The Problem with Flattened PDF Files and Text

ISOTC42 WG5 Brochure_20200423_8

ISO TC42 WG5 Brochure

PDF files are incredibly useful. They are used for everything from industrial production of photo products to archiving digital files for preservation. The problem is not all PDF files are created equal.

Text, in particular, relies on sharp, high-contrast edges for clarity. Problems begin when text is merged with image files. When it is merged, the screening algorithms that attempt to accurately reproduce colors introduce fuzziness to the text.

I ran into this problem when I used Forever’s Artisan to create a brochure for an upcoming meeting. I was not pleased with print quality and wanted a higher quality file.

There is nothing unique about a brochure. The same problem will happen with photo books, card, and other products. Any time, Artisan saves text, it combines the text with the background, potentially reducing image quality.

I used a little trickery to resolve my problem. Initially, I tried to recreate the file in Photoshop, but I did not have the skills to do so effectively. Photoshop is a difficult program to master.

PDF Comparison

Comparison between flattened PDF (left) and layered PDF (right).

Eventually, I came upon a solution. I imported the flattened file into Adobe Acrobat and used Acrobat to extract the text, essentially reversing the process that Artisan had used to  create my original file. As a bonus, text extraction significantly reduced my file size, taking a 3.3 MB file and reducing it to 512 K with no apparent loss of image quality.

I have emailed my suggestion for an option that avoids flattening text to Forever. I am hopeful that they will take action to improve Artisan. This option would have the added benefit in that text could be searched for specific words using standard search programs.


About Mark Mizen

I have over twenty years professional experience in all aspects of photography and digital imaging. I am Chair of the ISO WG5 TG2 committee responsible for physical properties and durability of imaging material and am currently with HID Global working on systems for security printing for IDs, licenses, and credit cards. Previously, I was Director of Digital Development at Creative Memories from 2009 to 2012 and was responsible for the Creative Memories digital products and services. I also established and directed the Creative Memories Technology Center, which evaluated new products prior to product introduction, assisted with production difficulties, and provided technical information to support product sales.
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2 Responses to The Problem with Flattened PDF Files and Text

  1. Ann Matuszak says:

    As Forever is working on Artisan 6, this was the perfect time to share this suggestion!

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