Best Practices for Creating Acceptable PDF Documents for Illinois Courts E-Filing

(This document is linked at

The guideline specifying the characteristics of documents for eFileIL is linked at  Interestingly, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has published a related document, with similar and expanded recommendations.

Here is a key excerpt from the recommended Document Format:

b. Minimum 300 dpi (dots per inch), Maximum 600 dpi – scanned in black / white mode.

c. Page Size: 8½ x 11 inches.

Problem-Free Documents - Beyond the Guideline

  1. It’s important to keep your scanner settings at 300-600 DPI and Black & White, with a standard page size. Scanning in Color or Grayscale, or in a higher resolution or larger page size, will inflate the file size of your document so much that it could exhaust the program memory during import or printing. If you scan at a lower resolution, your document might display in low quality:

  1. When editing a text document, always use standard Windows fonts like Arial, Times New Roman, Courier New, etc. A non-standard font could result in a document that some viewers display like this:

  1. Flatten” your PDFs! (See below)
  2. When you scan a document  -- especially if it has non-text areas like signatures, handwriting, stamps, stickers or seals -- it’s critical to be sure the scanner is creating a universally supported image format (.jpg or .tif). Some scanning software uses image formats called jpeg2000 and jbig2. These are so new that some of the PDF viewers currently available will display them looking like this:


Beyond these basics, electronic filing has made it possible to get sophisticated with your documents as you edit them. There are many ways to mark them up on your screen -- but marked up documents have complicated characteristics, and the mark-ups could get lost or mangled as the document is passed from server to server. Here are some examples of mark-ups:

The most effective tip for avoiding problems is this: FLATTEN TO PDF before e-filing the document. What does this mean? Mark-ups create layers, but flattening them makes your mark-ups a permanent part of the document. It’s easy to do.

After your document looks the way you want it, in whichever application you’re editing it, do a File > Print to PDF … Or File > Print and choose a PDF export option from your Printers list.

This action will lock down all your mark-ups into a much simpler document format. You save the new PDF into a separate file, and then you use that PDF to upload into your eFileIL submission.

Advanced Techniques

If you’re inclined to produce customized documents beyond just scanning, here are some suggestions -- including ideas stated earlier that bear repeating.

Adobe Acrobat  is the leading program in this field, and will handle any tasks that you may need to perform.  With Adobe Acrobat you can create PDF files, flatten and optimize them, merge or combine documents, append by scanning, and make the PDF searchable (OCR) -- to name just a few things it can do.

Regardless of the software being used to create the PDF file, always use standard Windows fonts such as Arial, Times New Roman, Courier New, etc.  Any non-standard font must be packaged into the PDF document so it looks the same on any computer.

Annotations may not display in every PDF Reader. That’s risky, if you are attempting to redact or obscure sensitive information with black rectangles. It would be safer to edit your text directly rather than drawing over it. If you can’t avoid annotations, then flatten the PDF document BEFORE e-filing (see above). Be sure and review your simplified document after flattening, to be certain that your modifications are still displayed.

If your scanning software gives you the choice, select jpg or tif as the type of image that the scan creates in the PDF.  

Jpeg2000 and jbig2 are newer image formats, and not all PDF Viewers can display them correctly.

Per the Illinois Courts E-Filing standards, always scan in black & white unless you are scanning photos. Most scanners default to Color, so you may need to change yours to be Black & White.  

Gray and Grayscale are not black & white, even though it may look like it to the human eye.  Gray/Grayscale will also create a much larger file.

To create a PDF from a Word document, depending on your version of Word, you just need to Export to PDF, or Save and select PDF as the Save as type, or Print and choose a PDF “printer”.

Signature images sometimes cause problems in a document. Per the Illinois Supreme Court’s Electronic Signature Standards, filings can use typographical signatures -- for example:  /s/ Terri Aternee.  The AOIC advised us in August 2019 that this applies to both subsequent and initial case filings. If you anticipate supplying signatures on documents frequently, consider using a signature capture device, such as a Topaz Signature Pad.  Most models of the Topaz Signature Pad work with a Microsoft Word Add-In, to easily add a signature to a document.  Also, there are many free signature generators online that can create an image of a signature that can be inserted into a MS Word document, and can also be used over and over.

Goodin Associates, Ltd.E-filing Document Tips         Page