Why Printers Should Stop Editing PDFs in Adobe Illustrator

Editing, Adobe Illustrator, Marketing Ideas For Printers

You’ve probably heard the expression, “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.”

For example:

  • You can put a water hose in your car’s gas tank, but you probably shouldn’t.
  • You can use the same password for all of your internet accounts, but you probably shouldn’t.
  • You can use Adobe Illustrator to edit PDF files, but you probably shouldn’t.

“Yep, uh-huh, wait… what? Why shouldn’t I use Adobe Illustrator to edit our PDF files?” 

Why Adobe Illustrator isn’t an Ideal PDF Editor

Not too long ago, an update was applied to the engine that powers uDesignIt!, an MI4P website add-on that allows print buyers to personalize documents on printers’ websites.

The update came with all the “normal” update stuff you’d expect, such as better performance, enhancements, etc. It also took care of some housekeeping items on the way PDFs are produced.

The only downside of the update is that it caused the PDFs that are created as a result of using uDesignIt! to be less friendly when edited in Adobe Illustrator.

The Real Question (And Answer)

If you’re asking: “Less friendly? Does this mean I can’t use Adobe Illustrator to edit PDFs created by uDesignIT! any longer?”, the answer to that is found by asking a much bigger question.

After consulting industry expert, John Giles, Technology Director for CPrint, it became clear that the real question that should be asked is, “Why are you using Adobe Illustrator to edit PDFs in the first place?”

John continued with information from Dov Isaacs. If anyone knows about PDFs, it’s him. His bio includes:

Dov Isaacs is a Principal Scientist at Adobe Systems Incorporated. A 29-year veteran of Adobe, he has responsibility for end-to-end PDF publishing workflow and product interoperability issues.

When it comes to using Adobe Illustrator as a tool to edit PDFs, Dov says this:

Adobe Illustrator is not, repeat not, repeat yet again not a general purpose editor of PDF files.

The only PDF files that can safely and reliably be opened and edited with Adobe Illustrator are PDF files that were created from Adobe Illustrator using the “save editability” option and for which all the original fonts and linked assets are installed on the system on which the editing is to occur.

Any other PDF editing in Illustrator, either by opening the PDF File Illustrator or by using the editing functions within Acrobat that invoke Illustrator may result in color space changes, font changes, layout changes, and/or lost content. Editing PDFs in Illustrator should be considered as an emergency procedure of last resort.

Dov went on to say:

…officially, Adobe warns most strongly against attempts to edit any arbitrary PDF in Illustrator unless that PDF file was created in that or an earlier version of Illustrator using the editability option (which, by the way is not available when saving PDF as PDF/X)! And you can use my name as the reference on that.

If Not Adobe Illustrator, Then What?

If you’re in a position where you’re using Adobe Illustrator to edit PDFs, now is the time to upgrade the tools in your tool belt.

Your best bet is to use a tool designed specifically for editing PDFs, such as Acrobat Pro DC or Enfocus Pitstop Pro.

Lastly, remember that we’re here to make it easy. If you have questions regarding technology for your website, reach out to us below, and we’d be happy to help!