Prepress Tutorial: Preparing PDFs Made from Microsoft Word for Offset Printing

Can you use Microsoft Word for Desktop Publishing?

You just received this wonderful PDF from one of your clients. It was made from Word. On top of that, the client who gave you that PDF wants you to make some changes to the text. How do you make those changes using the PDF itself and what do you have to do to make that PDF press ready?

The first hing to know is that no matter what you do, Microsoft Word will produce PDFs in RGB colour mode. If you need to get your PDF printed with an offset press, then you have to convert that document to CMYK. The second thing to know is that PDFs can be edited and any other idea that they can’t is not true.

There are mainly two types of graphics in Desktop Publishing. One is called vector and the other one is called raster. If you looked at the two links I provided, you will see that Photoshop handles raster images.

PDFs can contain both raster and vector elements. When one makes a PDF from Work, the text is still vector. If someone has used a clipart from Word Clipart Gallery, then also the clipart is very likely to be vector.

If you open a PDF in Photoshop all your text and everything else that is vector will be rasterized. You won’t be able to edit it anymore, i.e., you won’t be able to change the text unless you erase parts of your image.

If you opened the PDF in Acrobat (full version, not the just the Reader), you would still be able to edit the type without touching anything else in your PDF. However I don’t think you could convert it to CMYK (I have to test that).

You could also open the PDF in Illustrator and you would still be able to change edit the type like you would with Acrobat. And you could also convert your PDF to CMYK right there and then.

However there is a catch to all this, actually two. When you modify a PDF either in Acrobat or in Illustrator you need to have the fonts that were used in the Word document before it was made into PDF (there is an exception to this, but there is no point in explaining that now and make everything more confusing).

The second catch is that if there was an image imported into Word which was not a clipart, but an actual photo or so, then you cannot simply convert your file from RGB to CMYK in Illustrator. You have to use a program such as Pitstop or Photoshop.

If you only have Photoshop, I would first edit the text either in Acrobat or in Illustrator and then go into Photoshop to convert the PDF to CMYK. All the text and vector elements will be rasterized which means that they will loose some of the crispness (especially if the text is very small), but you haven’t got much choice in this case.

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