PDF-X1a: The right format for printing

Now I can already hear you asking “What in the world is PDF-X1a ?!”. Let me help you with that and explain why it is actually an important format that you should be using for printing. As you might have guessed from its name, the PDF-X format family is a subset of the ISO standard PDF format. It was created specifically to facilitate graphics exchange, which means it includes a series of print-related requirements that basic PDFs do not include. All in all, the sub-format exists to ensure that there are no discrepancies in the rendering and printing of graphics files.

If you have taken a look at our section on how to correctly close artwork files for printing, and read some of our previous blog posts, you know how important it is for the final quality of prints to respect artwork requirements. That is why PDF-X1a forces you to properly set up some print-related settings before saving.

For starters, all the fonts in your artwork need to be embedded in order to save the file. This is crucial for cross-device compatibility. Refer to our blog post on converting fonts to curves (the process of embedding them), to understand how and why you need to do this.

PDF-X1a: The right format for printing

PDF-X1a: 

In addition, you will only be allowed to save in the PDF-X1a format if all images and colors are set to CMYK. Find out on our dedicated blog article why that is crucial.

Finally, various boxes must also be defined to be allowed to save the file as PDF-X1a. The MediaBox needs to define the size of the entire document, the ArtBox needs to define the extent of the printable area and the BleedBox needs to be smaller than the MediaBox but larger than the ArtBox. Read our  blog post on bleed and margins in your artwork file to understand their importance in printing.

In the end, saving your artwork in the PDF-X1a standard ensures that some basic printing requirements are fulfilled to ensure compatibility as well as reliable and true printing.

You might find this quite technical post slightly boring, but we encounter our fair share of artwork-related printing problems that could be avoided. We therefore consider it crucial to share the importance of correctly setting up print files. This is absolutely necessary if you want your artwork file to be correctly represented by the prints we provide. And if you’re going to create artwork files anyway, might as well do it by the book!

Thanks for the attention!