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How to design a PDF Portfolio using Acrobat X

Learn how to specify design elements for your PDF Portfolio such as layouts, themes and more in Acrobat X Pro or Suite.

By Dave Merchant – November 22, 2010


Discover how to specify design elements for your PDF Portfolio, such as layouts, visual themes, color and more in Acrobat X Pro or Acrobat X Suite. You can use the pre-installed design tools and options, or customize your PDF Portfolio to include other features or to maintain a specific brand identity for your document collections.

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How to design a PDF Portfolio using Acrobat X

Dave Merchant – November 22, 2010

Once you've assembled your documents into a PDF portfolio, you'll no doubt want to personalize it or apply some company or product branding.

In Acrobat X this is possible in a number of ways, depending on how much of a change you wish to make.This portfolio has the default Linear appearance, so let's switch to Edit Mode and see what sort of changes we can make.The overall way that a portfolio behaves on screen, how the cards move about and how they're arranged, is controlled by the Layout.

Acrobat X ships with five pre-installed layouts, Click-Through, Freeform, Grid, Linear and Wave; and you can also compile your own using the Acrobat Portfolio SDK and Flash Builder 4.

The files produced by the SDK are called "navigators", and have a .NAV extension.

Once applied to a portfolio, the code is embedded into the PDF so everyone can see it - you don't need your viewers to have installed a copy of the NAV file.I'll switch back to Linear view.Writing a completely new layout navigator isn't something that everyone will want, or need, to do; and if you like the overall "layout" of the layout but want to change the colors and styling, there are two more levels of customization available.Themes are new in Acrobat X, and just like their namesakes on websites and blogs a theme file defines the visual styling - the colors for the layout, shapes of icons and buttons, borders for the cards, and so on.

The layout handles all the hard work of making the animations and buttons work, and the theme file - which is just a SWF with a series of graphic symbols - applies a style on top.

Acrobat X ships with a set of five pre-made themes to choose from, and as you can see clicking them changes the background, card styles, colors and the button shapes, but the overall structure of the layout isn't changing.

You can make your own themes quite easily using Adobe Illustrator, Flash Catalyst / Flash Professional, and unlike with a navigator, this time there's no code to write.

Once assembled you can import the SWF and apply the theme to any one of the layouts, and as you can see we've changed our corners from round to square on the mini-nav, we have a new graphic symbol for folders, we've applied a background and restyled some of the buttons and icons.If we change our mind we can go back to one of the installed themes.

I'll use Spring in this example, as the green colors fit quite well with some of the highlights such as the model's coat on the Attendee Guide; and the next thing to deal with is the color scheme and background.The colors for the card titles, borders and highlights are initially set by the layout and theme, but you can choose your own Color Palette on the next pane down.

We have a collection of preset swatches to choose from, and we can create a new one by clicking the Create from Existing button, then editing each color patch.

Clicking Save will apply our new color scheme to the file, and if we change our mind we can go back to one of the existing palettes and remove the custom palette by clicking the X icon.The next panel controls the portfolio background.

Acrobat X layouts have a solid or gradient fill, and an image - you can use either or both in combination.

Right now we are looking at an image that was embedded by the Spring theme, so I'll turn it off for a moment by choosing "None" from the list, and the background color will show through instead.If I choose a color, I can set either a solid fill, linear or radial gradient.

With gradient fills the slider controls what color I'm mixing with - either black or white.I can also import an image file, which overlays the background color.

I'll click Choose New and bring in a cityscape which will fit with our conference theme.

We can set how the image scales to fit the window - I don't want any borders to appear, so I'll choose "No Border" from the Image Scale dropdown.

With this particular image the interesting bit is the cityscape at the bottom, so I want that to stay fixed as the Acrobat window resizes, so I'll choose Bottom from the Image Position menu.I can also change the opacity of the image, which will bring in the background color.

As we have a radial gradient on the background color, if I drop the image opacity I can get quite an interesting vignette effect.If a small image is scaled up a long way it can pixelate, and graphically we want our viewers to concentrate on the cards rather than the background.

Fine, sharp details in the background draw your attention, so Acrobat X has a useful image blur effect we can apply to our background image to soften it.

It's still there, but it's less prominent.If we toggle to Preview Mode, I think it's looking quite good but we need to darken this green so it stands out against the background.

We don't need to use these tools in order, so I can go back to Color Palettes, make a copy of the existing palette and swap round the colors for Primary and Accent.

Click Save and it's made the changes without affecting our choice for the background.The final panel allows us to choose the font to be used for the default titles of cards, descriptions and the information on the back of each card.

If we choose a font that isn't universally available, we have the option to turn on embedding fonts.

This applies across the whole portfolio.

It will increase the size of the file, but will ensure Acrobat or Reader doesn't have to perform a substitution.

The final thing is to bring in a header area to tie the content together.

Within the Edit mode this gray area is our empty header.

If we click that once, we open up the Header Properties panel.The header by default has a solid background fill - again we have the option of applying a gradient, changing the base color and changing the mix we apply to that color between black and white, and the opacity of the background.

We have some headers to lay out text and image boxes within the header automatically, or we can simply apply our own using these buttons.I'll bring in an image to start with; the conference logo as a transparent PNG, and we can move these boxes around and resize them using the corner handles, and we can choose how they float when the window is resized.

Click back in the header area to get the buttons, and this time I'll bring in some text.

Resize the box, double-click and I'll just paste in a title.

I'm going to select all of this and choose a font which matches the word "Conference" in the logo.

It's non-standard so I'll embed it; I'll make the whole lot 14pt; then I'll just select the first line and increase that to 36pt; and make all the text white so it matches our logo, and I think that's about it.If we want to change individual fonts within some of these descriptions, we can just select that block of text; the Textfield Properties pane opens and we can make a change there.Back in the preview mode hopefully you'll agree we've put together a very professional-looking portfolio with very little effort.

If we want to go more than that and bring in even more styling, then we have the option to ask our Flash developers to put together some custom navigators, or some theme files, and you haven't got access to Flash developers to do that work for you, remember we have the Acrobat Portfolio Exchange on where you can download sample files, templates, themes and layouts and apply them to your own documents.

Products covered:

Acrobat X

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Combine Files

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2, 2014-10-17 17, 2014

Thanks Lori but i think that Joel hasn’t time, because don’t answer at the mail… i search another developer; best regards, Alessandro

Lori Kassuba

2, 2014-10-17 17, 2014

Hi Alessandro,

Joel Geraci specializes in designing PDF Portfolios. Here is the URL to his site:



9, 2014-10-15 15, 2014

Hi Dave, i search a developer to create a .nav file; you can help me? i’m in Italy, thanks

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