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I created a certificate of achievement award in Adobe Illustrator and I wanted to save it as a PDF that would have an editable placeholder for the person's name. When I save it as a PDF, the quality/resolution looks terrible on screen, but looks perfect when I print. When I save it as a PNG, it looks great on screen as well, but I can't edit the name.

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    Check your PDF export settings. A PDF should look exactly as good as the PNG, as long as you aren't telling it to downsample the images in the compression settings
    – Manly
    Feb 22 '17 at 18:25
  • PDF never looks terrible, unless you do something terrible to it, like excessive compression or choosing the wrong standard to export. You are making a statement which is generally false. PDF should look just the same as PNG (or better) if you understand how to work with these.
    – Lucian
    Feb 22 '17 at 18:38
  • Manly - my PDF export settings in Illustrator?
    – Brian
    Feb 22 '17 at 19:07
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I'm expanding on my comment, to show you where the settings are.

There is no reason a PDF should look any worse than the original artwork, unless you tell it to. While compression helps keep PDFs small for viewing online and sending them in emails, if you are actually trying to print your PDF it's not recommended.

Adjust these settings, to suit your needs and accounting for where the PDF will be used. If you are using it online, you can typically get away with downsampling a bit. If file size is not an issue (i.e. for printing), then you can turn off the compression all together.

enter image description here

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  • Nothing seems to work - my theory is the image (certificate with detailed ornamental border) is too detailed, so when it is viewed so it fits the page, it looks distorted, but when I zoom in on any specific feature, it looks perfect. I just can't get it to look perfect in "full screen" view. Thank you for your answer though.
    – Brian
    Feb 23 '17 at 18:49
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    @Brian I have noticed similar behavior with PDFs sometimes. I believe it's just the way that the vector information is being approximated by your screen. One workaround you could try is to save the certificate design as a TIF file, place that into your PDF as a background and then create your editable text field on top of that
    – Manly
    Feb 24 '17 at 16:15
  • that did it! Thank you for all helping with this.
    – Brian
    Mar 1 '17 at 18:18
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In theory the PDF, since it uses vectors, should look better everywhere, but sometimes there are a lot of little details that some PDF viewers have trouble reproducing well.

Try different PDF viewers - say Preview and Acrobat reader if you're on a mac.

If there's a particular part of it that's not looking good as a PDF, you can try rasterizing (making a pixel image, like a png) just that part. Then you can keep the other parts, like the name you want to change, editable and in a vector format.

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