When you’re ready to share a new design with your coworkers, send a contract to your client, or create a user guide for your customers, one of the most reliable file types to use is the PDF. Luckily, file conversion first-timers who do not spend their work days on a computer can easily learn how to make a PDF file out of images, documents, and other file types. There are several methods for creating PDFs on your Mac, on your PC, and online.

What Is a PDF?

The Portable Document Format (PDF) is the industry standard file format for document sharing. Developed by Adobe Systems, a PDF is an exact replica of whatever file you want to duplicate, whether that be a photograph, text file, web page, graphic design, word processing page, or a screenshot. When you convert documents to PDF, any future edits or alterations will leave a digital footprint. PDF files can be password protected and have editing or printing features limited by the document creator.

Adobe Acrobat Reader

Adobe Acrobat Reader DC interface

In order to open any PDF file, you need Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your desktop. Adobe Acrobat Reader is free and available to download online, but many computers come with it pre-installed. Download Adobe Acrobat Reader if you do not have the software yet.

To make a PDF file on your own, use any of these methods to get started:

1. How to Make a PDF File in Microsoft Word

Many user products like Microsoft Office feature built-in PDF converters to make your life easier. The steps you take within Microsoft Word to create a PDF from your document will vary based on the version of the software you have, and what type of operating system you are using.

For Microsoft Word 2007 on a PC

  • First, go to the Microsoft website and download the free add-in that allows you to save any file as a PDF. Your software may already have this capability, but based on when you first purchased it the add-in might be necessary.
  • Download and install the add-in by following the on-screen prompts, and then relaunch Microsoft Word.
  • Select File > Open to open the document you would like to save as a PDF, or simply type a new document.
  • Once your document is ready, select File > Save As and then choose PDF or XPS. Perform the following steps in the save dialog box.
  • Type a name for your new file under File Name.
  • Under Save as type select PDF.
  • Select Open file after saving if you have Adobe Reader or another PDF reader installed and would like to immediately view your file.
  • Under Optimize for select Standard if you need to retain as high of quality as possible for printing, or select Minimum size if you will not be printing the document and would prefer a smaller file size.
  • After you have changed any Options you need select Publish and you now have a PDF file.

For later versions of Microsoft Word on a PC

  • Select File > Open to open the document you would like to save as a PDF, or simply type a new document.
  • Once your document is ready select File > Export and then choose PDF/XPS.
  • Under Publish as PDF or XPS alter your file name and choose where you want to save the PDF file.
  • Select Publish.

For Microsoft Word on a Mac

  • Select File > Open to open the document you would like to save as a PDF, or simply type a new document.
  • Once your document is ready select File > Save As and then under the File Format drop down menu select PDF.
  • Name your document and then click Export.

2. How to Make a PDF File Using Print Feature on Mac

If you are using a program other than Microsoft Office, you can still create a PDF file with any application that has a Print feature, like Preview.

Use Preview function to save files as PDFs
  • Open the file that you would like to save as a PDF.
  • Select File > Print.
  • When the print menu appears, click on the PDF dropdown menu at the bottom left corner. From the options select Save as PDF.
  • Name your file, select the location on your computer where you would like to save it, and select Save.

3. How to Make a PDF Online

Users of PCs or Macs can use simple and free online converters to create PDF files. Do your research and make sure the programs don’t come with caveats or limitations. Some converters will require your personal information for marketing purposes or may only allow a few PDF files to be created.

  • Choose a converter like PrintInPDF or PDF Converter.
  • Select Choose File or Browse to choose the documents you want to convert to PDF. Note that many online converters will limit the amount of documents you can convert at one time.
  • Select Convert or Convert to PDF. Some converters may have multiple file type options, so select PDF and then wait for the conversion process to complete.
  • Select Download or follow any on screen prompts to download and save your new PDF files once they have been converted.

4. How to Make a PDF File With Shutterstock Editor

How to make a PDF file in Shutterstock Editor

Using Shutterstock Editor you can transform any images you create into PDF files by following a few simple steps. Here’s how to make a PDF file using Editor:

  • Open Shutterstock Editor and choose Open Designs to import your own images or simply click File > New to create a design with our user-friendly editing software.
  • When you are ready to export the image select File > Save As, and give your image a name. This saves the document within your Editor account.
  • To create a PDF file select Download at the top-right of the Editor, and then select PDF under File Format.
  • Now you have a new PDF file to share and send.

Edit PDF Online

In order to edit PDF files you will need to pay for Adobe Acrobat DC, Adobe’s PDF creation and editing software. Pricing plans vary based on the features you want, and if you plan to purchase the software individually or for a business.

If Adobe Acrobat is out of your price range, there are several low-cost or free software options for editing a PDF online. Read our PDF editing guide and modify the text or images within a PDF with ease.

Merge PDF Online

If you have several PDF files that you would like to merge you can learn how to combine PDF files by reading our guide on the topic. Whether on your desktop or online you can merge pdf files with just a few clicks.

Want to learn more about image file types and file management? Check out these helpful articles:

Cover image via Jane Kelly