How to Save to PDF with Adobe Illustrator CS6 - dummies

By Jennifer Smith, Christopher Smith, Fred Gerantabee

If you want to save your Adobe Illustrator CS6 file in a format that supports more than a dozen platforms and requires only Acrobat Reader, available as a free download at, choose to save your file as a PDF (Portable Document Format) file.

If you can open an Illustrator file in Acrobat, why would you need to save a file in PDF format? For one thing, you can compress a PDF to a smaller size; also, the receiver can double-click the file and then Acrobat or Acrobat Reader launches automatically.

Depending on how you save the PDF, you can allow some level of editability in Adobe Illustrator. To save a file as a PDF, follow these steps:

  1. Choose File→Save As, select Illustrator PDF (.pdf) from the Save As Type drop-down list, and then click Save.

  2. In the Adobe PDF Options dialog box that appears, choose one of these options from the Preset drop-down list:

    • Illustrator Default: Creates a PDF file in which all Illustrator data is preserved. PDF files created using this preset can be reopened in Illustrator with no loss of data.

    • High Quality Print: Creates PDF files for desktop printers and proofers.

    • PDF/X-1a:2001: The least flexible, but quite powerful, delivery method for PDF content data; requires that the color of all objects be CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) or spot colors. Elements in RGB (Red, Green Blue) or Lab color spaces or tagged with International Color Consortium (ICC) profiles are prohibited. All fonts used in the job must be embedded in the supplied PDF file.

    • PDF/X-3:2002: Has slightly more flexibility than the X-1a:2001 method (see preceding bullet) in that color managed workflows are supported elements in Lab and attached ICC source profiles may also be used.

    • PDF/X-4:2008: Based on PDF 1.4, which includes support for live transparency and has the same color management and ICC color specifications as PDF/X-3. You can open PDF files created for PDF/X-4 compliance in Acrobat 7.0 and Reader 7.0 and later.

    • Press Quality: Creates a PDF file that can be printed to a high-resolution output device. The file will be large but maintain all information that a commercial printer or service provider needs in order to print files correctly.

      This option automatically converts the color mode to CMYK, embeds all fonts used in the file, prints at a higher resolution, and uses other settings to preserve the maximum amount of information contained in the original document.

      Before creating an Adobe PDF file by using the Press Quality preset, check with your commercial printer to determine the output resolution and other settings.

    • Smallest File Size: Creates a low-resolution PDF suitable for posting on the Internet or sending by e-mail.

    • Standard: Lets you select, from the Standard drop-down list, the type of PDF/X file you want to create. Avoid picking a PDF/X standard unless you have a specific need or are filling a request.

    • Compatibility: Makes different features available for different versions, such as the ability to support layers in Version 6 or higher. For the most compatible file type, choose Acrobat 5 (PDF 1.4). To take advantage of layers or to preserve spot colors, you must choose Acrobat 6 or higher.

  3. Click Save PDF to save your file in PDF format.

    If you want to be able to reopen the PDF file and edit it in Illustrator, make sure that you leave the Preserve Illustrator Editing Capabilities check box selected in the Adobe PDF Options dialog box.

In the Adobe PDF Options dialog box, to the left of the preset choices, are options you can change to customize your settings. Skim the options to see how to change resolution settings and even add printer’s marks.

Want a press-quality PDF but don’t want to convert all your colors to CMYK? Choose the Press setting and then click the Output options. In the Color Conversion drop-down list, select No Conversion.