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How to correctly Flatten a PDF exported from Adobe InDesign


Well-Known Member
Hello all,

My local printers only accepts PDFs (which is fine), and has recommended I flatten my 40 page PDF book design I exported from Adobe Indesign.

Can this be done in Adobe Indesign before / during exporting? In a similar way I would in Adobe Photoshop for example? They suggested I use Adobe Distiller, but I haven't had any luck with that.

This suggestion came after they printed a copy of the book: The cover was given to them as a separate PDF file which was saved from Adobe Illustrator. Problem is, the cover was printed to the correct size, but the actual 40 page interior of the book came out about an inch shorter, both in width and height?

It should be a simple A4 book, I have no idea how or why this has happened? They had a look at my files and they said I had set everything up perfectly fine, with bleed and crop marks etc. They couldn't see any problems with the files.

From what they said it sounds like the issue is on their end, but I just want to make sure I have crossed all the t's and dotted all the i's on my end first, before going back to them. Could flattening it be the solution?

Another 'explanation' I was given is that it could be an issue with going from Mac to PC. I use a Mac, they use PC's...

Any thoughts?
As far as I know, to flaten the pdf, there is a quick solution. There is a preset menu at the top of export dialogue box. You have to select the preset that reads pdfx/a-2001. What it does is that it flatens your pdf for objects that use effects like transparencies, drop shadows, glows, etc. This preset creates a industry standard high quality pdf which would be fine for press production/print. However, it is always necessary to check the pdf before handing it over to the press guys/printers. Go through to produced pdf that was created with this preset to verify that it is what you have designed and either it is free of issues or not. I have been doing this for a long time and found it very effective of all solutions. Often, there is a process involved in press which requires you to flaten the pdf. This was the same problem I had been facing few years back until I found this solution from internet forums. Do let me know if I have helped you solving your issue. And as far as the size is concerned, the size which you designed should not reduce either done in mac or pc. You could again check the size in your design. Or this might also be issue with the press guys. May be they are generous in saving paper by scaling down your design to fit the paper sheet to overcome the paper wastage. Hope this helped. :)


Staff member
Those printers are living in the dark ages...find a new printers... Distilling a PDF went out with the dinosaurs. If they are working with such old technology it makes me wonder what else they can't do.

As above the pdf x1a is a good starting point. Make sure it's a PDF 1.4 which will be top right of the dialog box.

Check your output resolutions. And finally check the transparency settings are on high.

Also check the ink manager for spots to cmyk using lab values...if you need to convert spots to cmyk that is...


Well-Known Member
Thanks guys, I'll take on board what you've said although we are not using these printers anymore.

In future, is it normal procedure for a printer to expect work such as this to be exported as pdfx/a-2001 (a flattered PDF), or is exporting it as a high quality print ok?

I have never had such an issue before, but then I don't often get work like this unfortunately.


Staff member
The recommended route would be pdf x4 but a lot of printers are not up to that standard.

Best to ask them for the pdf job options file that they recommend. If they don't have one then I'd be worried.