How to Save Adobe Illustrator as a PDF

Go to the overhead menu, choose File > Save As and choose Adobe PDF (*.PDF) in the Save As Type box. You can also choose File > Save a Copy and choose the PDF setting.

My name is April, and I’ve been working in the graphic design field for 13+ years now. Adobe provides many options for file types, and they often each serve their purpose, even if sometimes the purposes overlap.

PDF stands for Portable Document Format and is known for that. Often you can save a design as a PDF and the person or client you are sharing it with does not need design software to open it. PDFs are very common and it is necessary to know how to save your Illustrator file as a PDF.

Let’s look into it. 

Key Takeaways

  • You can go to File > Save As when you want to save changes as a PDF.
  • The keyboard shortcut for Save As is Shift + Ctrl/Command + S and for Save is Ctrl/Command + S.
  • If you want to keep the original document and save it as a copy of a document, go to File > Save a Copy. Or use the keyboard shortcut for Alt/Option + Ctrl/Command + S.

Note: The screenshots from this tutorial are taken from Adobe Illustrator CC Windows version. 

Method 1: The Save As Option

Here are the steps to save an Illustrator file as the PDF format.

Step 1: In the top main menu, click File > Save As or use the keyboard shortcut is Shift + Ctrl/Command + S.

Step 2: This will bring up the Save As dialog box. Now we need to navigate to the folder where we want the document to save, make a filename, and change the save as file type.

Step 3: In the Save as type box, we have several file type options. For this tutorial, we are going to choose Adobe PDF (*.PDF), and click Save.

This opens the PDF Settings dialog box. 

Step 4: Change the settings. There are many settings you can choose. If you are simply sharing the PDF for others to view the design, you don’t need to worry much about these settings.

However, if you are sending this PDF to print, you will want to run through the settings. The main setting I use is the Compatibility drop-down. 

You generally want to choose a higher setting so that anyone’s Adobe reader can read the file. If you were to mark the compatibility as version 5, someone’s version 7 would be unable to read the file.

I do not generally mess with these settings, but they are there if you need to adjust them.

Marks and Bleed section is very important when preparing a print PDF. You often need to add bleeds to your artwork if you’re sending it to print. 

Output, Advance, and Security settings are all in there as well, but won’t generally need to change those settings for a general PDF.

Once you have all your settings set specific to your situation, click Save PDF. And voila, your PDF is ready! 

Method 2: The Save a Copy Option

If you want to keep the original .ai file and save it as a PDF as a copy, here’s how. 

Step 1: Navigate to the overhead menu and click File > Save a Copy or use the keyboard shortcut is Alt/Option + Ctrl/Command + S.

Step 2: This will open up the Save a Copy Dialog box. The main difference from the Save As dialog box is that Illustrator automatically adds a copy at the end of the filename.

Step 3: Choose your folder, name your file, and choose Adobe PDF (*.PDF) as the file type. 

Step 4: Click Save and that will bring up the PDF settings dialog box.

Step 5: Select all the settings you want for your PDF based on how the PDF is going to be used and then click Save PDF and your file is complete.

Final Thoughts

Adobe Illustrator allows you to save your file as several different formats, and PDF is a prominent one when you need to share the file with others or send it to print.

Using the Save As option to save the new PDF with the changes and using the Save a Copy option to save both documents with the changes will help your workflow.

Needed to save your Illustrator file as a PDF? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments below.

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