Re: Graphics formats for Word and problems printing from PDF

Subject: Re: Graphics formats for Word and problems printing from PDF
From: "Mike Starr" <mike -at- writestarr -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, "Barbara Donohue" <bdonohue -at- alum -dot- mit -dot- edu>
Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2008 03:11:17 -0600

I have to differ a little bit with Jonathan's answer... comments inline

Mike Starr WriteStarr Information Services
Technical Writer - Online Help Developer - Website developer
Graphic Designer - Desktop Publisher - MS Office Expert
Phone: (262) 694-1028 - Tollfree: (877) 892-1028 - Fax:(262) 697-6334
Email: mike -at- writestarr -dot- com - Web:
----- Original Message -----
From: "Barbara Donohue" <bdonohue -at- alum -dot- mit -dot- edu>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Sent: Thursday, February 21, 2008 10:00 AM
Subject: Graphics formats for Word and problems printing from PDF

> Hi, folks,
> It may sound primitive, but I work mostly in MSWord. I'm a
> freelancer, my clients don't have tech writers on staff, and nobody
> knows FrameMaker. Sometimes they have to make quick updates
> themselves and so need to have the docs in Word.

I agree wholeheartedly with Jonathan... Word is definitely not primitive and
as far as I'm concerned it's my tool of choice for technical documentation.

> The clients sometimes print the docs (from PDFs) and sometimes
> distribute PDF files on CD. Sometimes both.
> I've been having some problems with line-drawing graphics that come
> from a technical illustrator. She is presumably working in
> Illustrator. What format should she give me for placing the
> illustrations in the Word Doc. WMF? Or?

Assuming your technical illustrator is working in Adobe Illustrator, I'd ask
her to send me the Illustrator .AI files. That's the Adobe Illustrator
native file format. If you've got the native file format to start with, you
have everything you need to produce the best possible output.

<digression>One of the issues one runs into with artwork created on a Mac is
that the folks who do it almost always use anti-aliasing and that can really
make line art difficult to work with. Anti-aliasing is intended to "smooth"
the EDGES of lines so you don't have visible "jaggies" in your drawings when
they're printed. It does so by converting a solid line that's a single color
into a line that uses several slightly different colors and "blurring" it
slightly. However, an unintended consequence of the anti-aliasing functions
built into most graphics and illustration tools is that areas that are solid
colors get anti-aliased as well and where an original illustration had an
area that's a solid color, anti-aliased output converts that whole area into
an amorphous mass with hundreds of colors that differ slightly from the
original color. So even though an area that was a solid color only needs
anti-aliasing around its edges, the whole solid color gets "corrupted" by
the anti-aliasing function.</digression>

I use Paint Shop Pro as my main tool for screen captures and line
illustrations. First thing I do is set the default image resolution in Paint
Shop Pro to at least 300dpi. However, if you're working with a professional
printer who's outputting your documents on a Docutech or similar image
setter, you might want to up that value to at least 600dpi. Having said
that, what I do when I get a .AI file is open it with Paint Shop Pro. If the
line drawing is pure black and white (black lines on white background), I
use Paint Shop Pro's color palette reduction feature to decrease the color
depth of the image to two colors (black and white). If the image has more
than just black lines on white background, I use Paint Shop Pro's color
palette reduction feature to decrease the color depth of the image to 256
colors, making sure to check the "Include Windows' colors" checkbox. I then
save the image as .GIF and insert the image into Word with the "Insert link
to file" option. .GIF format is ideal for line drawings and screen captures
but it's limited to a maximum of 256 colors.
> And photos - what format should they be in? JPEG? TIFF? PNG? I've
> been using JPEGs and they come out looking bad sometimes, even if
> fairly high resolution.

Without seeing any of the images in question, I can't give you a guess as to
why you're having trouble with them. However, what is the native format of
the photo files? In most cases, a top-quality digital camera gives the best
output in TIFF format. However, JPEG should work reasonably well also. But
if the original image is extremely high resolution, it's going to get
downsampled in the distillation process.

I suspect the Acrobat downsampling settings you're using are the source of
many of your problems. My current settings are:

Color Images: Bicubic Downsampling to 600 pixels per inch for images above
900 pixels per inch.

Grayscale Images: Bicubic Downsampling to 600 pixels per inch for images
above 900 pixels per inch.

Monochrome Images: Bicubic Downsampling to 600 pixels per inch for images
above 900 pixels per inch.

These settings work quite well for standard-issue office laser printers.
With the .GIF files set to 300 or 600 dpi default resolution in Paint Shop
Pro, this also assures that none of your .GIF images will ever be
downsampled by Acrobat in the distillation process. However, if your printer
is using an imagesetter with higher resolution, you might want to change
these settings to the resolution used by the imagesetter to prevent Acrobat
from downsampling your images. The downside of this is that your PDFs may
end up with somewhat larger file sizes and large, complex images may render
slowly when opened with Acrobat Reader. You may have to produce one PDF
version for your printer and another PDF version with slightly lower
distillation settings for your clients to distribute to people who'll be
printing them on 600 dpi laser printers. You can create two separate
.joboptions files with the Advanced settings in Acrobat to save having to
reconfigure all of these settings. I'd say name one "Imagesetter.joboptions"
for your printer and name the other "Laserprinter.joboptions" for your
client to distribute.

> I'm also having issues with the current printer -- usually a printer
> tells me what settings to use for making a PDF she'll be printing
> from, but the current printer can't tell me, and has been complaining
> about the quality of the doc. Any idea how I could find out what the
> Distiller settings should be? I've tried "high quality print" preset
> selection & printer is still complaining.

See above for discussion of Distiller settings.
> Also, one doc when printed has some very fine vertical, parallel,
> broken lines that show up on the proof off the digital printing
> system on random pages. I'm baffled about this and think it must be
> the digital printing system.

Try the techniques described above and see how it works with your print

> Anybody have any ideas?
> Thanks
> Barbara Donohue - The engineer who writes.
> Turning technology into English.
> Specializing in mechanical technologies.


Create HTML or Microsoft Word content and convert to Help file formats or
printed documentation. Features include support for Windows Vista & 2007
Microsoft Office, team authoring, plus more.

True single source, conditional content, PDF export, modular help.
Help & Manual is the most powerful authoring tool for technical
documentation. Boost your productivity!

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- web -dot- techwr-l -dot- com -dot-

To unsubscribe send a blank email to
techwr-l-unsubscribe -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
or visit

To subscribe, send a blank email to techwr-l-join -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to admin -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.


Graphics formats for Word and problems printing from PDF: From: Barbara Donohue

Previous by Author: Vendor for laminated quick-reference?
Next by Author: Re: Word to the wise
Previous by Thread: Re: Graphics formats for Word and problems printing from PDF
Next by Thread: RE: Graphics formats for Word and problems printing from PDF

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads