How To Fix Low-Quality InDesign PDF Exports

InDesign is a leading layout and page design software made by Adobe. Artists and designers of all kinds love the software for its wide array of features and support for all sorts of file types. However, one of the biggest problems with the software is that PDF exports are blurry when opened. How can low-quality PDF exports from InDesign be fixed?

Low-quality InDesign PDF exports can be fixed in the following ways:

  • Fix any image links in the file that are affecting the design quality
  • Make sure the High Quality Display Performance setting is on
  • Reset your preferences in InDesign
  • Use the Publish Book for Print option, then export your project

For many who work in the creative industries, delivering high-quality finished products is a must. So, read on to learn more about fixing your low-quality PDF exports from InDesign, and find out why they become low quality in the first place.

What Can You Do To Adjust Low-Quality PDF Exports in InDesign?

Many InDesign users noticed that their PDF exports have decreased in quality in the latest versions of the software. This has caused unnecessary stress as they work to finish their projects and meet deadlines. Luckily, you can use multiple workarounds to fix those low-quality exports. This section will cover some of them.

Re-Link Images in Your InDesign File

One of the main reasons PDFs become blurry or low quality when exported is because the files’ images have lost their link. You can re-link the images in the file by doing the following:

  1. Click on Window and select Links.
  2. Find the image you want to update the link for in the book, images that need updates will have a yellow triangle, and images with a stop sign are no longer linked to the book or were moved.
  3. Click on Edit Original to modify the image in the file and save your changes.
  4. Click the Update Link button to update the document to the latest version and restore the links.

Once you follow these steps, the image links should work, improving the quality of your export. This makes sense because if something in the document is not working, it will undoubtedly affect the outcome of anything you decide to do with that document.

Turn High Quality Display Performance On

High Quality Display Performance is a setting in InDesign that will ensure that everything you have created is in the highest resolution possible. InDesign places all projects in low resolution by default, so users have to adjust the quality settings on their own.

To turn high quality display performance on in InDesign, do the following:

  1. Highlight the image/images that you want to change the quality of
  2. Go to the Object Menu
  3. Navigate to the Display Performance tab and select High Quality

When the images in your design are high quality, the quality of the export, no matter what format, will be higher regardless of what format you choose to export in.

Reset Your InDesign Preferences

Some users have found that the best way to fix the low-quality export issue is to completely reset the preferences you have set up in InDesign. This is a quick solution that simply involves navigating through a few menus.

To reset your InDesign preferences, follow these steps:

  1. Navigate to Edit, then Preferences, then General, or use the shortcut Ctrl + K
  2. Go through all of the options to determine what settings work for you and customize your experience
  3. Start InDesign, and hold Crtl + Shift + Alt
  4. Click Yes when asked if you want to delete your preferences, and the program will restart
  5. Review the preferences you created by navigating through the menus again, in case you want to make any other changes

Resetting the preferences will allow InDesign to start on a clean slate, ideally correcting any resolution issues that used to present themselves.

Select the Publish Book For Print Option Before Exporting

Since books require the highest resolution possible so that they can be read with ease by all audiences, you may want to navigate to the Publish Book For Print option before exporting your PDF.

The Publish Book For Print option should be with the other book-related settings in the program.

Now that you know how to fix low-quality PDF exports in InDesign, let’s explore why they happen in the first place.

Why Do InDesign Exports End Up In Low Resolution?

All exports in InDesign, not just PDFs, end up in low resolution. The PDF is the one with the most issues because PDFs are used every day in every industry. Why do all of these exports become low quality anyway?

The low resolution can happen for four reasons:

  • The export is in the wrong format
  • Images are missing in the book
  • The effective PPI is too low
  • The book has the wrong compression settings

Let’s look at each of these reasons in a little more detail.

The Document You Want to Export is in the Wrong Format

Sometimes, designers can place their work in the wrong format when they are getting ready to export, which impacts the resolution of the final product. The main types of file formats used are:

  • PNG– Portable Network Graphic, can have a transparent background and is commonly used for gradients. They do not lose clarity but are slow to load. PNGs should be used for Web exports; if you print a PNG it will be low resolution.
  • JPG– Joint Photographic Experts Group, great for web exports. Files in this format are compressed, which lowers the quality and resolution and results in blurry exports.
  • PDF– Portable Document Format, great on the web and in print. Working with documents in PDF format reduces the file size, making them blurry when coupled with default low-resolution InDesign image quality.

The Document Has Low Resolution or Missing Images

If you are using the format you need, the export quality may be impacted by the quality of the images within the document. Image quality can be negatively impacted in two ways:

  • Missing images
  • Low-resolution images

If images are missing in the document, you will need to relink them as described above. Low-resolution images look fine on your computer but will decrease in quality when exported or printed. Images should be at least 200-300 PPI, otherwise they will be blurry in a PDF export.

To check PPI, navigate to Windows, Link Panel, Effective PPI and skip to the next heading to adjust if necessary.

The Effective PPI Is Too Low

Increase the effective PPI of images by increasing the size of the images in the book or document. When the effective PPI is high, images will not be blurry, and neither will the export you want to send out.

The Book Has The Wrong Compression Settings

Too many people press export without double-checking to see what will be exported. If a PDF is not compressed, the quality of the images and the resolution will not decrease, so exports will be higher quality. However, uncompressed files are larger.

If you follow one or a combination of these tips, you will achieve higher quality exports of all PDFs.


Four ways to fix low-quality PDF exports in InDesign are fixing any image links in the file that are affecting the design quality, making sure the High Quality Display Performance setting is on, resetting your preferences in InDesign, and using the Publish Book for Print option and then export your project.

PDFs become low quality due to file compression, missing or low-resolution images, the wrong document format, and the low effective PPI of images.