Dealing with Big PDFs

Posted on June 6th, 2016 | Tags: Technical, Tips and Tricks

We print and copy a lot of architectural and engineering plans here at Copy Express. Most of our clients come to us to get them printed because while pdfs are great to send around to everyone, they are not really practical on a building site where there is muck and grime, water, and tradies needing to make notes on how they had to ‘adjust’ things to make it work. The trouble is that most architectural and engineering software is pretty clumsy at generating pdfs that are print ready or so bloated that they can’t even be sent out by email. So to make your life easier I want to talk about a few common things you can do to make pdf plans that are simple to send and print.

Does your program have ‘save to pdf’ option?

Even in this, the second decade of the 21st century, people are still making programs that have a print output but can’t save to a PDF file. If you having to use such a program then the simplest solution is to install a PDF printer driver. This creates a new printer on your system that will create a pdf when you print it. Cute PDF and Bullzip PDF Printer both work well, can use all different paper sizes, have lots of different settings for file size vrs file detail, and are free for personal use. That being said Operating systems like Windows 10 have a Print to PDF printer already part of the system so just use that.

Turn off invisible layers

Most architectural/engineering programs allow you to have hundreds of layers to help organize and structure the plan. Eventually these support layers get turned off so you don’t see them but they are still in the document. They also get saved to any pdf you generate adding bulking up the file while not adding anything useful to the document printing process.. When we print a pdf, our printers have to render every layer on the whole page to be able to print it, known as rasterizing, even if it’s not visible just in case another later visible layer calls on it for information. It will slow down the printing process as the printer it has to crunch every printing dot of every layer, and in some cases even crash the printer if it runs out of memory to store it all. (It takes 8.5 million dots to do a standard quality A1 or 32gb of memory.) lf your program supports saving to pdf, you may have to the option save only visible layers or exclude hidden ones, then please use it for a smaller speeder file. If you are using a PDF printer driver, they tend to ignore hidden layers so you will end up with a print ready file at the end.

Paper Sizes

Because plans tend to be largely vector information that can smoothly scale to any size, the pdf page size is largely not a problem for printing at a different size. The only exception to this is bitmap graphics, like photos, which tend to be saved for the size the page has been set too. This means scaling them up too much can result in pixelated/grainy images when printed. If that is an issue, save the pdf at the extended printed page size and let us worry about the rest. You may also it problems if you are dealing with custom page sizes or non metric ones, the US C/D/E drawing size are very common example. Again if you need it to be an mesure accurate drawing, set the page size to be the next size larger, or let us know before we print so we can set a custom printing size on the printer. If you do want to print on a non metric sized paper, we can source it but it takes some time to get in and cost much more than the matching standard papers.

Multiple single pages or multi page files

We have no problem with dealing lots of single page files or a multi page document. Just tell us what pages need to be printed and we will take care of the rest. If you want a smaller single file, we can use special software on it for you, stripping out redundant data (like hidden layers) and merge them into one easy to use and send file. That same software can also be used to clean up scans of older plans, getting rid of damage and making sure that everything is even and consistent.

Bundling and waterproofing

Sometimes you will need to have plans on site or easy to quickly flick through to find information. We can staple large size size pages together to keep them together. If it’s in a situation of being exposed to the muck and grime, them we can laminate those pages too, meaning no matter how wet or muddy the site gets, you can make them readable by a quick hose down.

Archiving completed work

A lot of plans end up being modified on site for practical reasons resulting in notes being written on them. Naturally people need to have copies of those changes that have been signed off. We can scan plans of any size and turn them back into pdfs for to make them quick to copy and email anywhere.

This has been a quick overview of how to deal with printing PDF plans and how we at Copy Express can make it even easier and better for you. If you need to know more, we a just a simple email or phone call away.