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Exporting large banner to pdf in InDesign - awkward way

May 17, 2011 4:23 PM

Some new colleague has just asked me today to help her with exporting a large banner from InDesign CS5 for print.


The  banner is quite huge but InDesign - as well known to most except to  apparently her as a so called "Graphic Designer" - isn't suited for the  production of large banners rather being a text program with the  limitation of 5486,4 mm for each of the two axis.


The  banner that she has to print exceeds this length by far thus she asked  me for help today to figure out a way to export it and send it to the  print shop. It contains two blocks with black color, three text blocks  and a background image covering the whole banner. Resolution is fine for  the purpose of the banner print/material so don't mind this for now.


The important part and question is this...


I  have before had a similar job in my company doing a similar banner with  similar dimensions. However knowing that this would prove impossible to  create in neither InDesign nor Illustrator in those dimensions I decided to basically create it in Illustrator with only  vector graphics and outlined text with half the dimensions in either  axis direction of the real physical dimensions needed. In other words  50% of the physically requested banner size for the final print. I then  exported the Illustrator file to pdf and made an agreement with the  print-shop that they would upscale it to double  the size or in other words back to 100% of the size needed.


This little maneuver was a quick and easy solution of mine to a large banner request.


However  as mentioned the present banner was firstly created using InDesign -  which I think was a bad idea in the first place since I would have  personally recommended and preferred Illustrator - and secondly it  wasn't done with the right physical size for output in mind.


Now  while discussing how to upscale this banner my colleague begun going  into the print-dialogue in InDesign, chosing the "Post Script" option  (of the Post Script driver installed I guess),  then proceeded somehow to Adobe Distiller and started distilling a  version of the banner. The whole thing happened so fast that I can only  roughly recall this much but after the process took place the outcome  wasn't neither satisfying to her (somehow, don't ask me why) nor did it  seem to upscale the file.


I  then paused and looked confused for a second after which I asked her  what exactly she was trying to achieve with this action. The explanation  was - apparently - that this was "a standard procedure in a print shop"  where she had previously worked and that this "somehow was the best way  to export" in a situation like that. I am guessing here whether she  meant the pdf or the solving the actual problem with the banner size.


Anyhow  I then asked how this would make the banner or quality of it (or both  if taking it exactly) LARGER so the banner would resize to - say - 200%  if she was using half of the correct dimension size.


Now  I am always willing to learn something new and I admit that I don't  know everything (who does) but unless something really new has happened  in the last ten years that has given InDesign the ability of upscaling a  banner with the described content (and me having slept a long  beauty-sleep without my knowledge) I don't EVER recall having heard that  a procedure like THIS or ANY procedure in this situation would be  solving the problem UNLESS the banner's image has the double resolution which the  final banner print requires and is subsequently upscaled from 50% to a 100% in the  print shop.


I also guess that the export  -  Ctrl+E for InDesign or Illustrator - which I used the last time generates a  perfectly working pdf in this connection that any print shop would luckily  accept if just the rest is meeting their technical requirements for printing.


Now tell me that I am right because this really sounds odd to me...


Thanks for any input in advance.

  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 17, 2011 4:45 PM   in reply to MogDaa

    I used to work in a large format output bureau, and we routinely received or created files that needed to be scaled for print. Even multiples works best, i.e work at 50% or 25% if you can.  Just be sure your images have sufficient resolution to take scaling up when placed in ID.A good discussion of how much is enough (and for a banner that's meant to be viewd from a distance it may surprise you how low the resolution can be) can be found at Distance-Resolution Formula.


    Export to PDF, probably using the High Quality Print Preset (and probably with RGB images) but check with the printer.

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 17, 2011 4:58 PM   in reply to MogDaa

    What Peter said about designing it scaled down...  and when you export that file to PDF using that setting (that you've checked with your printer) go to Compression option in the export dialog box and alter your export settings there. They should also be able to tell you what resolution they typically use, and what their equipment can print.  If it can't handle anything higher than 200ppi it's useless sending them a file that will scale up to 400...

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 18, 2011 2:32 AM   in reply to MogDaa
    So I do understand the answers correctly when I say that my solution and proposal fully works and that distilling is unnecessary when exporting to pdf from either of the two applications since it a) is a perfectly working solution in regards to the print shop and b) holds - largely - the same export settings as when accessing the Adobe PDF printer or Adobe Distiller. Could anybody confirm this with a "correct" or "incorrect"




    If this is correctly understood why all the different pdf export solutions? Is it just to make the options look a bit "bigger" and giving people more options to access the pdf-export settings?


    Different horses for different courses.  Finr out what horse your printer prefers and saddle that one.  If in doubt jump on the mare called Press Quality.


    I remember that when a colleague in our previous CS1 suite created a pdf with the Adobe PDF printer and I did the same using the Ctrl+E export pdf option (which were both done from within InDesign) we got two different pdf file sizes (in i.e. kB). Her's was actually smaller than mine. I don't know if this has changed in the newer Adobe CS versions in particular the latter CS5 and honestly I don't know why - except for the settings - there should be any difference. I am not 100% sure anymore since it's been about half a year ago or so but I think to be able to remember that our export settings were similar if not the same (most likely some of the standard settings).


    Printing to PDF basically uses the distiller and isn't recommended, but it does prouce smaller PDFs.

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 18, 2011 4:06 AM   in reply to MogDaa

    Distilling/Printing to PDF is different from Exporting, even though you may be able to use the same settings. Distilled PDF does not support layers, transparency, or interactivity of any sort. Exported PDF uses the Adobe PDF Library rather than distiller, and supports all of the advanced features (which is why it often is bigger). For print many advanced features are unnecessary, but if you use any transparency, including drop shadows or effects, you can keep the transparency "live" during export and let the printer or RIP do the flattening at output which generally yeilds a superior print, especially on lower resolution devices like desktop printers or commercial copiers.

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  • John Hawkinson
    5,572 posts
    Jun 25, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 18, 2011 6:41 AM   in reply to MogDaa

    Taking a different stab at this question:

    What I really wanted to ask was why all the different pdf-ing solutions. You can export from the InDesign menu (Ctrl-E), from the Adobe PDF printer driver and then use the distiller on top. Seems a lot like overkill to me and a bit as if it was to make the options look bigger that can pdf a document for print purposes etc.

    The world is complicated and we don't always have the opportunity to design it from the ground up. It is overkill, but it's hard to get away from that.


    The Adobe PDF driver is intended for programs that don't know how to create PDFs themselves. It leverages the operating system's printing support and converts that into a PDF. That means if you want information in your PDF that would not go to a printer (for instance, information about interactive elements, or some kinds of metadata), then that method does not work. But it does work in applicatons that don't know anything about PDF. Generally speaking, don't use the Adobe PDF printer driver unless you have to.


    InDesign has its own native support for generating PDF, like many modern applications do. This is critical when the precise form of the PDF needs to be controlled (InDesign should not be at Apple or Microsoft's mercy), and also when the PDF needs to contain information that the APIs offered by the operating system don't allow. Again, this is things like interactive elements. But also questions of exactly what compression is applied in the PDF. For some applications, smaller file size wins the day. For other applications, absolutely no compression is reasonable at all and the biggest filesize is what is wanted. And everyone is actually somewhere in the middle.


    And then there's the Acrobat Distiller. The PDF file format was [loosely] based on Adobe's PostScript page description language, and originally the only way anyone got a PDF file was by taking a PostScript file and translating it into a PDF file. Distiller was Adobe's tool for doing that. It exists to this day, and is used primarily in workflows that know how to produce Postscript but not PDF. And then there are some awkward workflows that involve producing Postscript deliberately and converting that to PDF. This is usually to get around bugs or problems or defeat undesirable mechanisms that might exist. But usually this is to be avoided if at all possible.


    So, that's why these three options exist. Historical and legacy baggage, but also compatibility and because Printing Is Hard (tm).

    But if you tried to get rid of any one of them, there would be screaming, so they persist to this day.

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