Impress guide to PDF stickies

Impress Guide To: PDF Stickies

Okay, Okay, we get it! Investing your precious time in an article about marking up PDFs might not seem exciting, but we promise to make it entertaining, informative and with any luck save you or your business…  money. 


Oh, now we’ve got your attention. Let’s get into it.


Why are PDF comments so important?


Mild hyperbole there, but they really are important in our world. Design projects, as you probably can imagine, will usually involve several rounds of editing. First, the designer comes up with a few options for you to review. Once you’ve chosen a preferred option, the designer may elaborate on that concept and give you another selection of similar designs to look at. This process of tweaks and revisions continues right up to the completion of the project when you are handed your final artwork.


It should come as no surprise, it’s fairly inefficient to complete this process in person – so design studios usually send their various designs for you to view as PDFs.


When considering how to provide feedback on these documents use this article as a way to help ensure they are clear and understood.



The art of the handwritten post-it is getting lost


For your design team, it’s easier and faster to review comments on a PDF.


Let’s say you dislike the colour of a certain panel on a brochure we’re making for you. You could write a note (hidden among fifty other notes) saying, “the colour of the panel on Page 17 should be red.”


That sounds fine... in theory. However, the designer then has to find Page 17 and figure out which panel you’re referring to. If there are two panels, they’ll have to either (a) ask you for clarification; or (b) make an educated guess and hope for the best.


On the other hand, if you comment directly on the panel on the actual page of the PDF, it’ll be 100% clear what you mean, and making the change will be much faster. Ultimately, this increased efficiency saves you money and ensures a greater degree of accuracy.


Then let’s apply the same principle to a 200+ page annual report… you get the idea!


Get more bang for your buck and get it back the way you want it. 


If you’re unsure of the benefits of a clear, quality brief then you should click here [insert hyperlink] and read our handy hints on writing the holy grail of briefs for your creative team. Not only do you want to get the exact change back you requested, but you also want it done to the right part of the page you are referring to. And when feedback is clear, easily understood and easy to locate on the page, it saves time in the studio for individual and total rounds of amends.  


To do this, it’s helpful to know how to effectively “mark-up” the various PDFs you will be sent throughout the project.



Still with us? Good, this is where it really starts to get delicious... 



How to make comments on a PDF [insert comment icon] 


Making comments on a PDF is straightforward. First, make sure Adobe Acrobat is installed on your computer since that’s what you’ll be using to make your notes. You only need the free version. Once you’ve opened a PDF in Adobe Acrobat, choose Tools > Comment, or click on the comment icon on the right-hand side of your screen. It will open up a menu with a few very handy tools.


[Note: insert icons next to each header]


  1. Sticky Notes. To add a sticky note, click on the ‘Sticky Note’ icon shown here. Click the spot on the PDF where you want to place the note. You can edit or delete the content and location of sticky notes after placing them. These are best used for images or to indicate where you want something placed. It is not that helpful to put a comment of this nature on a paragraph of text.

  2. Highlight text. Use highlight text when you want to draw attention to a particular section of the document or phrase. The text will be highlighted on the screen and you will be able to add comments.


  1. Underline & strikethrough. Underline can also be used when you want to draw attention to a certain phrase or to indicate you want a word underlined. Use strike-through when you want to indicate that a certain word or phrase should be deleted altogether. You have the option to make a comment about the deletion if you wish.

  2. Add a note to replace text. This tool is useful when you want to replace existing text with new text. Click and drag to select the text you want to delete, then type the exact words you’d like to be added instead.

  3. Insert text at the cursor. Use this tool when you want to add a word or sentence without deleting the existing text. As with all of these tools, it is very important to pinpoint exactly where you’d like your agency to make the edit and this feature creates precision. 


  1. Add text comment. This will allow you to add text wherever you position your cursor. Simple, but effective. 


  1. Add a text box. Similar to add text comment, this allows you to add a text box if the nature of what you need to communicate is more suited to this rather than a sticky note.

  2. Pencil. Once you’ve selected the pencil icon, press Ctrl+E to change the line thickness or colour. If used neatly and sparingly, the pencil is a great tool whenever words can’t explain your meaning. ‘Move this paragraph over here’, ‘make the textbox this size’, and ‘crop this part of the photo’ are all examples of when the pencil tool comes in handy. In some circumstances, use of the pencil can be good for mark-ups, maps or diagrams.


When is it better to mark up by hand?

It is very rare that you will find the Adobe Acrobat tools aren’t sufficient. But if you do believe it is the case, you’ll need to print out the PDF and mark it up neatly by hand. Following are some examples of when that might be the case:

  • We’re designing something technical like a map, and you want to show exactly what needs to be adjusted
  • You want to be extremely precise with your drawing, and the Pencil tool doesn’t do your ideas justice
  • You want a complete overhaul of the design (e.g. of a certain brochure page) and have something specific in mind

A Word in your ear. 

If you want to make significant changes or additions to the text in a PDF, it is sometimes easier to write a new draft in Word. If your comments, strikethroughs and insertions seem to be filling up the page, it’s probably a good idea to make a clean copy demonstrating exactly what you mean. You can then highlight the text you want to be replaced and indicate the name of the file with the new text in the comment for that highlight.

Tips & Tricks

  • Tip: NEVER change the text in the PDF. This is not linked to the original design file and will be lost to the abyss forever
  • Tip: If several people from your team are commenting on the PDF, make sure you delete all comments that are not intended for the designer before sending it to them. It is very hard for a designer to answer the questions you are asking your team members
  • Tip: If you wish to change the colour or icon appearance of the Sticky Note, click the "Options" drop-down box on the Sticky Note and then click "Properties." Choose an icon from the list, a colour that fits your taste and then click "OK."
  • Tip: If you want to replace an image in the design, you should send this separately rather than adding it to the PDF
  • Tip: If you want to make a general comment about multiple pages on the PDF, you can leave a single comment that makes this clear. It is fine to write “Remove all references to our old business address,” for example, rather than commenting on the twenty different mentions of your old address

How do you manage design feedback? Have we missed a glaringly obvious trick or tip? We’d love to hear all about the tips and tools you use to share and manage design feedback, so share them with us on our socials.