Generating 300 dpi PDFs in Apple Pages

NOTE: This page is seven years old, and I have no idea if any of it is still valid. There have been a half-dozen OS changes; Pages completely changed; CreateSpace is gone — hell, even the name of the OS has changed since then. I don’t know any more about this, and have no desire to get into it again. I’ll leave this here in case it helps, but read the first sentence of this paragraph five more times before you contact me about it.

If you’ve ever tried to generate a PDF from Apple Pages and then submit it to a print-on-demand service, they’ve probably balked, or you’ve gotten output that was sub-par.  Specifically, this happens if you have any 300 dpi images that contain transparency, but depending on the POD vendor, they might flag any job that’s coming from a PDF that’s generated from an Apple product.  Or they could just have a rule saying “no Apple” with no further explanation.

Searching on the support forums and FAQs for CreateSpace or Lulu won’t get you much information about this, except for people telling you to shell out a few hundred bucks for a copy of Acrobat Pro, which I’m not willing to do because A) it’s a couple hundred bucks and B) I’d rather install viruses and malware on my computer than Adobe software, because at least Russian botnet hackers know how to write code that doesn’t wildly leak memory and ask you to install updates every other day.

The issue is that when you generate PDFs in Pages, it uses the Quartz graphics layer in OSX.  And by default, it’s going to use a filter that will flatten your images to 72 dpi, which is fine for grocery lists and term papers, but not great for book output.  Fortunately, it’s easy to add a filter to change this output.  Unfortunately, some French lessons are involved.

I found this gem hidden away in an Apple support forum:

Unfortunately, it’s all French.  Google to the rescue:

There is a set of export presets called Abracadabra (which reminds me of this scene in the movie Half Baked) which will fix everything.  Click download and crack open the .pkg file, and you’ll see a number of .qfilter files.  Copy those to username/Library/PDF Services.  (If you can’t see your Library file, hold down Option and click Go in the finder.)  You can also see all of the annoying “Save PDF to xyz” things that every other program you’ve ever installed has added – feel free to nuke all of those you don’t use while you’re there.

To actually make the PDF in Pages, do a File > Print, and from the PDF dropdown list, you’ll now see a bunch of new presets.  I use the PDFX3-ISO preset, which worked fine for me.  I haven’t done a color book, but this will also supposedly handle the CMYK separations, too.


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