How to Make A PDF CreateSpace Will Adore

(2015 edition using Word 2007)

If you are impatient with carefully written explanations and confident in your ability to navigate Windows 7 and Word 2007, jump to the end for the summary.

This is a frequent topic on the CreateSpace boards: “Why does CS reject my PDF because my images are less than 200dpi? I’m sure they were 300dpi. This sucks!”

I know, I know. I’ve been there myself. Repeatedly. A few books back, I thought I finally found the answers I needed, and I’ve been meaning to write this essay to spread the word.

Fortunately, I never got around to it, because this week, after submitting the interior PDF for “Sherlock Holmes Parodies and Pastiches II: 1905-1909,” I got this message back.

PDF CreateSpace

My foolproof method just made me the fool.

(Worse, CreateSpace’s bots told me I had misspelled the book’s title on the cover. I had typed “1904” instead of “1905.” I’m glad their robots caught the mistake, but galled me because I have been working on this book for six months. I’ve typed “1905-1909” I don’t know how many times. To put the wrong year on the cover and on the spine AND on the freakin’ back cover reminds me once again: Don’t get cocky. Double-check everything.

Ahem, let’s get back to making sure your interior illustrations are 300dpi. I based my instructions on Word 2007, since that is what I use.

Format Your Art Correctly

Each piece of interior art should be consistently formatted:

1. Convert it to black and white, assuming there’s no color art in your book. Do this even if it’s clearly a black-and-white photo; it might still be in a color format.

2. Set the dpi to 300.

3. Resize the art so it fits 100% on the page. That is, if the maximum width of your page is 4.5 inches, your art should not be wider than 4.5 inches.

Don’t insert a big piece of art and then resize it on the page. This retains the original size of the file and results in a much larger PDF. CreateSpace has an upper limit on the size of the PDF file it will accept and will reject anything above it.

4. Perform other tasks on the art you feel is necessary (contrast, brightness, adding text, etc.).

5. Save the artwork as a JPG into a new folder. The reason why is explained in #6.

6. When you have finished formatting all the artwork, check to make sure they’re at 300dpi. There are two ways to do it:

a. Right-click on each file, choose Properties, click on the Details tab, and scroll down until you see “Horizontal resolution” and “Vertical resolution.” Both should say 300 dpi.
b. If you have a lot of files, an easier way is to open the folder and add the options to view the files by Horizontal Resolution and Vertical Resolution. Here’s how:

1. Open the folder containing the art. Select the Detail view. It should look something like this:


2. Place the cursor above the list of files, where it says “Name”, “Size”, “Date” and “Type. Right-click to bring up a menu. It’ll look something like this (Ignore the red rectangles; I had to use someone elses art since I couldn’t snip a photo of an active menu):


See where the cursor points to “More” in the image? Click on that.


Now you can choose the details of each file to be displayed. Scroll down and select “Horizontal resolution”


Scroll down and select “Vertical resolution.”

Click OK.


Now you can see which files have the correct 300dpi resolution. Fix the ones that do not and re-insert them into your file.

Decompress the Artwork (.DOC files)

We’re going to jump ahead to where you have finished your book. If you’re like me, you downloaded an interior template file from CreateSpace, pasted your copy, used Styles to define the body text, chapter headings, captions, copyright notice, etc. You’ve placed and positioned your artwork, spell-checked, looked everything over again and are ready to create the PDF to send to CreateSpace.

But first, a word about Word. The software has a nasty habit of compressing pictures, reducing their dpi below 100. This is ideal if you’re creating a document for work, but terrible if you’re making a book.

So let’s tell Word not to do that.

The procedure is different depending on the file format you’re using. It can end in .docx (that is, created by Word 2007 and later) or .doc (pre-Word 2007). I use CreateSpace’s templates, so even though I have Word 2007, its files end in .doc, so I follow the procedure below.

Right-click on any picture in the file and choose Format Picture.


Click the “Compress” button in the lower-left corner.


In the “Compress Pictures” screen, click “All pictures in document” and “No Change” and UNCHECK the “Compress pictures” box. The result should look like the screen below.


Click OK.

Decompress the Artwork (.DOCX files)

Before we move on, let me give the alternative to those working on .docx files:

1. In the Format Tab, click “Compress Pictures.” On the next window, click “Options.” That will present you with two menus (the Compression Settings box would cover the Compress Pictures box so I moved it out of the way before taking this picture):


2. Uncheck the options to “Apply to selected pictures only” and “Automatically perform basic compression on save.” Click OK on both menus.

And now, back to the regular instructions.

Printing the PDF

At this point, you’ve told Word not to compress any pictures in the file. Before Saving, let’s make the PDF. (Remember to save the file afterwards.)

Word 2007 offers a “Print to PDF” option. Give it a try. In the past, I’ve had inconsistent results. My books have 6-inch by 9-inch pages, but the PDF would display 8.5 by 11-inch pages.

I couldn’t figure out where the problem was, so I use the free PDF995 printer driver and have been happy with that (warning: while downloading it, you’ll be asked if you want extra stuff, such as a search bar, email alerts, and other kinds of adware. Always decline, even when it implies that the software will not work if you don’t accept. Stay strong and say no, and it’ll be fine.)

Here’s the weird thing: After I wrote the above, I decided to try Word’s “Print to PDF” option one more time to remind me of why I don’t use it. Result: It worked fine.

So try the “Print to PDF” option in Word before going to the trouble of using third-party software. And if you’re already happily using some other software, keep on using it, too.

The important point to remember is to follow the uncompress instruction immediately before creating your PDF. This ensures that your pictures will not be compressed when the PDF is uploaded to CreateSpace.

(“But, Bill, what if I Save first and then make the PDF?” I don’t know. Once I found a procedure that worked, I didn’t feel compelled to find out. If you do, let me know.)

There. It’s a little complex, but it works.

To summarize:

1. Revise your art so it’s black-and-white, 300dpi, and that it fits on the page without shrinking or enlarging. Save this art to a new folder.

2. Examine all the art in that folder to make sure it’s 300dpi, either by clicking on them one at a time, or choosing the options to display Horizontal resolution and Vertical resolution.

3. Choose the option to decompress all of the art in the file. Do not save the file yet.

4. Use Word’s Print to PDF option or your favorite third-party option. Now save the file.

5. Upload to CreateSpace and celebrate!

UPDATE: Follow the above procedure, and this is what you get to see: