PDF is not just the most common format for online documents, but it’s also the format that can be customized without worrying your tables or images will go haywire if the receiver opens it with the wrong version or document reader.
However, the fact that most PDF files are destined for sharing limits the author’s creativity (big files are difficult to share). As a result, most documents only feature the standard elements one would expect to find in a PDF, such as text, images, graphs, and tables. And, after browsing through a few dozen PDFs, it starts to get rather boring.
Still, due to its easy-to-use nature, the PDF format is one of the easiest to customize. Therefore, it only takes a bit of out-of-the-box thinking and some design skills, you can create a noteworthy PDF.
Let’s see how:
Images are a Must-Have
Just like with blog posts and social media posts, images are the best way to create a reading flow and give structure to your text. However, you need professional-looking images that are related to the text (not pixelated stock images). Also, make sure the image fits naturally with the text surrounding it, and be consistent by creating a repeating image-text pattern throughout all the pages.
Quick tip: If you’re not sure how to do this type of customization, learn how to add images to PDF here.
Keep a Clean Design
You don’t have to be a designer to know when a page looks stuffy or disorganized. Clean design means the text does not come in blocks (or worse, walls) and that there is white space on the page to let the reader breathe. If your page is loaded with text, images, graphs, and other elements the reader will feel overwhelmed and tired even before getting to the good part.
To highlight the messages and information you absolutely want to be seen, use boldface fonts, colors, and boxes to guide the reader’s eyes through the document. This way, the design is airy and the reader will leave with the minimum of information even if they’re just there to browse.
Quick tip: Don’t add too much color and patterns. Keep it simple and classy, especially if you’re not known for your design skills.
Some people use PDFs to raise brand awareness, increase website visitors or newsletter memberships, or simply promote various products. The PDF format automatically recognizes links, which is why it’s so easy to integrate them into your design.
Moreover, links allow you to leave some of the information out and keep the size fit for sharing and downloading. Everyone who wants to learn more, can simply click the link and visit your site. This way, you get a great marketing tool and the chance to increase visitors to the page.
For people with zero design skills, there are apps like Canva and others that let you embellish your documents with a myriad of templates (some even free to use!) in a jiffy. You just have to choose the template you like, get it, and load it in an editing app or online platform. Once you’re here, it’s time to customize the template and insert your content.
It may take a bit of getting used to the editing apps, but it is a way to get gorgeous PDFs without learning too much about design.
Quick tip: If you do want to learn more about how to create amazing PDFs without templates, check out this collection of PDF books created for designers!
In summary, PDFs are easy to use and customize (as advertised), so it would be a shame to not use all the tools and graphic elements at your disposal. A beautifully designed PDF can serve as a marketing tool but also talks about your attention to detail in a professional setting.