How to Use PDF in Photoshop CS6 - dummies

By Barbara Obermeier

In Adobe Photoshop CS6, PDF is considered the universal donor. PDF is the acronym for PortableDocument Format, which is the native format of Adobe Acrobat. This format can contain editable text, vector, and raster data. PDF files are often used for electronic documentation that will be downloaded from the web.

PDFs are extremely useful. Any computer running Windows, Mac OS, or Unix can read a PDF. All you need to view a PDF file is Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available as a free download. Mac users can also view PDFs in Preview, the Mac OS X’s image viewer.

If you save your image as a PDF and e-mail it, anyone can see your image exactly the way you see it. The other nice thing about PDFs is that they have an automatic compression process that makes the files small.

When you save a file as a PDF, you have all the same save options of the native Photoshop format. PDF supports layers, alpha channels, spot colors, and notes, so select these options if you have any. It also supports the same image modes as the native Photoshop format. Additionally, you can save 16-bit images as PDFs.

The Save Adobe PDF dialog box offers a multitude of options. At the top of the dialog box are settings for presets, standards, and compatibility:

  • Adobe PDF Preset: Select a preset setting from the pop-up menu. Photoshop then gives you a description of that setting, including what versions of Acrobat can open that PDF. The default setting of High Quality Print creates PDF files suitable for good-quality printing on desktop printers. Stick with the default — unless you want to create a PDF specifically to view onscreen for approval purposes, and select Smallest File Size.


    PDF/X is an ISO standard for graphic content exchange designed for the prepress purpose workflow. Ask your service provider or offset print house if it prefers one of the PDF/X formats, rather than the generic PDF, for final file output. For specifics, check the Acrobat Help file.

  • Standard: Accept the default associated with your chosen preset or choose a flavor of PDF/X from the pop-up menu.

  • Compatibility: Specify the version of Acrobat you want your file to be compatible with. Note, however, that Acrobat 4 and 5 don’t support layers. When you change either the Standard or Compatibility options, (Modified) is added to your preset name.

In addition to the options along the top, this dialog box offers the following categories in which you can refine your choices:

  • General: The General category of settings contains the PDF presets, editing options, Acrobat version compatibility choices, and viewing options.

  • Compression: The PDF format includes excellent compression, but you can compress and downsample your image to reduce or adjust the size of the PDF file.

    If optimum print quality is a concern, you’re better off not downsampling your image at all.

  • Output: The Output area covers how to handle the color data in your file when you export to PDF. You should keep default settings of your presets.

  • Security: You can apply restrictions to who can open your PDF and what they can do with it. You can assign a password for opening the file in either Acrobat or Photoshop (or Preview on a Mac), but if you forget the password, there’s no way to extract it from your file. You can also choose whether you want your user to print or change the document.

  • Summary: This option gives you a rundown of all your specified options and alerts you to anything it finds not so

You can also combine multiple images into a single, multi-paged PDF document or slide show with Adobe Bridge.