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Creating smaller PDFs from a vector-dense book

My friend Sharon Steuer is the author of the Illustrator Wow book. She has a problem with the PDFs she creates for proofing the pages. I’m posting this problem here hoping that someone has a good idea of what to do to help her.

Problem: Since she is doing a book on Illustrator, the pages contain many vector-based illustrations. In the old days, when she used Quark, she could create a PDF that used the low-resolution preview of the EPS art.

But moving over to InDesign, there is no low-resolution preview in InDesign’s Export to PDF feature. So, no matter what she sets for the compression settings, the vector-based artwork comes in as very heavy PDF files that take forever to draw on screen.

I told her a while ago to try printing to PDF and use the Proxy setting, but that was too rough a setting.

I’m opening this up for anyone. What ideas would you suggest to create smaller PDFs with a better quality preview of the vector art?

Sandee Cohen

Sandee Cohen

Sandee Cohen is the author of the InDesign CC 2014 Visual QuickStart Guide as well as the co-author, with Diane Burns, of Digital Publishing with Adobe InDesign CC.
Sandee Cohen

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68 Comments on “Creating smaller PDFs from a vector-dense book

  1. Hello-
    I know it has been several months since the last response, but was wondering if any new solution has been found. I have InDesign files with several links to 30mb Illustrator files and cannot print or export them to pdf – inDesign crashes.

  2. Well, I just used the ‘missing link’ technique for some complex vector links and reduced an 8.5MB document to 1.2MB, without making any other changes (and the document previews fine on screen, which is all it is going to be used for) – so thanks for this great tip.

  3. Did you try this?
    From Indesign go to print your document.
    Click the ‘printer’ button.
    Choose ‘Save as PDF’.
    Click print.
    The result is a rasterized pdf

  4. I had the same problem, I solved by:
    Saving a copy of all my illustrators -Export- JPG to a medium resolution.
    Then I make a copy of my indesign file and I replaced all of them for the JPG files.
    Then I exported as another name for PDF with screen presets.

    I hope it works for you!

  5. Pingback: Quick Tips: Reduce your PDF file size « CMU 2nd Year Studio

  6. @Thomas: I hear your pain, but I’m not sure what you think Adobe should do. If you have an InDesign document that has a lot of vector art, it’s all going to be inserted into the PDF, making it bigger. Just like if you have 5000 pages of words it’ll make a bigger pdf.

  7. @David: I think Adobe should enable vector rasterisation options in the PDF print/export settings. Similar to the settings where you can chose how much you wish acrobat to downscale you raster images there should be an option to do so and to chose the level of detail for the process.

  8. @Thomas: It’s an interesting idea, but how would you determine which vector graphics should be rasterized? Would you want all the text rasterized? Simple vector diagrams and logos? In 99% of the cases, I want everything to stay vector; it’s just a few instances where I really want to rasterize a complex vector. I think it would be interesting if InDesign did offer a way to rasterize one or more objects (or mark them for rasterization), but I don’t think I would use it for pdf very often.

  9. @David: You defintely have a point but I think it can be solved in various ways. Inspired by you I would suggest that InDesign got a new layer option so it became possible to just choose a layer for rasterization BUT with a popup-dialogue where you could check/uncheck different “types of vectors”

    Like this:

    Chose things to rasterize on export

    InDesign items:
    – Text
    – Line art

    Placed items:
    – EPS
    – PDF
    – AI

    Output resolution for rasterized vectors:
    LOW (72 dpi)
    MEDIUM (150 dpi)
    HIGH (300 dpi)
    CUSTOM | dpi|


    But ofcourse, like any other method, this way can have its own ‘issues’ depending on workflow and uasge. I basically think it could be done in thousands of ways with different levels of complexity and ease-of-use, appealing to different users and it doesn’t necessarily need to be my way – just some way, some day :)

  10. @Thomas: Actually, I like your idea more and more, but not because of PDF. For me, the idea of rasterizing objects would be extremely useful for EPUB or even HTML export. So, thanks! Let’s hope that Adobe is listening.

  11. Yep! Same here.. rendered useless in trying to get my stuff up online.. hopefully we’ll see this fixed in the CSS… testes crossed!

  12. I have used this workflow to get lightweight catalogs for web:
    1) open linked AI/PDF
    2) rasterize what is needed: complex effects, maps etc
    3) save but do not close that file
    4) update links in Indesign
    5) export lightweight pdf in Indesign
    6) back to Illu, undo rasterize and save

    • Silver,

      It’s an interesting technique, but a little dangerous. What if the machine crashes between steps 3 and 6.

      But if you make a backup of the links folder I would feel a little better.

  13. Well I’m not sure if I want the same thing to happen but I want to make lo res pdfs to send proofs to clients so they are good enough to check but not to print from. When in Indesign I make a lo res pdf the images become rougher but not the text created in Indesign or vector images and I want them to be a bit rougher too – any ideas anyone?

  14. I have had this same problem in the past and this is how i have solved the issue without importing all images in a lower resolution. You need to have acrobat(works with free version) and a pdf printer, I have bullzip pdf printer but adobe one or others may work.
    -In InDesign: export file as pdf (use lower res on images if you need to)
    -In acrobat: go to print—-select your pdf printer—-click the advanced button—-check
    print as image(not print to file)—-hit ok—-print to the pdf printer
    -In the pdf printer dialog select whatever settings you would like then print.

    The result is a rasterized pdf file

    Note: in Bullzip, the pdf file will still be somewhat large but much faster to load as it is rasterized. Bullzip also ha the option of printing as different formats like jpg (individual images for each page) or tiff (images combined into one file like pdf).

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