Most designers are unlikely to be aware of dimension limits in the applications they’re using until they try to create a document that exceeds those limits and are greeted with a message like this:

We're way over InDesign's limit

That message is pretty straightforward. InDesign can only create a 216″ document. Let’s just scale it to 50%.

At 210" we should be safe.

We’re good to go, right? Well, in most cases yes, but in the above, not quite.

If, like me, you send PDFs primarily you’re going to be in for a rude awakening when you try to export that document and you see this:

What's up with that?

Unfortunately, that error doesn’t even tell you what the PDF size limit is. So, as another InDesign Secrects public service, I’m here to tell you it’s 200″. How do I know? I let InDesign create the PDF anyway and checked the dimensions in Acrobat. And contrary to the warning, the document isn’t resized, it’s cropped and anything past the 200″ mark is gone.

Why 200″? I don’t know. Why 216″ for InDesign? I don’t know that, either. As far as I know, these were just arbitrary choices that were made sometime in the past and are hard coded into current versions of the software. So, just be aware of that 16″ overlap and avoid it if you have even the slightest intention of creating a PDF.


  1. August 12th, 2008 • 8:06 am • Link

    For non-English area readers, 216″ is 5.4864 meters.

    Also I have read somewhere that the size limit for a PDF file in Acrobat 8 was thousands and thousands of miles. Correct ?

  2. August 12th, 2008 • 8:11 am • Link

    I read about a theoretical limit like that somewhere myself.

    I wonder if we can rent the space shuttle to pull a banner during the next launch. :)

  3. Eugene
    August 12th, 2008 • 9:16 am • Link

    This reminded of the post on creating New Doc Sizes using a txt file supplied by Adobe in the InDesign folder of your hard drive.

    The file is called New Doc Sizes.txt and you can add in your own presets, I can’t remember who posted it, but it was definitely someone from here, perhaps Sandy Cohen?

    Anywho. It says in the New Doc Sizes.txt

    “; The minimum width and height sizes allowed is 1pt, and the maximum
    ; is 15552pt. Sizes outside this range will be ignored.”

    15552 pt is the same as 216″.

    What a weird number though, it’s exactly 18 foot though, it’s the only measurement that gives a round number, so it’s peculiar.

    Side note: 18 foot is 3.22 smoots, a smoot is one of my favourite measurements. Makes me laugh every time.

  4. August 12th, 2008 • 10:10 am • Link

    Anyone work with billboards? I suspect that 18 feet (216 inches), might be a maximum standard size for the sheets that make up a billboard. Any larger, and they’d be difficult to handle.

    It’s a bit like when they built the I-90 bridge across Lake Washington. They needed to know how tall the make the boat passage at the eastern end, so they found the tallest sailboat moored south of the bridge and made it just high enough for that particular boat.

    –Mike Perry, Untangling Tolkien

  5. August 12th, 2008 • 12:54 pm • Link

    Interesting. But of course this is not a real-world problem to anyone, even for bigass billboard productions: just scale up the PDF at output time to whatever final print size you need. Unless, of course, Acrobat Pro should have some hidden max. size for print output?

  6. August 12th, 2008 • 1:04 pm • Link

    The problem isn’t the 200″ limitation…the problem is that InDesign will allow you to create a 216″ document and won’t tell you that it’s beyond the limitation of the PDF until you actually try to export it.

  7. Steve Werner
    August 13th, 2008 • 5:18 am • Link

    >So, as another InDesign Secrects public service, I’m here to tell you it’s 200?.

    >Also I have read somewhere that the size limit for a PDF file in Acrobat 8 was thousands and thousands of miles. Correct ?

    Here’s a technical explanation of this seeming contradiction. InDesign CS3 and all other applications I’m aware of respect the 200″ limitation that is in PDF 1.0 through PDF 1.4 (Acrobat 5).

    According to Adobe’s “Mr. PDF Standards,” Leonard Rosenthol, “PDF 1.5 (Acrobat 6) introduced a way (called /UserUnits) to to extend the physical page size up to a new maximum page size of 236.74 MILES (yes, miles!). Of course, that requires that PDF producers use this new feature – it’s NOT automatic that a PDF will extend beyond the original limit – it has to flag the page as being in ‘extended coordinates’.”

    So we need to make feature requests that we’d like our applications to make use of this largely yet-unused feature of PDF.

  8. August 16th, 2008 • 7:54 am • Link

    236.74 MILES???

    This means I could create a PDF that extends from New York City to Pittsburgh!

  9. erique
    August 17th, 2008 • 3:06 pm • Link

    That’s around 380 kilometres. Excellent! I have been asked to design new road stripes to go from Sydney to Canberra and I can now create the whole stretch in one single PDF! ;-)

  10. Deborah
    August 17th, 2008 • 5:21 pm • Link

    Architectural and engineering plans are gaged (1/4″ to the foot or whatever) for the dimensions used in creating the “things” specified, could these be used in specifications somehow for a PDF?