Exporting PDFs in Illustrator

There are a few common issues with saving PDFs in Adobe Illustrator. I experienced these with CS5 (5.1 specifically) but while looking for a fix I saw reports of the same errors from users with CS2, CS3, CS4, and CS6 as well. Commond errors include:

  • “This file cannot be found.” when trying to save a PDF in Illustrator
  • Saved PDFs coming out blank white or empty with file sizes 500k+

This file cannot be found


I didn’t discover the root cause of this error but it may have been something malformed in the PDF file. I found two possible workarounds for this and strangely each worked a different time.

Re-save with Preview

  1. Close the PDF in Illustrator and Open it in Preview
  2. Add a blank text area or some other unseen modification
  3. Save in Preview
  4. Re-open in Illustrator, modify, and save as PDF

Save as a different file type

  1. Save the PDF as a different type (eg: ai)
  2. Close and reopen the file
  3. Save as PDF

Saved PDF is blank

Try saving with these settings. Compatibility and Options are the keys here, leave all other panels as defaults.


This means no compression from Illustrator so you’ll get a pretty big file. If it’s text heavy like most PDFs are you might benefit from compressing it with preview.

  1. Open in preview
  2. File > Export…
  3. Quartz Filter: Reduce File Size
  4. Save


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