I am designing a brochure of 1,872 pages for a client. This client is asking me provide him with a copy of the job. I am 100% sure if I provide a copy this job is gone. He will print it elsewhere. This client loves my graphics, but he doesn't want to pay for it. I must definitely provide a copy for him. My questions are:

  1. Is there a way to protect the job from him printing it?
  2. Is there software I can pass my Corel Draw file through to lock and protect the job, but such that it is still readable?
  3. Is there a way I can secure my file so that even when printed it will lose quality or come out blurred?
  4. Is there a way I can make it readable, but not printable?

Is there software at all for Corel file security?

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    This is a legal question, not a technical. You can protect your work by contacting a lawyer and in no other way.
    – Davor
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 10:16
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    @Davor Lawyer @$250/hr < Low res PDF $0. So what happens if he hires a lawyer to protect his files? He then needs to spy and investigate the client for the next 6-24months to make sure he didn't print the files, not sleep at night because of anxiety and then sue the client if he ever prints the files? It doesn't work so well to hire a lawyer when you think about it!
    – go-junta
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 10:40
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    Perhaps make the first few pages hi-res to prove that you are able to produce a file in the required format and quality.
    – Lenne
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 12:19
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    It sounds like you are doing the work before getting paid at all? Don't do that. As other's have stated, the solution has nothing to do with technology. It has everything to do with having a legal contract in place before you do the work.
    – DA01
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 14:20
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    Also, as an aside, I think it's a stretch to call 1,872 pages a "brochure". That's more like a series of novels. :)
    – DA01
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 14:23

5 Answers 5


There's ways to add security features on your PDF that will prevent people from printing, editing or extracting elements from the file. There's also watermarks that can be added. BUT there's also ways to bypass all this, so it's not 100% reliable. I could also easily imagine it must have taken you a lot of work to do this work, and your client could easily invest in finding someone to remove any security you may add to that brochure.

So the best thing to avoid your file being used for printing is simply to lower its quality and make it an unacceptable quality for printing.

You can export a PDF from your Corel Draw file and then use Adobe Acrobat Pro to change all the pages to image-only, and to a low screen quality (eg. 90ppi and less.) Even if your client has the idea of going to a print shop or using another designer to work on the files, everybody will tell him/her the same thing; your files are low resolutions :)

Having a contract is nice but that's never a guarantee to get paid. By giving low resolution files to your client and requiring your payments, you keep the control and power over the situation. The client won't have choice to comply. And that's fair too.

Here is a link with instructions how to quickly change all your 1800+ pages into a low resolution PDF with images/JPG only.

Create a PDF from illustrator without being able to see the individual objects

One thing for sure: Never give a PDF proof with vector and/or high resolution content that is unprotected and NEVER EVER GIVE YOUR EDITABLE FILES! Proofs should be low resolutions PDF or JPG, not "print-ready" or editable CorelDraw files! You give those files after you got your money. In fact, the editable CorelDraw files should be sold separately at least 3x the price of the project! Normally, designers do not provide editable files unless there's a budget for this.

One last thing... Please, get paid, get down payments as you begin your projects; split the full amount of that project in many milestones and wait for your payments before sending proofs or doing any revisions. The way you're telling your issue, it sounds like you haven't received any money at all and did an enormous brochure for that client. I can see why you might be very anxious about all this, a 1800+ pages booklet requires a lot of work!

If the client likes your illustrations but doesn't want to pay for them, remove the illustrations. That's it.

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    PDF "security" enforcement is literally up to the PDF program implementation - ie. if the client happens to have some other PDF reader installed other than Adobe's, that program might very well completely ignore the "do not print" security settings, etc... (even without your client knowing they are circumventing some restrictions).
    – SnakeDoc
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 16:04
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    @go-meek if a designer has to 'outsmart' their clients that don't adhere to contracts, then that designer needs to find much better clients.
    – DA01
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 20:33
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    @go-meek from what I understand, the OP is about to undertake a project and is worried about not getting paid. They can either try and 'outsmart' this client with technology, or they can take the professional route and make sure there's a legally binding contract in place and/or put some thought into the type of clients they are working for in the first place. I'd argue the latter is the more prudent option when it comes t doing business. No one should do work for clients they don't trust, nor should clients work with designers who don't trust them.
    – DA01
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 20:42
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    @DA01 You’re talking about this as if it’s an either-or situation. It is not. It’s a both-and situation. There should always be a legal contract—particularly with new clients that you don’t already have a good relationship with—but not handing over all your editable work before seeing a dime of your payment any time the client asks is a sensible precaution that should accompany any contract(s) you make with the client. You cannot always know upfront whether a client is trustworthy, and it’s better to find out he isn’t without having given everything and received nothing. Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 23:31
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    @DA01 You should simply post your answer. It looks like you started with "give high res, trust client and contracts are #1" & now you're saying the same thing we kept saying; it's confusing. I don't even sign contracts (yep), & lost a huge $50 in 10 years of full-time business. Amazingly, simply getting paid in an intelligent way, not giving final files until full payment, & having good communication works perfectly fine. What's cool about not having contracts is that I can freely tell some clients to F*** O** too. So it goes both ways. Of course, that's not recommended for newbie designers.
    – go-junta
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 6:06

Unanswered Question #1: What is in your current contract?

What is written down and signed currently? What has he promised in writing? What have you promised in writing?

"Starting work without a contract is like putting on a condom after taking a home pregnancy test"

F*ck You, Pay Me by Mike Monteiro

FYPM is a WONDERFUL talk about the importance of contracts, and the importance of getting them right. This review of the talk has some good "cliff notes" that I'll blatantly put here:

  • Contracts protect both parties. This means if anything happens on either end it is stipulated in the contract.
  • Don’t start work without a contract.
  • Don’t blindly accept their terms. If they’re an established company then they have hired a lawyer to write up a contract. It is important to go through the contract with your lawyer and negotiate if you find something you don’t agree with.
  • Don’t start work without a contract.
  • Anticipate negotiation, but don’t back down on important stuff. Such as:
    • IP transfers on full payment: This is when the work you have done is yours until the client pays you in full. If they were to go ahead and use the work before paying then you are legally allowed to sue them.
    • Termination: This is a fee that the client has to pay you for terminating the contract before completion. This will cover you for the work you have turned down, to be able to work on their problem.
    • Liability: This is when something has gone wrong and you now bare the responsibility for dealing with that problem.
  • Don’t start work without a contract.
  • Lawyers talk to lawyers. If you are dealing with a client who has a lawyer on the phone, then you must get your lawyer to speak to each other otherwise you may end up agreeing to things you didn’t want to due to nerves.
  • Don’t start work without a contract.
  • Be specific and confident talking about money. Talking about money is a nerve racking to talk about. I have experienced this when quoting people for work and it really is a hard thing to talk about when asked in person. If you’re trying to convince somebody over how much something costs Monteiro emphasises not to start with ‘mmm’ as this may lose your client. If you know how much something costs then you should tell them and in the case of not knowing then say you don’t know and you will let them know as soon as possible. Monteiro mentions that you should always talk like you know what you’re talking about even when you don’t, because you can always find out later.
  • Don’t start work without a contract.

Is there a contract in place? or are you half way done without anything signed?

Give your Client options.

Provide tiered options. Random example that I would start with:

  • for $, you get printed copies provided by me (Provided upon full payment)
  • for $$, you get a low quality, highly watermarked PDF (Provided upon full payment)
  • for $$$, you get a medium quality, medium watermarked PDF (Provided upon full payment)
  • for $$$$, you get a high quality, rarely watermarked PDF (Provided upon full payment)
  • for $$$$$, you get the production copy and all rights (Provided upon full payment)

Give him options and let him decide what he wants to pay for. Your time is money and you deserve to be compensated.

  • 1
    +1 for "Starting work without a contract is like putting on a condom after taking a home pregnancy test" ! Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 18:45

Agreeing with the solution proposed by @go-meek, but perhaps the best way to avoid the issue would be printing the brochure yourself. Tell him that you can only give a printed proof, digital files after receiving the payment. It is fair, he can see the brochure and make annotations in it, you keep the files. Doesn't need to be the highest resolution either, as to avoid him reproducing it elsewhere.


It's not technically possible to have a file that is secured for printing while having the ability to read it. That is because rendering for screen and print is the same thing. Despite this, PDF files have a flag to disable printing; this is more of an annoyance than an actual block.

The best thing you can do is rasterize the graphics to a low-enough resolution to be adequate on screen. Perhaps keeping the images on your server and show them on demand.

Better is to have your client on contract saying he will pay you xxx if he prints it. But bigger yet, why do you have a client that is not paying you anything?


I would suggest you convert all the text in the file to curves. For that, select all text and press CTRL+Q. This would make text uneditable. To check if all texts are converted into curves, go to text statistics and see if there's any font displayed, if not then all texts are converted into curves. Secondly, insert a watermark and export it to PDF in a very low quality so that it would be unclear in printing. Hope that helps.

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