Converting large-scale print forms for web presentation

I was recently faced with an interesting production issue involving converting a large scale print file (for a poster series that were 700mm x 1000mm). My client asked me to convert the (40 page InDesign) print file to a PDF for posting on the web. My initial attempts at using Adobe InDesign’s ‘Adobe PDF Presets’ didn’t reduce the file size enough – I was getting a file size between 5 – 10 MB. (Granted, 5MB is not a ridiculously massive file download in this age of broadband, but I was worried about bandwidth usage given that my client’s site does get a bit of traffic.)

So, after messing about with all sorts of file compression options (changing the PDF export settings in InDesign), a hair-brained idea, spawned from frustrated desperation, popped into my head. Rather than export via the ‘PDF Presets’, I printed the artwork to a postscript file. I then dragged that PS file into Adobe Distiller and converted it to a PDF using the ‘Smallest file size’ settings.

This got me close – but not close enough. It dropped the file size to 1MB, which I was very comfortable with for web presentation. However, the fonts I had used (HelveticaNeue and Century Schoolbook BT) weren’t displaying properly. They were squished and looking fat, especially the Century Schoolbook BT. I printed a few pages of this new PDF to double-check that it wasn’t just poor screen presentation – and sure enough, it wasn’t.

Hmm … now what?

Well, the answer was to change the ‘Smallest File Size’ distillation settings to embed 100% of the fonts. Re-distilling the PS file gave me what I wanted: 1MB PDF file with the fonts properly displaying and printing. Job done.