Optimizing PDF Documents for File Size

It’s no secret that PDF software creates documents with a smaller file size than any of the large word processors on the market, even when the content is identical. Yet even though pdfs do consume less space than the alternatives, there are still cases in which you need to scale back a document created with PDF software due to the number of bytes the file takes up.

Larger files can cause problems when you share them via email as most email administrators set their systems with restrictions on the size of files that users can send and/or receive.

Likewise, larger files consume more bandwidth and take longer to download or open.

There’s also storage to consider. If your organization maintains digital copies of documents, you have to be aware of how much space your files require, because even PDF files can start to add up.

With all this in mind, here are a few ways to conserve PDF file size using pdf software without vastly restricting how you create documents.

Fonts in PDF

One of the things that makes PDF files so attractive is the fact that you can embed the fonts used in the document so that anyone can view the document the way you intended it to look, whether they have the font installed on their computer or not. PDF software typically includes the regular, italic, bold and italic bold options along with the file as well to guarantee the look you intend. Problem is, when you use multiple fonts, your document’s file size increases.

Keeping the number of fonts you use to a minimum when creating a PDF document can drastically reduce the file size. The same is true for special characters. If the document needs them then by all means use them; but if they aren’t required leave them out if file size is a concern.


Over the years, the resolution of images and graphics has risen, giving us sharper, more colorful pictures. However as the resolution goes up, so does the file size and that’s a problem if you’re trying to save bytes.

Images are necessary for many a document, so eliminating them is usually not an option. You can, however, change the type of files you save your images in to keep the graphics from consuming too much precious space.

Currently, there are two main file types used with graphics: Portable Network Graphics, (PNG) and Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG or JPG) files. The latter, a JPEG file, is great for photographic images that are not compressed since this process results in discarded data and the quality will suffer. This is known as lossy compression.

The other file type, PNG, is a much better option. Not only does PNG offer a choice between 8- and 24-bit images for quality, but it also supports transparent image backgrounds. But the most important consideration is that a JPEG file that is 63k is only 17k when saved as a PNG-24 and 9KB as a PNG-8 file, which gets you quite a bit of file size savings, especially when you’re using multiple images.

Compressing the file

Using PDF software to create a document provides you with another option to reduce the file’s size using the built-in optimizer. By compressing the images that are in the file and clearing out any data redundancy the file is reduced in size and considered optimized.

When optimizing a PDF file, you have the option to downsample the image, which decreases the number of pixels in it to make the file size smaller. This, however, can also lower the quality and sharpness of the image. Most PDF software will give you the option to set the downsampling but avoid it if it doesn’t result in a reduction in file size.

In addition to making the images smaller, the PDF optimizer tool will allow you to remove embedded fonts, objects that are not needed and user data as well as clean up anything that might cause the file size to increase without adding to file quality.

Knowing how to best create documents before you start with PDF software makes all the difference when document size is a consideration. An application like Foxit PhantomPDF takes care of the formatting, editing, security, etc. Yet you can also ensure that everything that supports document content is optimized according to your size requirements.

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