We have roughly 55 cards that all have the exact same text. The titles and backgrounds differ among the cards. So I've made just one AI with the different backgrounds and all the text as one copy in a layer on top.

Now I can just hide each background layer and save as PDF. But even unchecking preserve editing capabilities, the file sizes let me know that it is still including the images and backgrounds for all the hidden layers. Doing a quick test and deleting all the hidden layers brings the file sizes done considerably.

I was under the impression that saving as a PDF without editing capabilities only saved what was needed for that particular PDF. It seems I was wrong. Do I just have to keep deleting the hidden layers for each copy?

7 Answers 7


A few boxes down from "Preserve Illustrator Editing Capabilities" is an option to "Create Acrobat Layers from Top-Level Layers". Make sure that is unchecked. See if that solves your problem! Source citation

As an aside, if you ever have this problem in InDesign, there's a choice front and center on the export dialog to export visible and printable layers only.

  • 5
    Selecting any of the PDF/X presets disables this setting automatically, and in almost all cases you should be using one of these when preparing output for press. PDF/X-4:2008 uses a later PDF version that X-1 or X-3, resulting in a smaller file size. Sep 6, 2012 at 18:34

The trick is to temporarily convert the layers you don't want to appear to Template layers, rather than hide them.

From the Layers palette, select the appropriate layers, and from the flyout menu select "Template". Unless it has changed since CS2...

Template layers will not be included in PDFs, neither will they print.

  • Just tested this in CS6 (Mac) and it works! So long as you do untick 'Preserve Illustrator Editing Capabilities'. If you tick 'Preserve...', it just hides the template layers in everything but Illustrator. Only change I can see from how you describe it is, 'Template' is set by a checkbox under 'Options for "[layer name]"' in the Layers palette flyout menu, and there are icons in the layers palette listing so you can easily see which are templates and which aren't. Dec 18, 2012 at 13:46

None of these suggestions work or worked for me - I need something simple and bulletproof, and the final suggestion ("Checking this option: "Create Acrobat Layers from Top-Level Layers" worked for me. I also chose the Acrobat version 8") DIDN'T work, and still exported all the layers for me.

I found the solution in that dialog box setting the eps file save options though - choose "Save a copy" and file type "pdf" then choose the top option Adobe PDF Preset: High Quality Print, and for good measure, turn off "Preserve Illustrator Editing Capabilities".

Hidden layers are gone, finally.


Checking this option: "Create Acrobat Layers from Top-Level Layers" worked for me. I also chose the Acrobat version 8.


It's an annoyance. Illustrator has a very nasty habbit of including all hidden objects in many formats upon save/export. PDF and EPS can be the most troublesome.

The best I found I can do is to delete the hidden objects, then save. Basically it's a 5 step processes...

  1. Save the AI file
  2. Unhide all
  3. Delete
  4. Save As... PDF
  5. Undo
  6. Hide

The Retain Illustrator Editing Capabilities will have no effect on this problem, as you've discovered.

It's absolutely not a "dangerous solution". Save the file.. then perform these steps. Step 4 means you then have the PDF open and not the original AI file. Using "Save As" generates a new file. You would have to specifically try to overwrite any previous native .ai file.

  • This seems like a very dangerous solution; I tend to work extremely fast sometimes, and if I followed these steps, but forgot to "Undo" before saving/closing the file, everything that was deleted would remain deleted.
    – DLev
    Jan 18, 2016 at 19:47
  • I will give a thumbs up for this being an annoyance! How many times do I hear, "Did you check your file things are overlapping" Apr 21, 2016 at 17:44

If you have Acrobat Pro, there is an option under tools > protection called 'remove hidden information' - further information here:


I can confirm that hidden layers saved in Illustrator are removed by this feature, which cleans up up PDF preview (on a Mac at least) and reduces the file size. Your PDF can then be resaved from Acrobat.


Install a PDF printer and just print your document, but keep in mind that you will lose any hyperlinks this way. Acrobat Pro has one, and Foxit had a free one that comes with foxit reader if you don't have Acrobat Pro.

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