PDF Portfolio file size/compression advice needed


New Member

I searched the forum for this and all over the internet in fact, but there's nothing really clear cut. I'm looking for information on what people do/recommend for sending out PDF portfolios by email. In terms of illustration, graphic design or whatever your area is would be interesting. But also compression details and just the general standard for this?

It's tricky because of the file size being too big but losing quality the smaller you go with file size. I have a 300dpi portfolio of illustration and design at 5-6mb with great quality. Sends out over email OK but is a little big I suppose. Going down to "smallest file possible" in indesign makes a horrible quality but small file size PDF! In between I can get a 120dpi PDF at about 4mb. But is file size in these units even a consideration these days? Do you prefer to email as an attachment or just link to an online location for your PDF?

Also in terms of PDF portfolio structure, how many pages do you go for? I've seen some of the top illustrator PDFs at around 50 pages, but equally also at 12 pages...

So anyone know a great deal about this? Or just want to say what you do yourself for your PDFs would be great to know!

I've been told by a few designers that they prefer to receive PDF attachments that are 4 to 5mb in total. Obviously, nowadays, bandwidth isn't as much of a concern but a lot of agencies, particularly larger ones, probably have a limit to the size of files that they can receive. Keeping it small ensures that it gets through, and that it opens quickly. You don't want to be hogging a designer's time or CPU with a massive opening time.

I'd send a 72 dpi version, or more likely just a link to my online portfolio, they can view this anywhere then. Nobody's going to waste their time and paper printing off your portfolio, they'll just view it on screen and decide whether they hit "reply" or "delete" on your email.

With regards to pages, 12–15 pages of very good work is preferred. More than that and you can start to bore people. Any less and you may look inexperienced.

It's all subjective though, different people prefer different things, so whatever you do, I'd suggest you follow these rules.

1. Keep it simple

Get straight to the point.

2. Keep it good

Obviously, only show your best work.

3. Keep it easy

Don't ask people to take unnecessary steps to to view your work. Make it as easy for them to do as possible.
You can decrease the size by reducing the images on output in the compression area of InDesign.

72 PPI in a PDF looks terrible because Acrobat has set it's resolution to 96PPI by default.

You can safely reduce your images to 96 PPI for 100% viewing on screen.

In Acrobat you can use File>Properties to set the "Initial View" that you think works best.

If you think they will print out or zoom in on the details - then 150 ppi would be better.

But you don't need 300 PPI.

Also in the compression area for InDesign - set the file to Automatic JPEG and Maximum - this will choose the best compression for each image, it will determine if JPEG compression or Zip compression is better for each object.
Thanks for the replies.

Paul, that's another consideration I've had with pdf vs website. My website is now exactly as I want it and displays all the work, in my opinion, very nicely. The PDF is simply for sending out for illustration/design representation, it just seems the best thing to do. But perhaps they would just as easily look at the weblink? Difficult.

Hank, thanks for the information. 150ppi seems to be a happy medium from what I've just tested, lower than that is noticeably pixelated whilst at 150 it produces around a 3mb pdf which could be easier to handle in email. I suppose ideally I want the recipients to be looking at the website, just have this niggling feeling a website and no PDF comes across as though you've not bothered? When that could be quite the opposite for many of us.

With number of pages, again another difficult issue. A leading illustrator/designer working today I've seen a PDF with 53 pages, coming in at around 3mb! Images seem relatively good quality.
If you've placed Illustrations from Illustrator, that are vector - then these do not get downsampled on output.

You'd need to make your vector artwork into Raster at the dimensions you've placed into InDesign placing them at a scale of 100%

Drop 20 Pounds with InDesign | CreativePro.com

You can always check your document for overhead - in Acrobat 9 Advanced > PDF Optimizer

In acrobat 10 File>Save as>Optimised PDF

From the opening dialog box here there's a button called "Audit Space Usage"

Another good way to reduce PDF overhead is to Export your Indesign file as an IDML file

Open that (it opens as Untitled)

This is a know method for backsaving to earlier versions of Indesign - but it's also a very good way to dejunkify your Indesign files with excess code.

Also - make sure when you make the PDF you are exporting it to RGB colour space - not CMYK or a mixture of CMYK.

Finally - transparencies can cause issues when viewing on screen.

If the file is not for output - you might get a better Screen Only version by using the Old Fashioned "File>Print" and choose PDF.

Note printing to PDF will not allow transparencies in your document, so you may end up with a lot of screen only thin lines around transparent images. It also won't include any hyperlinks or other things - it's a very vanilla pdf - very very basic.

But worth a try ... Printing to PDF is not recommended if you intend to go the printers with this file - for this you'd need File Export and choose PDF (Print)
Brilliant, thanks for the links Hank, very interesting.

And yeah, unfortunately I don't have any sort of vector work at all which is a shame in this instance ;)

It's not strictly intended for print, but as Paul touched on, it likely won't be printed out by these people. It's the compromise between file size and image quality I suppose.
Also, do you use jpegs or tiffs (or something else) when placing images into indesign for this sort of thing?
JPEGs are best for photos
PNGs (24 bit) are best for Line Drawings - it's a smarter cousin of GIF
*edit* - PNG are best for line drawings, logos, and other things, like screen grabs etc.

Funnily enough - Fireworks will save a much smaller JPEG than Photoshop does - it has a much better compression system and no loss of detail.

Again - opt for Automatic Jpeg when choosing the compression type - as InDesign will analyse each image before applying a jpeg or zip compression.
Actually - choosing JPEG 2000 might not be a bad idea here.

It should be a smaller compression and JPEG 2000 does not add artifacts to the image (but I'd test this thoroughly on different PDF readers, Mac Preview, Firefox PDF, Chrome PDF readers etc)
Yeah JPEG sounds like the best bet, my work is relatively dense. Another thought, in one guide to doing this someone says to make your images CMYK before placing in Indesign. In the possibility they get printed out I suppose. Do you use RGB or CMYK for these things?
I had/have a 40 page PDF 'portfolio' compressed to under 4mb. I say had/have because I haven't used/updated/edited it ever since I created my online portfolio. It is just much easier and more convenient to send a link to your work. That way you don't have to worry about the file size and you know the person will definitely be able to view your work. Before my website, I used to always send my PDF portfolio as an attachment. I would say as long as your portfolio is not over 4mb that should be fine.

Just to add, as I'm sure you know, the more you compress your file the lower quality your images become but smaller the file size. What I did to get around this was to compress my file as low as possible, but of high enough quality for my work to be good to look at. Any work I had that I needed to be seen at a higher quality (due to smaller details in the piece of work), I made those images a higher quality, so that when it is compressed it doesn't lose as much quality as my other pieces of work.
Some people may think that is inconsistent, but it was needed and it worked a treat. It really is trail and error until you find a compression that works for you, a high enough quality compressed under 4mb.
Yeah JPEG sounds like the best bet, my work is relatively dense. Another thought, in one guide to doing this someone says to make your images CMYK before placing in Indesign. In the possibility they get printed out I suppose. Do you use RGB or CMYK for these things?

Absolutely redundant to convert your RGB to CMYK.

Firstly, CMYK would be a larger file size - as it has an extra channel.

Secondly, screens are in RGB - not CMYK. So there would be colour shift depending on their monitor colour profile.

Thirdly, converting images to CMYK before placing into a layout programme is something I haven't done in about 10 years when I worked in Quark.

That would be a wholly Quark workflow from circa 2001.

RGB and CMYK are different gamuts.

RGB has a larger gamut than CMYK.

Converting the RGB to CMYK (what destination profile should this be, Eurocoated, Uncoated, Fogra 27, Fogra 39???)

back on track - RGB to CMYK - RGB = larger gamut than CMYK. Converting your RGB to CMYK means you're reducing your Gamut in your colours as CMYK simply cannot produce the colours in an RGB image in the same gamut.

The only reason to make CMYK files is if sending to a professional printers.

Even at that send a mix of Spot, Lab, CMYK, and RGB (whatever colour profile they came in) and then make PDFx4a document.

The printers then should convert all the colour spaces in your PDF to the output destination profile set in their RIP.

That is the best place for any Colour Conversion to take place - at the RIP.