How to Export a PDF File for Print

How to Export a PDF File for Print

Read Time: 4 Minutes


22 Jul 2022

Whether you’re working with an online printing services company or you’re preparing files to send to your local printer, getting the setup right is a key step to perfect print every time. Potential errors and artwork issues as a result of incorrect setup are easy to avoid when you know how to export or save your document as a PDF. Here’s how to export a print-ready PDF file using a number of popular design tools.


Why is it important to export PDF files for print?

Exporting files as PDFs for print ‘flattens’ or embeds all of the different elements of your design. This means that when the printer checks or prints your file, nothing changes or moves around. For example, at instantprint, our Studio team checks every single piece of artwork in ten key areas before it’s sent to print. If you’ve used a custom font that our team doesn’t have access to, the font can change completely, meaning your design won’t print the way you want it to.

Saving your files as PDFs before sending them to print locks everything into place and ensures nothing can be edited or changed. 
If you’re planning on editing your design at a later point, e.g. to change names or dates, we recommend keeping an editable version of your design saved on your computer as well as the exported PDF version.

Check out our font guide for more information on the importance of embedding design elements.


How do I export a document to print in InDesign?

Adobe InDesign is one of the most popular tools for designing print, so it’s essential to know how to export your document correctly as a PDF to ensure all your hard work comes to fruition when it’s printed out.

  1. Go to File > Export
  2. Name your file and choose where you’d like to save it on your computer
  3. For ‘Save As Type’ (Windows) or ‘Format’ (Mac OS), choose ‘Adobe PDF’ then click Save
  4. For the Adobe PDF Preset, select PDF/X-1a:2001
  5. Click Export


How do I make a PDF ready to print in Photoshop?

Adobe Photoshop CC remains one of the most popular design tools used to create print documents. If this is your design tool of choice, here’s how to save your PDF document for print:

  1. Go to File > Save As
  2. On the file type selection, choose PDF
  3. In Save Options, tick ‘As a copy’, untick ‘Layers’ and set Color to CMYK
  4. Name your file
  5. Click Save
  6. In Adobe PDF Preset, select PDF/X-1a:2001
  7. Click Save PDF

For more guidance on setting up a PDF document for print in Photoshop, check out our step-by-step tutorial.


How to export a PDF file for print in Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator allows you to create editable vector graphics that are easy to scale, making it an excellent option for creating logos that look good on business cards and flyers. If you’re designing for print using Illustrator, here’s how to make a print-ready PDF:

  1. Go to File > Save A Copy
  2. Name your file and choose where you’d like to save it on your computer
  3. For ‘Save As Type’ (Windows) or ‘Format’ (Mac OS), choose ‘Adobe PDF’ then click Save
  4. For the Adobe PDF Preset, select PDF/X-1a:2001
  5. Click Save PDF

How to make a print-ready file in Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word is a familiar tool to most, making it one of the most popular ways to design for print. It’s also really easy to export your PDF for print using Word. Here’s how:

  1. Go to File > Save As
  2. Name your file and choose a location to save it on your computer
  3. For ‘Document type’, select PDF, then click ‘Options’
  4. Under ‘PDF Options’, tick the boxes that says ‘PDF/A compliant’ and ‘Optimise image quality’
  5. Click OK to close the window, then press Save


What PDF setting is best for print?    

Many design tools will ask you what setting or Preset you’d like to use for your PDF document. Some printers may ask you to choose the PDF Preset ‘Press Quality’ for print jobs. However, at instantprint, we recommend PDF/X-1a:2001.

This Preset sets certain restrictions on the document to ensure perfectly printable PDF files, such as embedding all fonts and making sure colour data is CMYK.

Double-check the best setting with your printer before sending your artwork to them.


Need more help?

If you’d like more help setting up or saving your document for print, our Artworkers are on hand to help. Simply send your questions to us in an email to and we’ll get back to you ASAP! Or, why not visit our Artwork Hub to find more essential guides for popular design programs? 


About the Author

Hi! I’m James, the Graphic Designer at instantprint. I like helping customers by creating helpful print and designs tips and guides to make sure their artwork looks the best that it can.