How to Save Adobe Illustrator File As PDF

Remember back in college, my professor always asked us to save our work as PDF for presenting in class. In the beginning, there were all kinds of errors like missing fonts, wrong proportions, saved as pages instead of individual artwork, etc. 

Is it really that complicated? Not really. You’ll just have to choose the right option for the specific need. For example, when you present your work, you probably don’t want to show your draft files, you can selectively choose the pages (I mean artboards) to show in PDF.

How does that work?

In this tutorial, I’ll show you three ways to save Adobe Illustrator files as PDF, including how to save selected pages and individual artboards.  

3 Ways to Save an Illustrator File as PDF

You can save an Illustrator file as a PDF from the Save As, Save a Copy, or Export for Screens option. 

Note: all screenshots from this tutorial are taken from Adobe Illustrator CC 2021 Mac version. Windows or other versions can look different. 

Save As

Save As and Save a Copy sound similar, but there’s a major difference. I’ll get into that. 

Step 1: Go to the overhead menu and select File > Save As. You have the option to save the file as a Cloud document or save it on your computer. 

Step 2: When you click Save on your computer, you’ll see this box. Choose Adobe PDF (pdf) from the Format option. You can choose where you want to save the file and rename it. 

If you want to save a range of pages, you can input the range. For example, if you want to save pages 2 and 3, input 2-3 in the Range option. And if you want to save the whole file, select All

Step 3: Click Save and it will open a Save Adobe PDF settings window. Here you can choose the different PDF preset options

TIp: If you need to print out files, choose High Quality Print. It’s always a good idea to add bleeds when you send them to print. 

Click Save PDF and your Illustrator document itself will be saved as a PDF file. This is the difference between Save As and Save a Copy. When you save a copy, it’ll save both the .ai and .pdf formats. 

Save a Copy

Similar steps as the method above, instead, go to File > Save a Copy

It will open a Save a Copy window, choose Adobe PDF (pdf) format, and you’ll see the file name shows xxx copy.pdf. 

When you click Save, the same PDF settings window will show, and you can follow the same steps as the method above to save your .ai file as .pdf. 

Export for Screens

You’ve probably already used the Export As option many times when you save artwork as jpeg and png but didn’t see the PDF options from there, right? 

Wrong place! Export for Screens is where you can save your artwork as a PDF. 

This option allows you to save individual artboards as PDF. Even when you select All, each artboard will be saved as an individual .pdf file.

Step 1: Go to the overhead menu and choose File > Export > Export for Screens

Step 2: Select the artboards that you want to export, for example, I’m going to select Artboard 2, 3, 4. When I uncheck Artboard 1 on the left panel, the range automatically changes to 2-4. 

Step 3: In the Formats option choose PDF

Step 4: Choose where you want to save the file and click Export Artboard.

The artboards you selected will be saved in a PDF folder. When you open the folder, you’ll see the individual .pdf files of each artboard you selected. 

So if you don’t want to show pages of work, this method is not a bad option.

Wrapping Up

I think the options are pretty easy to understand. When you choose Save As, the document itself will be saved in PDF format. Save a Copy, literately saves a copy of your Illustrator document as PDF, so you’ll have both the original .ai file and a copy of .pdf. The Export for Screens option is good when you want to save the (artboard) pages separately as .pdf.

Now that you know the methods, depending on what you need, choose accordingly.

About June Escalada
Graduated from Creative Advertising major, worked more than eight years as a graphic designer focusing in branding and Illustration. Yes, Adobe Illustrator is my best friend and I’m passionate about art and design.

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