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!

View MagCloud Publications in Your Web Browser

Today we are excited to announce a new web-based viewer that enables publishers to bring stunning versions of their publications to life in any modern web browser on both desktop and mobile computers.

Now publishers can upload a single PDF file and immediately distribute as a free or paid digital publication, in print, in a web browser or as a PDF download.

The web viewer delivers an immersive reading experience for users. Simply click the “read now” button and the publication launches within the web viewer. Readers can page forward and back, rotate, zoom in and out, and enter full-screen mode. Pages can be viewed individually or as a spread, and are easily navigated with thumbnail and all-pages views. Additionally, users can buy a printed copy, download a PDF version or add to their Digital Library for viewing later.

The web viewer supports all HP MagCloud publications, regardless of format, on any desktop or notebook computer running a modern web browser.

The web viewer technology also offers hyperlink support, benefiting publishers and users by allowing you to link from your catalog of products back to an ecommerce site, link directly to advertisers’ web pages, allow customers to draft emails to an address listed in your brochure just by clicking on it or provide information about the author.

Publishers can also monitor how well their readers engage with their online publications via the Stats section in their account.  You can see important web viewer reading information including the number of total readers, how often your publication was read, pageviews, shares, hyperlinks clicked, click through rates etc. for all your collections or a single publication.

Publishers and readers can promote their favorite publications by sharing publications they like with friends and colleagues via email or social media channels or embedding a badge or link that launches  the web viewer directly from their own website or blog.

All publishers who currently have digital distribution turned on for their publications will automatically have web viewer versions available on the MagCloud website. To turn digital distribution on simply select Sell Online (after uploading your PDF and selecting your binding). This is where you will add any markup to your print version, and will have the option to opt-in to digital distribution.  Opting-in to digital distribution is a one time setting that instantly gives readers digital access via the web viewer and PDF download.

What do you think of the new MagCloud web viewer?  Let us know in the comments section below.

Eternalize Summer Memories With Your Own Magazine

Though Summer’s heat lingers on, Labor day is just around the corner marking the unofficial end of Summer.  Whether your family took a big trip or just used the lazy afternoons to hang out together, you are sure to have plenty of memories – and pictures – you want to save.

For many, vacation photographs wind up unorganized and spread amongst their hard drives, cell phones, Instagram and Facebook–doomed to be lost in the shuffle. With that in mind, why not take an afternoon and organize your family’s vacation experience, photographs, and mementos into a summer memory magazine?

With MagCloud’s beautiful print quality and direct mail options, you can even order copies to be sent directly to grandparents, cousins and friends to enjoy.

Getting Started: Where will you create your PDF?

First, you’ll want to select a platform to design/assemble your MagCloud-ready PDF­. You can use web-based Poyomi, or software like Adobe InDesign, Quark, Apple iWork Pages, or Microsoft Word.

As you get started, you can choose to start with a pre-designed template from the software (if available), or with a plain MagCloud template available here. You may even remember a post from awhile back, when we used Apple Pages’ built-in Templates to create magazines.

Organize Your Images and Treasures

Next, gather together your vacation photographs and organize them into a single folder. Then select the images that most effectively represent your vacation experience.

Collect any small items that you may have picked up along the way (i.e., a drink coaster with a resort’s logo, maps, airline ticket stubs, brochures from attractions, etc.). Such items can be scanned and added throughout your magazine and provide a more personal touch to the project. For example, you can use your ticket stubs from the theme park to give a different look to your family’s latest roller coaster adventure.

Order and Details

Although you have complete creative control over how you assemble your summer memory magazine, the easiest way is to assemble things is in chronological order so those enjoying your magazine can experience your vacation from start to finish. Throughout the publication you can include  quotes from your family members, or funny anecdotes – like when the duck bit the zoo keeper during his presentation.

Be sure to take the time to caption your photographs, indicating the “who, what, when, and where” of each picture. This will be helpful for others viewing your memory magazine and for you in later years when small details slip from memory.

Write a short paragraph for each of your summer highlights. Ask your children for input and have them answer questions about their favorite parts of the summer. You’ll be amazed by what they come up with and it’s always fun to look back and remember what was happening in pop culture at the time.

Some details you may want to include:

  • Favorite Summer Memory
  • Places and people you visited
  • Friends made
  • Activities and Games played
  • Movies watched
  • Books read
  • Song that was on repeat in the car
  • The silliest moment of the summer

Design Can be Daunting

When it comes to assembling your summer memory magazine, don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of design skills or experience. You can look at magazines for inspiration, simply use photos and captions for a basic layout, or even re-purpose templates that have nothing to do with this purpose. You can find inspiration anywhere, you just have to look past the content and look at the design. For example, the magazine pictured above used our Microsoft Publisher Brochure Template as a starting point for the layout. The design was a perfect way to include ample text to tell the story that went along with the photos. A few tweaks to colors and typefaces and we were able to completely transform the look of the original design..

As an additional example below, we used the layout from an Apple Pages design template for a school yearbook. With a few changes (and by deleting the extra clip art that made the layout look  “education-centric” we were able to create a casual scrapbook-style. Adding a scanned scrap of paper with Sara’s favorite memory from the water park gave the page a personalized feel.

Microsoft Word also has some great “Newsletter Templates” that are built-in to the software (Mac) or available online. Below are some samples that could be easily tweaked and used as the interior pages of your memory magazine.

No matter what software or platform you choose to create your magazine in, there are lots of sources for inspiration. So start designing and have some fun with it!

Have you created a photo magazine or book with MagCloud to commemorate and event, trip or season in your life? Tell us about it, or share your publication in the comments below!

Creating a PDF? We’ll Help You Get Started

As we continue to add new product sizes to the MagCloud service, we’ve made it easier to find the requirements for the product you want to create with our Getting Started page. This new page in the Create section on the MagCloud site lets you select the product, trim size, and binding type for the publication you want to create, and then provides you with the appropriate PDF specifications, things to keep in mind when designing your publication, and step-by-step information packets to help you get started.

In the PDF specifications section, we not only provide the correct PDF size, trim size, safe zone, and bleeds for creating a MagCloud-ready PDF but we also make it easier to understand what these concepts are and how they relate to one another. As you hover over each of these values on the right, you’ll notice that the corresponding area gets highlighted in red in the diagram on the left. At the same time, a text description of what the specification is appears next to your cursor, letting you know, for example, that the PDF Size is the page size of the PDF you will upload to MagCloud. Below the PDF specifications, there is a section for Additional Information that is specific to the publication you are hoping to create. This area lists things that are important to keep in mind while designing your PDF, from embedding fonts to allowing space for the 2D barcode that goes on the back page of your publication.

Finally, at the bottom of the Getting Started page are links to download Information Packets for a variety of software programs. Clicking on one of the icons will download a .zip file, which unzips to become a folder specific to that program and the product, trim size and binding you initially selected. Each folder contains a PDF with step-by-step instructions to help you design a MagCloud-ready PDF from scratch, or modify an existing document for use with MagCloud. In addition, many of these folders also include templates or presets that can be used in conjunction with the step-by-step instructions to help jump-start your creation process.

At the moment we offer Instruction Packets for Adobe InDesign, QuarkXPress, Microsoft Word for Mac and PC, Apple iWork Pages, and Microsoft Publisher. We are planning to add instructions for additional software in the near future though, so keep an eye on the blog for news about those additions. And if there’s a type of software that you would like to see MagCloud-specific instructions for, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Our Product Family Keeps Growing

Today we launched two new products into the MagCloud family–Digest Landscape and Flyer.

Digest Landscape is compact and ultra-portable at 8.5″ wide x 5.5″ tall. It’s perfect for portfolios, brochures, catalogs, books and more.  Simply upload an 8.5″ wide x 5.5″ tall PDF and we’ll trim it down by 0.125″ on the top and bottom and 0.25″ on the outside edge to a final size of 8.25″ wide x 5.25″ tall so it’s ready for our professional printing presses.  We’ve also updated our website preview app so users will be able to preview your publication in all it’s landscape glory.

Our double-sided, single sheet Flyer product is ideal for brief messages or content that changes often such as sales promotions, menus, product data sheets, event schedules and more. Simply upload an 8.5″ wide x 11″ tall PDF and we’ll get it ready for printing by trimming it down by 0.125″ on all sides to a final size of 8.25″ wide x 10.75″ tall.  We print Flyer publications as a single sheet with a front and back side, so if you only upload one page don’t worry we’ll automatically add a blank page for the back side.  The Flyer product does require a minimum print order of 10 copies which will be bundled into one shipping order.

We hope you enjoy these new products and would love to hear how you plan to use them in our comments section below.

New Catalog Template

Looking for ways to showcase your growing line of products or services?  We have added a new catalog template to our free template collection.

This multi-page template is for Adobe InDesign users and is perfect for product or service brochures.  We’ve created a sample publication using this template to show you how easy it is to make a great looking catalog that is MagCloud-ready.

If you are new to using Adobe InDesign to create MagCloud-ready publications make sure to download our Adobe InDesign Getting Started Guide for tips on settings for trim, bleeds, image resolution and more.

Let us know what you think of the new template in our comments section below.