Preparing Your Digital PDF with Affinity Publisher

This tutorial will offer you some advice on how to use Affinity Publisher to prepare an optimized digital edition PDF book.

What Do I Need?

This walk thru will use Publisher to layout and directly export a PDF at a resolution appropriate for viewing on computers and devices, and Acrobat Pro to optimize the PDF.

This tutorial uses Affinity Publisher and Acrobat DC for Mac. If you are using a different version of the software or different OS, some of the instructions and screenshots will be slightly different, but you should be able to find the right feature in your software version.

How do I Get This Software?

Affinity Publisher is available from Serif at

Adobe Acrobat is available at

1. Set up and format your Publisher Document

Setting up your file for Digital PDF is nearly identical to setting up a book for print but the specifications are much looser. If you plan to produce both print and digital editions, it is best to set up your book files to print specs and then export for both digital and print using the same file with the correct export information for each format.

For more information about creating Affinity files for print, see the DriveThru tutorial for Preparing A Book For Print with Affinity Publisher

For your convenience, we have created templates to make your layout work easier.

What are all these lines?

  • The white edge represents the edge of the page.
  • The thick blue box defines the margin.
  • The black line in the center is called the gutter and is the spine edge of the book.

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Master Pages

Master pages allow you to place borders, text, and other information to be used universally, or at least repeatedly, throughout the file. These template elements will appear on all of the pages to which you assign that master page, in the exact same location on each page.

In your Pages Palette, open the Master Pages tab (the small arrow next to the Master Pages listing), and click on the "new page" icon.

Name your new master page something easy to recognize. In this same window, make sure the correct measurements for the page and the safe area are applied to your new master page. 


Click on the master page you just made to make sure you’re actually working on that page. It will highlight in the Pages Palette (you will also see it on the bottom left of the window).


Now, begin your work by adding text, images, and graphics. When you are done, you’ll be ready to apply this template to multiple pages across your document.

Keep the Master Pages tab open and open the Pages tab (it’s the small arrow next to the Page listing); from there, you can right-click on any page and select "Apply Master."


In the window that opens, use the pull-down to select the proper master page and select the pages on which you want to apply that master page. You can list specific page numbers or select any of the preset options, and Publisher will populate that template to all the pages you have selected.

Alternately, with your Selection Tool, you can grab the Master Page icon from the Pages Palette and drag it on top of the page you wish to apply it to. The master page will be applied to that page.


Now, if you need to make changes to recurring elements throughout your document, you can simply update the relevant master page. Or create an additional one, for example with new chapter name. The changes you make there will automatically be update throughout your document, on all of the pages styled using that master.

Adding Text

There are two ways to add text to an Affinity Publisher file.

First Option

Using the Text Tool (see image below), click and drag on the page to place a text frame. You can manually resize the frame by clicking and dragging the blocks or handles on the Frame box edges.


Next, using the Type tool, click inside the frame you have created. Your cursor will become a blinking text cursor inside the box. You’ll also notice the Context Toolbar has changed to reflect your use of the Type Tool. Paragraph and Character Formatting options are now available.


To place text, open the file with your text content, select the text you want to place, and copy it. Go back to your Publisher file and click inside the text box, right-click or control-click, and then Paste to import and place all of the selected text.

Second Option

8.png Another helpful way to place text if you have a lot to import is to use the Place command. You can import Word files, text files, and rich text files.

Using the Type Tool, make a text box as explained above, then go to the File pull-down menu and select Place. Navigate to the document you’d like to import. When you select the document, Publisher will autofill the text box on the page, with the remaining text to be filled indicated by the little crossed red box, as shown above. 

Adding Pages

If you need to add pages, open the Page pallet on the right, right-click the page, then select "add pages." (You can always add more or remove pages.) Use the Text Tool to put text boxes in, then click the little crossed red box. When you click on the next text box, it will autofill it with the rest of the text.

If there is more text than will fit in the current text box, you can resize the box or make another, continuing to click the little crossed red box and place more text each time until all of the text is placed.

You can change the size of the text boxes and move them at any time. You can also change the text formatting at any time as well.


Once all of the text is imported, you can format it, move it around, and add art to finalize the book.

Formatting Text and Style Sheets

Paragraph Styles and Character Styles are created in much the same way. Starting with Paragraph Styles, select the text you would like to change. You can style the text initially in the Control Bar using any options available.

When your text looks the way you want it, select the text you have just altered, and then click on the New Paragraph Style on the bottom left of the Text Style pallet, which will open the Paragraph Style Menu.


In the Paragraph Style Menu, start by naming the Paragraph Style something that will easily identify it later. Now look at the Character options. You’ll notice Affinity has already picked up the attributes of the text you styled and selected earlier. You can further alter the style in this dialog box, and in the ones below.

When you’re done, click OK to save your choices. From now on, you can apply this style to any paragraph. 


Similarly, Character Styles can be made, saved, and applied easily later. Use Character Style choices to italicize or bold words, make words a different color, or underline words. Start by clicking the Character Style Menu (next to Paragraph; see previous screen shot). 

To change fonts or attributes easily, simply update your Style Sheets. The changes will be made globally throughout your document.


Pro Tip: Things to avoid as you style text in your document

  • Widows. In publishing parlance, a widow is a word or bit of a line "left alone at the end," i.e., the first line of a new paragraph that starts at the bottom of a column of text or a page, with the rest of the paragraph in a new column or on the next page. 
  • Orphans. The counterpart to a widow, an orphan is "alone at the beginning," i.e., a single word or line from the previous column or page left by itself at the top of a new column or page.
  • Hyphens. When broken across columns of text or pages. 


Adding Art

With the Move Tool (at the top of the Dock Toolbar) selected, go to the File pull-down menu and select "Place," as you did with text, or you can click the Place Image Tool in the Dock Toolbar on the left. Then navigate to the art or logo you are placing and click Open. Your cursor will change shape; simply click and drag to place the item. 


Use any of the corner handles with the Move Tool to resize the item.

Note: Avoid using the middle dots to resize your image; they do not scale proportionately and will cause the image to look odd. 


You can hover over any of the tools in the Toolbar and Context Toolbar to see what other options are offered, but placing and sizing are the basics. To move above or behind another item, select and right-click, go to Arrange, and select the level you want. 

2. Adding Cover Images and Setting Up Pagination

Make the front cover the first page and back the cover the last page of your digital PDF. You can add one page at the beginning of your document, and one at the back (right click adjacent page and select add page) and place covers respectively. Save your document before you begin the next step.

Next, you will want to renumber the pages to match the PDF page numbers to the table of contents pagination.

  1. Right click on the first page (front cover)
  2. Select Start New Section
  3. Set Start page Numbering at to 1, set the Section Name to Cover, and set the Number Style to Roman numbers (lower case is common)
  4. Click the add section icon on the bottom left of the Section Manager window. (do not close yet)
  5. 16.png
  6. Section 2 will pop up when the Add Section icon is clicked.
  7. Set Start on Page to page one according to the Table of Contents
  8. Click Restart Page Numbering and be sure it's set to 1
  9. Fill in the Section Name (interior suggested)
  10. Set Number Style to Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3,)
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Now the covers should not interfere with the book page numbers and the table of contents will line up correctly with the page numbers, whats more when you export the PDF page numbers should match the book page numbers.

3. Export Your File as a Print-Ready PDF 

When your work is complete, thoroughly check for errors in the document, like missing fonts or broken image links. Affinity does not yet have a Preflight tool, but rumor has it that one is coming.

After you’ve proofed your document, you’re now ready to export your Publisher file as a Digital PDF.
Go to the File pull-down menu and select Export.


The pop-up will have all the file type options along the top. Make sure PDF is selected.

In the Preset pull-down menu, be sure to select PDF (digital - High quality)

Set the Raster DPI size to 144 (when you do this the Preset will appear blank, leave it as is). There are more options ("More" button next to export button) but the defaults are fine for Digital PDF's. Hit Export, navigate to where you want to save it, name it and hit save.


4. Tips and Things to Remember

Bookmarks and linking

Currently there is not an easy way to Bookmark or link in Affinity like you can in some other software, however, you can do both in Acrobat. To learn how see the section on Enhanced PDF's.

Enhanced PDF's - For Acrobat 9 and previous

Enhanced PDF's - For Acrobat X and beyond


Although exporting your PDF using the methods provided will take care of most of the specifications required of a Digital PDF, there are a few things that are important enough to bring to your attention again. These points are listed in DriveThru’s Quick Specs document and Checklist for Digital Books, both of which can be found Digital PDF's.

  • DO NOT use JPEG2000 compression in any linked or embedded JPEG art files, even if it reduces your file size.
    Tablets and phones cannot always display images using JPEG2000 compression.
  • DO NOT use PDF/A profile compliance for your exported PDF.
  • DO NOT use transparency in your document or images.
    Tablets and phones also have problems displaying PDFs with transparency attributes.
  • DO NOT lock or use security settings in your exported PDF. This includes imposing password protection as well as turning off the ability to copy/paste or print from the PDF.
    These options can be managed under the File Security settings in your Product File information on the DriveThru site when you upload your book. Any security settings imposed on your uploaded digital edition will cause errors during the automatic watermarking process.

5. What do I do next?

Once you have finished producing and testing your digital PDF, you’re ready to upload!

If you have any questions about how to proceed with creating a title listing, see our help article, Set Up a New Title or Edit an Existing Title Listing.

6. I Need More Help!

If you have any questions, reach out to us by submitting a request through our webform.

You can also find people with professional skills in digital layout and contract them to create your files. The cost of this work depends on how much of the work you do yourself before handing it over for layout. You can also find freelance layout professionals at sites like

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