MS Word to PDF: Images

The industry standard is Adobe for print. It would stand to reason that an Adobe PDF (“portable document format”) with the word “portable” right there in the name would work wonderfully. Most programs will save a PDF. They are not created equal. I want to look at how Word handles exporting PDFs into a print file and what it does with the images, specifically. For the purpose of this quick little tutorial, we’re going to assume you haven’t started your project yet.

The biggest problem with PDFs saved from Word… the images stink.

Your files should be the right resolution to begin with, and they need to be saved in a very specific way in order for MS Word not to down-sample, or make the images smaller, upon save.

First we need to look at the images you intend to use in your Windows Browser.

Start > Computer > then navigate to your file. When you get to it, click only once! to select it : see the dimensions in the bottom portion of the window? or you can hover over the file name to see the dimensions.


Most of us are comfortable in MS Word, and they’ve got those templates that help with basic setup. Here’s the problem: Word is not publishing software. It is not setup for highest resolution possible, nor does it give you decent control over the output resolution. To understand resolution – read this post.

Photos / Images

To Know: Word doesn’t save images at 300 dpi. It’s default is to make them smaller. The program actually takes any opportunity to do so, like when you shrink it, or change the Text Wrap or Positioning of the image. So, before you start or ‘insert’ any images – change the default.

Click on the File Tab > Options > Advanced > Scroll down a bit to check the box for “do not compress images in file”. Word’s target output only goes to 220 ppi, and we need 300.

Note: When you do this you will need to choose between Any New Files and the one you have open. This will make your all of your files larger if you choose ‘Any’. That’s the trade-off. Makes sense though, right? Feel free to leave it just for this document if that’s how you prefer it.


To Know: If you copy/paste an image into Word, it will sample down. Always use the Insert > Picture command.

To Know: There’s a “Save as Adobe PDF” command that is so simple to just click real quick – DON’T.


Instead: use the “Save As” command.

Be sure to change Save as type: to PDF and that Optimize for: is marked Standard.


Sideways: To see if your picture has already been down-sampled in the Word document… Select the picture, then right click > Size and Position. If it says the image ‘Scale’ is at 100% it may be too late. You could replace the image with the original. Don’t forget to change the default to “don’t compress” before you insert or change the picture.


This is not the definitive guide to PDFs from Word. Word Art doesn’t translate well. Text can’t be edited once it’s saved. There are color and font concerns. The printer will also need to convert your file from RGB (screen color) to CMYK (ink colors) which can be devastating for your colors if they don’t. Your best bet is to have an artist look at the files, and ask your printer for a proof before going to press. We’ll talk about fonts, color, and other programs in the future.

Do you have a specific save or export issue you have issues with?


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