Smoother Blends & Drop Shadows in PDFs

Recently, I was working on a business card design that involved several important drop shadows: one was a white drop shadow on a black background and the other was a red drop shadow on a black background.

When exporting to PDF, I noticed that the drop shadows in the PDF appeared blocky instead of smooth. After poking into all the PDF output settings, I discovered that if I did two things, those drop shadows were nice and smooth.

Smoother Blends & Drop Shadows in PDFs

  1. In the PDF Options area, set Compression to None.
  2. Also in the PDF Options area, under Transparency, set the Drop Shadows resolution to something higher than the default 300 dpi. I chose 600 dpi.

Smoother Blends & Drop Shadows in PDFs

By doing these two things, I told QuarkXPress to use more dots when creating the drop shadows, and to eliminate JPEG compression artifacts by not compressing the result.

(To get to the PDF Options dialog box, choose File> Export> Layout as PDF…, then click the Options button at the bottom of that dialog box.)

By the way, the other idea I explored first was to increase the size of the card by 200%, so that the drop shadows would have more distance to cover. When that actually worked, I realized that I could achieve the same result by increasing the resolution of the drop shadow instead.