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Why and how to secure a PDF

Updated: Dec 27, 2023

image of a PDF icon

PDF is the most well-known digital document format for selling Quilt Patterns. You have worked hard (or you have hired QPW to help assist you) on your pattern and making your design a reality so other quilters can now make the pattern. Congrats!! This is a BIG step and you have spent many hours (and much love) working on your pattern.

I bet you have heard the horror stories of someone knocking off a designer's pattern, copying sections, or even worse, fully copying your design. We hate hearing these stories and hate hearing about any designer who has had to face this. Securing a PDF document helps protect your patterns. So, what exactly does securing a PDF file mean and how do you do it?

Here are some key reasons why you might want to secure a PDF:

  • Confidentiality of Sensitive Information: PDFs often contain sensitive and confidential information. Digitally securing the document helps prevent unauthorized access and ensures only authorized individuals can view the content.

  • Preventing Unauthorized Access by Password Protection: By applying a password to a PDF, you can control who can open and view the document. This adds an additional layer of security, especially for documents containing sensitive or private data.

  • Document Integrity and Preventing Tampering: Security features like digital signatures help ensure that the content of the PDF has not been altered or tampered with. Digital signatures provide a way to verify the authenticity and integrity of the document.

  • Controlling Permissions by Restricting Editing and Printing: Securing a PDF allows you to control what actions can be performed on the document. You can restrict editing, printing, or copying of text, helping to prevent unauthorized modifications or distribution.

  • Legal Requirements: In some industries, there are legal or regulatory requirements to protect certain types of information. Securing PDF documents helps organizations comply with these regulations and standards.

  • Preventing Copy and Paste Restrictions: By restricting the ability to copy and paste text from a PDF, you can help prevent the unauthorized extraction of information from the document.

  • Secure Distribution and Sharing: If you need to share a document with others, securing it ensures that only the intended recipients can access and use the information. This is particularly important when sharing confidential business reports, financial statements, or legal documents.

  • Preserving Intellectual Property and Protecting Content: If your PDF contains valuable intellectual property, such as copyrighted material, securing the document helps prevent unauthorized distribution and protects the rights of the content owner.

  • Enhancing Trust: Securing a document with features like encryption and digital signatures enhances the trustworthiness of the content, assuring recipients that the document has not been altered and comes from a legitimate source.

  • Preventing Information Leaks by Watermarking: Adding a watermark to a PDF can help deter unauthorized sharing or distribution of the document by clearly indicating its origin or status. Watermarks are great when working with testers as they get a working (not a final copy of the quilt), or making a store copy of the pattern.

So what do we recommend to keep your pattern safe?

  • Securing any pattern with a password for editing. This will make your text unable to be selected, copied, and pasted into another file. It also prevents someone from copying and pasting your diagrams. This is huge since we all know how much time it takes to draw the diagrams and some designers even have a very specific style that they use.

  • Watermarking any pattern or project that is not a finalized version. We also suggest watermarking any pattern that is sent out as a store copy where you want to restrict viewing the pattern and it is not intended for resale. You will not watermark your pattern that is listed on any site for sale as watermarking does restrict the view of your pattern.

So how do you secure a PDF?

It is very easy to secure a PDF with Adobe Acrobat. This is the program we use as we work in Adobe Suite but you can do this in other programs as well.

  1. Open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat.

  2. Click on "File" then select "Protect Using Password".

  3. Select "Viewing" or "Editing" - we select editing but you have the option for viewing as well.

  4. Set a Password that you can remember but is not easily guessed.

  5. Click "Apply".

  6. Click on "File" then "Save As".

  7. Name the file and click "Save": I normally put the name 'Secured' or 'Protected' in the name so I can easily identify which one is the secured file as we send both to our clients upon request to secure the files.

Remember to save the document after applying any security settings. Also, make sure to keep a record of any passwords you use as they are necessary for accessing or modifying the secured PDF. We highly recommend you keep the original unsecured file as well in case you forget the password and for your own personal records as sometimes files corrupt or accidentally get trashed. We also suggest backing up all files on another hard drive or a cloud-based storage like Dropbox.

How do you add a watermark to a PDF?

It is also simple and easy to add a Watermark in Adobe Acrobat.

  1. Open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat.

  2. Click on the "Tools" tab normally located in the upper left-hand corner.

  3. Select "Edit".

  4. Click on "Watermark" in the Edit PDF toolbar.

  5. Click "Add".

  6. Configure the Watermark Settings:

    1. Source: Choose whether the watermark is text or an image.

    2. Appearance: Set the font, size, color, and opacity (for text watermark) or browse for an image file (for image watermark).

    3. Page Range: Specify the pages where you want the watermark to appear.

    4. Rotation: Set the rotation angle for the watermark.

  7. Use the preview area on the right side to see how the watermark will appear on the document.

  8. Apply the Watermark by clicking the "OK" button.

  9. Click on "File" then "Save As".

  10. Name the file and click "Save": I normally put the name 'Watermark' in the name so I can easily identify which file has the watermark as we can send both the file without a watermark and with a watermark to our clients upon request.

The added watermark will now be visible on the specified pages of the PDF. You can use the watermark for various purposes, such as indicating the document's status (for example: draft, confidential, store copy) or adding a logo for branding. Adjust the settings according to your preferences, branding, and document requirements.

Please note that Adobe Acrobat and other Adobe products occasionally update; these instructions may vary with any update or your personal settings. If you need any help securing or watermarking your files, please reach out to the Quilt Pattern Writers team and we will be happy to assist you.

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