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How to create and self publish a print book with a lot of images and pictures
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Exporting final PDF press-ready files

It's show time! After this point it will be a hassle to revise your work, so be sure it's ready for printing.

Assorted Books Illustration by Brett EngleTo get your finished layouts from your computer to the printer, you must export PDF files.
There was a time when most printers wanted your original source files to print from because they were the highest quality. Today it is more common to prepare and send a press-ready PDF (Portable Document Format) of your finished work. PDFs work well because printers do not have to fuss with multiple files. PDFs can contain hi-resolution images, vector graphics, text, etc. all of which are fixed in place, ready for the printer. This also means we must prepare the files on our end to their specifications. If we make errors, the printed book may have errors.

The instructions below will produce files that most printers will be able to use, including CreateSpace. If you are using a different printer, consult with them to get their particular specifications. You can contact me if you have questions and I will try my best to help.

We will be preparing 1 press-ready PDF of your interior pages and 1 press-ready PDF of exterior cover.
The process for creating both PDFs is the same. Follow the directions below for both of your layout documents to export them to PDF format. This process will not destroy or alter your original InDesign layout document, only create a new PDF document.

With the desired file open in Adobe InDesign, select "File > Export". A window will pop up prompting you to name your file and pick the location to save it on your computer. At the bottom of the window select "Format: Adobe PDF (Print)" if it is not already selected. Click the "Save" button.

Support the author and download this entire guide ad free. Only 99 cents for the PDF. Click here! The next window that pops up will allow you to control the settings that create your PDF. There is a lot of power in this window if you poke around.

From the list of Adobe PDF Presets, select "PDF/X-1a" or "Press Quality".
Make sure "Pages" has "All" selected.
Make sure "Spreads" is not selected.
Make sure the "View PDF after Exporting" box is checked.
Now click on "Marks and Bleeds" in the list on the left side of the window. New choices will appear in the right panel of the window. Check the box that says "Use document bleed settings", but do not add crop marks. Some printers will want crop marks, but CreateSpace does not.
Bookmarks, notes, comments, and hyperlinks should all be disabled and no security features should be used.
The other settings should be left to their default.
Click the "Export" button.
The PDF will be saved to your files and then open.
Review the PDF to be sure all elements on all pages look how you intended. If things don't look right, you will need to troubleshoot the issue and export a new PDF file.

Note that the size of your interior page PDF cannot be larger than 400 mb, and the exterior cover PDF no larger than 40 mb. If your PDFs are larger than these sizes, you will need to downsample your PDF images to a lower quality when exporting. Follow the steps above but before clicking the "Export" button, click on "Compression" in the list on the left side panel of the window. New choices will appear in the right panel of the window. Change both "Image Quality" selections to a lower setting like "High" or "Medium". You may need to export several attempts to get the quality and file size desired. You can replace and save over the last PDF until you are satisfied.

If you need further assistance, there is a helpful post about creating press ready PDFs in the CreateSpace community.

Once these steps are followed successfully, you are ready to upload your PDFs to the printer.

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