How to fix bitmappy vector pdf previews in Acrobat Reader

Have you ever noticed how vector shapes in a pdf file tend to look bitmappy? This makes no sense, because vector shapes should be super smooth. Here we will get to the bottom of this problem.

Here are the things we will compare:

1) Address info (text converted to outlines)

2) White header lines (vector shape)

3) Red street (vector shape)

Acrobat Reader 5.0 looks bitmappy

See Diagram A:

In Illustrator CS, the vector shapes and text outlines and appear super smooth. But Acrobat Reader 5.0 appears all bitmappy. I used to think that there must be some setting in Acrobat Distiller or Quark or InDesign that would make the vectors look better when exporting as a pdf file. But there isn’t.

Solution to Acrobat Reader 5.0

The solution is on the end user’s Acrobat Reader program. In Acrobat Reader 5.0 there is a preference for “Smooth Line Art” that can be found at: Preferences… > Display > Smooth Line Art

Once the end user turns this setting on, everything looks beautiful. See Diagram B:

Why did Adobe release Acrobat Reader 5.0 with this “smooth line art” setting defaulted off? Who knows. Your average user will never know to turn this setting on manually.

Acrobat Reader 6.0 looks better

But in Reader 6.0, the setting is on by default. Hooray! But the odd thing is that it doesn’t smooth all the objects. The outlined text looks nice, so does the red street. But the white header lines look like crap. Go figure. See diagram C:

Acrobat Reader 7.0 looks the best

In September 2005, Adobe released Reader 7.0 where the “smooth line art” is defaulted to on, and it actually works. Hooray! Now we just need everyone to start using Reader 7.0. See diagram D:


Acrobat 5 released 2001-04-16 defaults to looking crappy.

Acrobat 6 released 2003-05-26 defaults to looking half-way decent.

Acrobat 7 released 2004-12-21 defaults to looking great.

If you would like to see the original pdf file used in making these screenshots, you can download it here: maldre_resume_outline_2006.pdf.

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Tom Saaristo
Tom Saaristo
18 years ago

Wow! 7 does look best! The difference is amazing! The resume is looking SWEET! I love it! I hope an employer loves the content tout de suite!

18 years ago

It’s amazing that Adobe had “smooth line art” off as a default for so long. It took them till version 6 to turn it on? Man oh man. Thanks for sharing this tidbit.

Andy Wells
Andy Wells
18 years ago

Your resume looks “Wicked Awesome”. Good thing I have Acrobat Reader 7.0 to view it in all it’s glory. I would hire you in a second!

18 years ago

i agree, it’s super duper… hopefully no one you are sending it to still has windows 98 because they will have Acrobat 5

18 years ago

Is this a subtle way to get your resume out to all the spudarters out there??

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