Solution for PDFs with Extra Blank Pages

We have noticed that many applications that export or print to a PDF file can append many blank pages to a PDF file during the export or print operation.  This can be aggravating and also a waste of paper if not caught in time with hundreds of blank pages overflowing on the floor.


A lot of extra pages on this PDF file.


It is notable that PDF editors do not exhibit this behavior.  So, we started a quest to see what was happening.

Surprisingly, the things we found were common, unintentional math problems.  Yes, those horrid math word problems you used to see in the older math books really can help you in your adult life.

Take this problem:

Johnny creates a drawing that is 8 inches by 10 inches and contains eight different colors.  He adjusts the color pallet for CMYK export.  The default margins of the drawing program are one half inch and the screen color is displaying an RGB picture.  Johnny saved his drawing.  When the artwork is exported to a PDF, will it fit on a standard printer using 20% recycled content paper?  Will the resulting PDF be what Johnny desired?

Well, what is the answer to the two questions?  Hint: both answers are the same, so you have a 50% chance of guessing correctly.

The answer is no for both.

Let’s take the formula for calculating the size of a page.

Page Width = Body Width + Left Margin Width + Right Margin Width

Johnny’s drawing is 8 inches wide.  The default margins are one half inch.

So the Page Width = 8 + 0.5 + 0.5 = 9 inches.

See the problem?  The drawing is 9 inches wide.  The paper with the 20% recycled content is 8-1/2 inches wide.  The PDF export function in a lot of programs goes crazy and adds pages in an attempt to fit all the information into the PDF.

The solution is to make sure the drawing or original document, with the margins included, is the same size or smaller than the PDF size.  We have found some programs that need a little buffer so your original document might need to be a little bit smaller in both dimensions to properly export to a PDF.

Photo: Paper Overflow via Flickr by zoetnet

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