PDF 101: Ten Common PDF Problems

We see a lot of PDFs come through the MagCloud site, and while most of them look great, there are some avoidable issues that pop up every so often. Below are ten common PDF problems that can stand in the way of a great looking print publication.

1. Content is too close to the outside edges.
We see a number of great PDFs that have text placed dangerously close to the trim line.   As we discussed in our design series blog post on trim and bleed, it’s important to keep your content within a safe distance of the trim line to avoid having it cut off in your final print publication. Remember that the trim line is 8.25″ x 10.75″ so you need to design to those dimensions NOT the PDF size of 8.5″ by 11″ that you upload to MagCloud. This 8.5″ x 11″ PDF includes a bleed area that will be trimmed off: 0.125″ on the top, 0.125″ on the bottom and 0.25″ on the outside. Since this trim can vary slightly in either direction, we recommend leaving 1/4 inch of extra space between the 8.25″ x 10.75″ trim line and your content, particularly any text content. This will ensure that even if the trim is slightly off, your content will not get cut off, nor will it appear to have been placed too close to the edge of the page.

2. Images are not extending into the bleed area.
Similarly, we see a lot of PDFs where images that the publisher wanted to extend to the edge of the page stop at the trim line. If the trim is even slightly off in the opposite direction in this case, there will appear to be a thin white edge on the image, as shown in our trim and bleed blog post and below. With that in mind, be sure that any images you want to extend to the edge of the printed page, go all the way to the edge of your 8.5″ x 11″ PDF, filling the bleed area (again, 0.125″ top and bottom, 0.25″ on the outside edge).

3. Content is too close to the spine.
Another “edge” to keep in mind is the inside edge of your PDF, where the spine will be on your printed publication. We often see PDFs with text that starts right next to the spine, and becomes lost when printed with a perfect binding. As we described in our design series blog post on designing for perfect binding, up to 1/4 inch of the inside edge of your page may be lost into the spine on a perfect bound publication. It is important to keep this in mind when designing your PDF, and ensure that none of your content is placed close enough to the inside edge that it is in danger of being lost in the final print.

4. Images are distorted across perfect bound spines (especially faces).
In addition to text disappearing into a perfect bound spine, we also see PDFs that have images going across the center spine such that the resulting print appears to be missing up to a half inch in the center of the image due to the perfect binding. As described in our perfect binding blog post, as well as on our Getting Started page, this can be avoided by making the two halves of one image into two separate images within the document, then moving them both out from the spine slightly and duplicating the opposing image within the resulting gutter space. Another trick is to avoid placing the focus of an image on the spine, which will draw attention to this disappearing act and make it more obvious to the viewer. If the focus is moved away from the center spine, any loss of content into the spine area will be less noticeable.

5. PDF uses low resolution images.
While the placement of images is one thing that can cause problems in a print copy, the image itself can be the problem. We often see are PDFs that use lower resolution images, and although they look good on screen, they end up looking pixelated in print. As we describe in our design series blog post about getting the most out of your images, screen resolution is 72 pixels- or dots-per-inch (dpi) but print resolution is 300 dpi. Therefore, when selecting images for your publication, they should be at least 300 dpi to ensure a quality print out. As a test to see if your images will look good in print, open your PDF on your computer screen and zoom in to 300%. If the images still look crisp then, they will look good in your printed copy. On the other hand, if they look pixelated (like they are made up of little blocks of color) then your image is too low res, and will end up looking fuzzy in your final printed copy.

300 dpi vs 72 dpi at 350% zoom

6. Color profiles are not embedded.
Another common image problem we see in PDFs deals with the color of the resulting print copy. As we explained in our design series blog post on working with color, HP Indigo presses print MagCloud publications in a 4-color CMYK process, but most images that get used in the PDF have an RGB colorspace. To help guide this conversion from RGB to CMYK, it is important that the color profiles for these images are embedded in the PDF. Without them, the color of the printed images may appear to be slightly off. To make sure that you are using the best color settings possible when creating your PDF, we encourage you to follow the program-specific instructions that are available for download from the bottom of our Getting Started page.

7. Fonts are not embedded.
Of course, color profiles aren’t the only things that need to be embedded in your PDF – any fonts you use also should be included. A common error that occurs in our PDF upload validation is non-embeddded fonts. This can again be avoided by following the downloadable instructions on our Getting Started page for the software you are using to design your PDF. Each of these guides provides settings that will ensure your fonts are properly embedded in your final PDF, and help you avoid this upload error.

8. Fonts are too small or illegible.
In addition to the technical issue of non-embedded fonts, in some cases the problem with a PDF stems from the fonts themselves being too small or illegible, making the text difficult to read in the final print. For body copy we recommend 9-12 point type and for headlines 18 points or higher.  As we discussed in our design series blog post on typeface dos and don’ts, you also want to avoid hard-to-read fonts, particularly for large blocks of text. Decorative fonts are great as headers, but can detract from your message when they become difficult to read.

9. Dark text is used on a dark background, or light text is used on a light background.
Even in cases where the font is legible, we’ve seen PDFs where the color of the text doesn’t provide enough contrast with the background. Placing navy blue text on a black background or light yellow text on a white background, as shown below, becomes very difficult to read. When there is not enough contrast between the text and the background like this, the text seems to blend in and disappear from view, taking the message it was intended to convey with it.

10. A light spine is used with a dark cover, or a dark spine is used with a light cover.
Finally, while you want your text to stand out, it’s a whole other story when it comes to your spine. We occasionally see PDFs that have dark covers and light spines, or vice versa, which makes the slightest shift in the spine placement become glaringly obvious. As we discussed in our perfect binding design blog post, we encourage you to pick a spine color that is close to the color of your front and back covers. Doing so will give a more seamless appearance to your final print publication, and ensure a more polished look with every print.

To help avoid these problems in your PDF, be sure to follow the program-specific instructions available for download on our Getting Started page when designing your publication. For some more resources to help design your PDF, check out our design series blog post on layouts and templates, or browse through some of our featured publications on the MagCloud website for inspiration.

Does your publication successfully avoid these ten common problems? Share a link to it in the comments below!

It’s Calendar Season!

The holiday season and new year is almost upon us! If you’re thinking of ways to cherish memories, and gifts for your friends, family or clients, consider creating customized calendars!  We’re happy to announce new templates for 2016 calendars.

Create calendars to send to loved-ones or business clients to remember you year-round. Use our simple templates to create a beautiful 28-page saddle-stitched calendar.

Your final PDF should be on it's side, like this.
Your final PDF should be on it’s side, like this.

Get started download templates HERE

Need some inspiration on what kind of calendar to create? Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Great memories from 2015
  • Summer photos to keep the memories going year-round
  • Pet photos to keep at your desk or share with friends and family
  • Fundraiser calendar to raise money for your cause
  • Photos of the family and kids to send to grandma and grandpa
  • Branded calendar with motivational quotes to keep your clients remembering you year-round
  • Calendar to promote your art work

What type of calendars will you create? Send us a photo of a print or digital Magcloud calendar you made on Twitter @MagCloud, Instagram @MagcloudPubor Facebook for a chance to win 5 free print copies!
Post of calendar must be submitted by 10/30/2015 12:00 a.m. PDT. U.S. residents only.

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Blurb Stories: A Journey into the World of Indie Publishing

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Independent (indəˈpendənt) adj: Not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc.; thinking or acting for oneself

As self-publishers, you are the definition of independent. You believe in what you do, and it shows in the beautiful work, magazines and books you create and produce everyday with MagCloud. We, too, support your independent creations and want you to remain inspired. Our friends at Blurb share this same mentality.

In fact, Blurb launched a blog completely devoted to navigating the world of indie publishing. From marketing tips to authorpreneur profiles, Blurb Stories is an ever-expanding collection of inspiring, informational, and instructional articles exploring the world of self-publishing – everything from ideation to publication to promotion. Each and every week they’ll bring you stories to help you create, publish, and promote your work—so be sure to subscribe!

Here’s a quick peek at some of our recent favorites:

  • Food photography, elevated: An interview with Paul Lowe of Sweet Paul magazine and photographer Colin Cooke: Sweet Paulis a gorgeous magazine full of inspiration, creativity, and, very importantly, incredible food photography. Read on to get the inside scoop from Paul and his friend, professional food photographer Colin Cooke on how to create beautiful food photos…READ MORE
  • Why you need to think about marketing now: While you will certainly spend a lot of time marketing your book after it’s released, if you haven’t done the initial groundwork, it will be harder than it needs to be. If you’ve just started a project, or better yet, have a seed of a book idea, now’s the time to start thinking about your marketing. Here are five ways you can get started… READ MORE
  • Taking ebooks to town (or the country): An interview with Jeff Front: Celebrating the digital book in all its most wonderful forms, we bring you our one-on-one with artist Jeff Frost. A few things to know about Jeff: His camera bag contains as many motors as it does lenses, he has an impish sense of humor, and his mohawk looks like it could inflict some serious harm… READ MORE
  • Singing the Magazine Eclectic: An interview with Anniina Mäkelä: Eclectic Magazine caught our eye for exactly the reasons its creators undoubtedly wanted it to—sharp imagery, incredible styling, and diversity of look. We were lucky enough to have a chance to speak with Digital Content Editor Anniina Mäkelä about the magazine, what it’s like working with a truly international fashion team, and what’s next for print magazines, fashion, and art… READ MORE

Enjoy and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss anything!

Like a Rocket in the Sky: Propel Your Business to New Heights Using MagCloud

Let’s face it, being successful takes work. Today’s world is dramatically different from the one fifteen years ago–it’s a noisy place full of fierce competition. The stakes are high and greatness is always on the line. If you’re anything like us, you know the challenge to be seen and heard is one of the most difficult. So how do you set yourself apart? In the spirit of entrepreneurship, we suggest trying some of these creative ideas to promote your brand—and ensure you remain in the know for your industry:

Establish yourself as THE expert: Your brand collateral is the most important opportunity to talk about your product or service. That’s why so many businesses (The Costco Connection, USAA Magazine) and owners have found that branded magazines are a unique way to pique audience interest with relevant content and information. It keeps you top of mind in a format that gets to your customers or target audience more frequently—be it annually, quarterly or monthly. How does it work? Well, by presenting your business in an editorial format you can:

  • develop prospective customers and foster increased loyalty
  • establish your organization or company as current on issues and trends
  • be a resource for information that is relevant to your audience
  • give depth and relevance to your brand in an environment you can control

Don’t be shy, tell your story: A custom magazine (e.g. This Workplace) or brochure (e.g. HP 360°) is the perfect way to chronicle the history of your company, a new product’s road to market, and much more. Consider the story you want to tell, and record or detail aspects that support your narrative. And don’t forget to employ social media either! Use Pinterest to crowd source ideas from fans and customers, leverage Instagram to showcase behind-the-scenes elements, and engage in conversation with your target audience on Twitter.

Showcase your amazing career: Showcase your career accomplishments and accolades in a magazine (e.g. Subject Matter, Trendi Creative) including media coverage, photos of your work, testimonials and anything else you’d be proud to display. Present it to prospective clients and include a link to it in your resume.

Keep pace with industry news and trends: Sometimes it seems as if the world—and the people in it—are changing faster than anyone can keep track. Start by putting your finger on the pulse of the industry. Draw insights and inspiration easily, and stay abreast of current and expected trends that are relevant to your business by reviewing what others are doing in and around you (e.g. Spinr Magazine, XXC Magazine).

Say ‘I Do’ in DIY Style

Most couples will tell you the secret to a perfect wedding day lies in the details. Those personalized moments that make the occasion truly unique—especially DIY touches—are sure to create an intimate experience. Whether you’re planning a traditional soirée, or an affair that will color outside the lines of convention, consider these approaches to create lasting memories:

Wedding Guest Book

The wedding guest book is a perfect time capsule. Showcase your favorite photos and memories from over the years, capture guests’ well-wishes and preserve the occasion forever. It’s not only something you’ll cherish forever, it also makes for a beautiful addition to your ceremony and reception. MagCloud’s photo book format is perfect for the occasion. We also recommend checking out Blurb’s photo book options!

DIY Guest Gift

Share your love story with friends and loved ones in a beautifully unique, one-of-a-kind scrapbook using Flickr, and distribute it as part of the wedding gift. Simply gather your photos into an online photo album (take a peek at this post for tips!), then choose the photo set. Your photos will automatically be organized into a beautiful magazine format.

Unique Photo Album

Make your wedding photo album as unique as your wedding. A beautiful album will last a lifetime and ensure those endearing moments documented on film (or Instagram!) are around for generations to see. Regardless of whether you’re on a budget, or merely prefer a more hands-on approach, you have easy-to-use options at your fingertips. From MagCloud’s photo book format to Blurb’s BookSmart tool, you’ll get high quality prints that will last a lifetime.

As the wedding season heats up, we’d love to hear your creative planning ideas and how you’ve used MagCloud in aspects of your special day. Share in the comments below, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Recommended Reading

How to make a DIY Wedding Photo Guest Book

DIY Wedding Ideas using MagCloud

Adding MagCloud Touches to Your Wedding

Beyond the format—making a wedding book for them (and one just for you)

Embrace Your Summer Wanderlust

Whether you’re planning a scenic vacation, a wild outdoor expedition or a weekend staycation this summer, the travel bug seems to always bite us during the warmer months of the year. If you’re at a loss for inspiration, look no further. You can find plenty of great magazines to awaken your travel desires, plan your itinerary, or inspire you to create a lasting remembrance of that epic adventure once returning home. If you aren’t embarking on a trek across different countries throughout the world, or if you’re just new to camping and the outdoor lifestyle, you can always kick back and appreciate these destinations from afar.

In an homage to our own summer travel desires, enjoy a few of our favorite camping and nature-inspired publications:

  • Overland Sourcebook (2013) – Created by the Overland Expo team as a 60-page listing for all things adventure – vehicles, motorcycles, accessories, camping equipment, services, information, trip planning, business consultants, fabricators, and much more.
  • A Camp on Plum Lake – Early to middle 20th century photography, this book is a history of one of the nation’s oldest summer camps in North Wisconsin, curated by Tim Bachmann.
  • Outdoor Solitude – Adventures into the mountains of British Columbia, Canada chronicles trips from the trailhead to the tranquility of relatively untouched areas of nature.

camping

Image via Fab and Frugal

Hats Off to Dads and Grads

It goes without saying that June is an exciting time for most. Midway through the year, it signals the start of summer and encompasses both freedom for grads and family fun for dads. If you’re in the market for a unique way to celebrate either one, you can use MagCloud to do last-minute shopping for Dad or commemorate your grad’s past as they look toward the future.

Ideas to Brighten Dad’s Day:

Print and Digital Indie Magazines

If your dad happens to be a jack of all trades, chances are we have the mags to match. Whether he likes cars, technology, sports, or travel, we carry print and digital publications that make reading a more pleasant pastime.

carheader

Custom Recipe Book

You don’t get between a guy and his grill, unless you have a cookbook. Put together his go-to recipes in a custom recipe book. We have the perfect recipe for a successful cookbook, should you need it!

 

Great Gifts for Eager Grads:

photobook1Photobooks for Friends

Since the change that accompanies graduation can be bittersweet, you can create a photobook to commemorate the past years before your grad takes a step in their new direction. The MagCloud Digest product is perfect for displaying full color photographs in a compact layout.

 

Custom Thank You Notes

If you found yourself in a pile of celebratory send-off gifts, you can give thanks with custom thank you cards. Our single sheet Flyers in the smaller Digest size are printed on a cover stock that that fits  perfectly into A9 envelopes and makes them ideal for using as flat notecards. Get started with our Software-Specific Instruction Packages.

Print and Digital Portfolio

Much to our delight, some grads will be on the hunt for careers as artists, designers, writers and publishers. For those of you, MagCloud’s print-on-demand features include quality printed portfolios at an affordable price, with a variety of sizes and binding options and an optional number of copies. With our Ship to Group feature, you can even send copies of your portfolio directly to an address list of potential employers.

 

No matter what or whom you’re celebrating this summer, MagCloud wants to help you wish them a warm congratulations and a happy Father’s Day!

 

Recommended reading:

MagCloud for Graduation Memories

Let’s Give It Up For Our Dads

A Father’s Day photo book just for him

Celebrate their achievement with a graduation photo book