high-quality output options.

Compression Options for Adobe PDF

When you choose to save artwork as a Photoshop PDF, you are presented with the Save Adobe PDF dialog box. You can choose to compress text and line art as well as downsample bitmap images. Depending on the settings you choose, you can significantly reduce the size of a PDF file with little or no loss of detail. Let’s open the Save Adobe PDF dialog box:

Open the image Ch16_Parrots.tif

Choose File > Save As.

From the Format menu choose Photoshop PDF.

Target the Desktop for saving, and then click Save to open the Save Adobe PDF dialog box.

A warning dialog box opens to caution you that the settings you choose in the Save Adobe PDF dialog box will override settings in the Save As dialog box. Click OK to dismiss the warning.

In the Save Adobe PDF dialog box, you can choose an Adobe PDF Preset. This is a fast way to specify that the newly generated PDF file is intended for commercial printing or to be distributed via email. You can also choose to Preserve Photoshop Editing Capabilities to save layers and text editability for future changes. At this point, you can click Save PDF to generate the file right away or keep modifying the settings for special purposes.


The Compression area of the Save Adobe PDF dialog box offers several options for reducing file size. You do not need to downsample, but you might want to if you want to better match the output resolution of a particular printer or to reduce file transfer times.

The interpolation method you choose determines how pixels are deleted:

  • Average Downsampling. This method averages the pixels in a sample area and replaces the entire area with the average pixel color.

  • Subsampling. This method chooses a pixel in the center of a sample area and replaces the entire area with that color.

  • Bicubic Downsampling. This method uses a weighted average to determine pixel color. It generally yields better results than Average Downsampling. This is the slowest but most accurate method.

The Compression setting offers three compression methods:

  • ZIP. This works well for images with large areas of single colors or repeating patterns.

  • JPEG. This is suitable for grayscale or color images. JPEG compression eliminates data, so it usually results in much smaller file sizes than ZIP compression.

  • JPEG2000. This is the new international standard for image data compression. Like JPEG compression, JPEG2000 compression is suitable for grayscale or color images. It also provides additional advantages, such as progressive display.

The Image Quality setting determines how much compression is applied. The settings will vary based on the compression method you choose, but they are clearly labeled.

You can select the convert 16 Bit/Channel Image to 8 Bits/Channel check box if you’re working with a 16-bit image. This can significantly reduce file size but is not a good option if you’re creating a PDF for professional printing. This option is grayed out if the image you are working with is already in 8-bit mode.


The most common way to create accurate color when creating a PDF is to stick with the PDF/X standard. However, you can choose to modify settings in this area and embed color profiles. Be sure to check with your printer or service bureau regarding color profile settings.

Note: Selecting File Types

You’ll find additional advice on the DVD for choosing the right file format. Look in the Lesson 16 folder for a bonus PDF with more details.


The PDF format supports several different security options, which can be useful to protect the document from unauthorized viewers or to preserve copyright by blocking copying or printing functions. Here are some of the most important security options:

  • Require a password to open the document. The viewer must enter a password to view the PDF document.

  • Use a password to restrict printing, editing, and other tasks. Several options can be placed on the document. You can restrict printing and block modifications to the page. This is a good idea if you are posting a PDF for review purposes but do not want people to be able to print the file.

It is important to note that the security in PDF files is very strong but can be breached. These security options are useful and work well for most users. You’ll also find additional modifiable options that allow the copying of text or access to screen readers for the visually impaired.


The Summary area provides a single pane view of all the settings you have used. This is a quick way to verify the options you’ve enabled.

When you’re finished, you can click Save PDF to create the PDF file. You can also click Save Preset if you want to save the settings you’ve modified for future PDF creation.

Tip: Photoshop CS5 Import and Export File Formats

Adobe Photoshop offers great flexibility in reading and writing specialized file formats. These diverse formats are useful to specialized industries like printing, Web, and video production. To learn more, open the file Ch16_File_Formats.pdf on the DVD.

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