Get comfortable annotating PDFs

In this tutorial, I am using the app "iAnnotate" on my iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil. This is my favourite way to edit patterns because it closely mimics pen and paper. Past students have told me they like the app PDF Expert as well.

If you use a Mac, you can use the program Preview (the default app for opening PDFs.)

If you use Windows, a lot of my students use PDF-Xchange. (You need the paid version to be able to flatten your notes as I mentioned in this tutorial.)

Video Summary:
When you annotate a PDF the main goal is to make your notes as clear as possible. I try to keep my notes quite minimal on the PDF and if I have more thoughts I will include them in an email to the designer. Other editors will use comment boxes on the pattern to include longer notes. I personally don’t like these as I think it’s quite easy to miss a comment box when you’re going through a PDF with a lot of changes, and I never want a designer to not see one of my notes. But if this system works well for you and your clients then, by all means, use it! 

I also don't use any traditional markup symbols because I’m not sure how many designers are familiar with those. I tend to use the highlighter tool, the pen tool to circle things and cross things out, and then a text option to type corrections and make most of my notes. 

When I'm editing, I like to use one colour to mark errors and a second colour to mark suggestions. This lets the designer clearly differentiate between things which have to be fixed (errors) and things which they could leave if they wanted (suggestions). One thing that I do differently to a lot of editors is I don’t use red to mark errors. I come from a teaching background and we were taught that red is quite an aggressive colour and can make people feel angry or upset. For some clients seeing their pattern covered in red notes might bring up feelings of failure or being scolded. So I tend to use pink for errors and green or blue for suggestions. Just let the designer know what system you’re using and make sure you pick colours that show up clearly. When I send a pattern back to a new client I’ll say something like “I’ve attached my notes for this pattern, pink denotes errors and green is just suggestions. Let me know if you have any questions!”

It's little things like the colours you choose and how you phrase your notes that creates your editing style and voice. I have a reputation for being easy to work as a tech editor. I'm friendly, I'm pretty casual with everything I do, and people will come to me because of that.  My editing style is to not use red and my voice is along the lines of “There's really no one right way to do things, it's pretty much down to your preference, but my suggestion is...” But not all designers will want this type of editor! Maybe they want someone who's a little bit more strict, a little bit more formal, a little bit more instructive and says “this is the way to do things and not this way”. Which means that you don't always have to listen to me! How you do things determines your reputation and it’s okay to build a different reputation to me! There are tons of different designers who want very different things from their tech editor and so I want you to become the best tech editor that you can be and do things the way that feels right to you.

One last thing -- when you send your annotated PDF to your client it’s important to flatten the PDF! Any good software should have this option. This is basically saving it as almost an image so your annotations are not movable and will show up as you intended no matter what PDF reader the designer uses to view it. This is really important as you don’t want key bits of information disappearing because of software compatibility issues. 

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