AI export to PDF error

Hi there,

I get a funky error when exporting my file to PDF. It seems that transparency and blending is the issue, and some objects in the area flip upside down, mirror, change color and are just weird when exported.

I have tried to every possible PDF preset and settings change in the PDF export window, but it doesn’t seem to affect anything. I really have no idea what the difference between standard X-1 and standard x-4 means, but I’ve tried them all.

A clue might be in the warnings box in the summary flick: “This file contains spot colors and transparency. This may produce unexpected results if converted to process outside of Illustrator.”

What is spot colors? I can’t really do away with transparency. Can I let my file be and just fix this with some settings? This is not the first time it happens, and now I’m frustrated enough to make a thread about it. Please help!

Oh, it’s CS3, and yes it’s legit.

I’ve had issues with that too, in general I’ll try not to go straight from ai into pdf or jpg. I’ll just convert to psd first, then make a pdf or jpg.
Or you could try making a copy of the file and rasterizing it first to “flatten” it, then save as pdf.

Illustrator can be wonky with PDFs. Best thing is to print to a postscript file (.ps) then run it through Adobe Acrobat Distiller. You have much more control over the PDF functions that way.

Something that might help is if you have pattern swatches to expand the pattern to convert to objects. From the looks of it your strap has a texture pattern which I assume is a swatch. That could be what is messing things up.

Either that or try to figure out which part is the problem. one at a time delete things and try to save as PDF. You’ll know when you’ve found the issue. One thing in particular it could be is the drop shadows. Those can cause problems frequently. I’d almost put my money on that given the location of the error…


its a work-around, but sometimes you don’t need to embed all that vector art for what the PDF will be used for. If I hit problems, I sometimes just export to jpg at a good enough resolution and make a PDF from that. If there’s text, I might copy the original ai file and drop in the jpg where the art had been, leaving the text to print/display at the highest res…

I’ve had issues with that too, in general I’ll try not to go straight from ai into pdf or jpg. I’ll just convert to psd first, then make a pdf or jpg. Or you could try making a copy of the file and rasterizing it first to “flatten” it, then save as pdf.

Hey Skinny, what do you see in the pdfs if you don’t do a PSD first? I’ve had some very weird things happen before, where the exported JPG was perfect on a PC buy the colors looked almost solarized on a mac (I found out in front of a client too, very uncomfortable situation!)

There is no reason you can’t go straight from Illustrator to JPG,… messing around with a PSD first is a waste of time. The issue you mention of the colors being messed up comes from not exporting the JPG as RGB. If you export as a CMYK JPEG on some PC and on the web the colors will be all wonky. It’s because RGB is the standard for web and most PC software isn’t smart enough to be able to read CMYK…

In general though, I’d avoid rasterizing at all if you can help it. A PDF will be a generally smaller file size and always be better for print. In a pinch or if you don’t want it to be editable, ya you can export JPG from Illustrator.


Not to derail, but it was a real surprise when that situation (above) happened and I’ve been meaning to ask all you Mac types what could be the cause.

The problem wasn’t web viewing really, and It might have been the RGB vs JPG issue, but Im not sure. I was meeting this client in a very secure lab, where I couldn’t bring a PC and I didn’t have time to print off a custom book for them. I brought a flash stick with the PDF presentation, and just as a precaution, I exported the files from Acrobat to jpgs in another folder.

It turns out, I was partially prepared. The guy had a Mac, but he didn’t have a pdf reader that would read the newer pdf format (or maybe didn’t have a reader installed), so I thought I’d smoothly go to the JPGs… but they displayed terribly! They appeared solarized and almost inverted colors, and this was on a larger late model flat-screen Mac all-in-one. Luckily it worked better on another computer nearby, and I still got the job, but I was really surprised that happened - everything look perfect on my PC and I’ve never heard of that happening before.

It’s almost certainly the rgb issue. I’ve had that before. For future reference the preview on a mac can almost always open almost anything. That or I suppose you could have had him dowload the latest fre version of acrobat, though that’s Les than ideal. Another trick is that you can open PDFs in safari which most macs have the latest version.


Thanks, I appreciate it!

PS. Did you know that Preview can also open Illustrator files, in a pinch. Not always perfect and can’t deal with layers or some of the special effect, but as a last resort, actually works pretty well!


I really need to get on a mac here and there… I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of Preview.

it’s the default image viewer on a mac. If you click on any type of image (unless you change it) it will open in Preview. It does just about everything including even .PSD I believe. Not sure what the equivalent is on windows… I think it’s Windows Picture or something? It’s been a while since I’ve been on a PC.


I’ll give a second vote on that problem being that the person made the jpg from cmyk. There’s one guy here that keeps posting in the sketch forums and all of his images look inverted on my mac, I can’t remember who it is off the top of my head. I think it’s a somewhat new guy, lots of car sketches, all look like they’re on a dark blue/black background with off-white lines. I’m assuming that’s the same issue.
I think that’s why I used to always go to psd to do my jpgs, I used to always work in cmyk in ai and never got good results saving as a jpg there. Then it ended up just being a habit I got used to.

Found it, it’s thedinomeister, all of his images show up reversed. After doing the mac screen inversion trick his sketches look normal.

that’s a really good thing to be aware of… I almost can’t believe that there is a graphic issue with Jpegs that only shows up on an Apple

Thanks for the tips everyone. The rasterize option worked best now (of my table asap), but it’s good to know of the rest.

Although I played with it and it turns out you were right Richard - it was the drop shadow. Although the Multiplied-gradient is also buggy (see that yellow strap, a multiplied gradient layer on top of yellow bar).

Although actually, I’m using Foxit PDF reader normally (launches much faster), but I tried the same PDF with drop shadow and all in Acrobat9 and it is fine. Which annoys me, because you never know what software the other guy’s on.