PDF::Create - create PDF files


Create PDF output from your perl program using a couple of subroutines to handle text, fonts, images and drawing primitives. Simple documents are easy to create with the supplied routines.

In addition to be reasonable simple PDF::Create is written in pure Perl and has no external dependencies (libraries, other modules, etc.). It should run on any platform where perl is available.

For complex stuff some understanding of the underlying Postscript/PDF format is necessary. In this case it might be better go with the more complete PDF::API2 modules to gain more features at the expense of a steeper learning curve.

Example PDF creation with PDF::Create:

  use PDF::Create;
  # initialize PDF
  my $pdf = new PDF::Create('filename'     => 'mypdf.pdf',
                                        'Author'       => 'John Doe',
                                        'Title'        => 'Sample PDF',
                                        'CreationDate' => [ localtime ], );
  # add a A4 sized page
  my $a4 = $pdf->new_page('MediaBox' => $pdf->get_page_size('A4'));

  # Add a page which inherits its attributes from $a4
  my $page = $a4->new_page;

  # Prepare a font
  my $f1 = $pdf->font('BaseFont' => 'Helvetica');

  # Prepare a Table of Content
  my $toc = $pdf->new_outline('Title' => 'Title Page', 'Destination' => $page);

  # Write some text
  $page->stringc($f2, 40, 306, 426, "PDF::Create");
  $page->stringc($f1, 20, 306, 396, "version $PDF::Create::VERSION");
  $page->stringc($f1, 20, 306, 300, 'by John Doe <>');

  # Add another page
  my $page2 = $a4->new_page;
  # Draw some lines
  $page2->line(0, 0, 612, 792);
  $page2->line(0, 792, 612, 0);

  $toc->new_outline('Title' => 'Second Page', 'Destination' => $page2);

  # Close the file and write the PDF


PDF::Create allows you to create PDF documents using a number of primitives. The result is as a PDF file or stream.

PDF stands for Portable Document Format.

Documents can have several pages, a table of content, an information section and many other PDF elements.


  • new([parameters])

    Create a new pdf structure for your PDF.


      my $pdf = new PDF::Create('filename'     => 'mypdf.pdf',
                                'Version'      => 1.2,
                                'PageMode'     => 'UseOutlines',
                                'Author'       => 'John Doe',
                                'Title'        => 'My title',
                                            'CreationDate' => [ localtime ],

    new returns an object handle used to add more stuff to the PDF.


    destination file that will contain the resulting PDF or an already opened filehandle or '-' for stdout.


    PDF Version to claim, can be 1.0 to 1.3 (default: 1.2)


    how the document should appear when opened.

    Allowed values are

    - 'UseNone' Open document with neither outline nor thumbnails visible. This is the default value.

    - 'UseOutlines' Open document with outline visible.

    - 'UseThumbs' Open document with thumbnails visible.

    - 'FullScreen' Open document in full-screen mode. In full-screen mode, there is no menu bar, window controls, nor any other window present.


    the name of the person who created this document


    If the document was converted into a PDF document from another form, this is the name of the application that created the document.

    - 'Title' the title of the document

    - 'Subject' the subject of the document

    - 'Keywords' keywords associated with the document

    - 'CreationDate' the date the document was created. This is passed as an anonymous array in the same format as localtime returns. (ie. a struct tm).

    If you are writing a CGI you can send your PDF on the fly to stdout or directly to the browser using '-' as filename.

    CGI Example:

      use CGI; use PDF::Create;
      print CGI::header( -type => 'application/x-pdf', -attachment => 'sample.pdf' );
      my $pdf = new PDF::Create('filename'     => '-', # Stdout
                                'Author'       => 'John Doe',
                                'Title'        => 'My title',
                                            'CreationDate' => [ localtime ],
  • close()

    You must call close() after you have added all the contents as most of the real work building the PDF is performed there. If omit calling close you get no PDF output !

  • get_data()

    If you didn't ask the $pdf object to write its output to a file, you can pick up the pdf code by calling this method. It returns a big string. You need to call close first, mind.

  • add_comment([string])

    Add a comment to the document. The string will show up in the PDF as postscript-stype comment:

        % this is a postscript comment
  • new_outline([parameters])

    Add an outline to the document using the given parameters. Return the newly created outline.

    Parameters can be:

    - 'Title' the title of the outline. Mandatory.

    - 'Destination' the Destination of this outline item. In this version, it is only possible to give a page as destination. The default destination is the current page.

    - 'Parent' the parent of this outline in the outlines tree. This is an outline object. This way you represent the tree of your outlines.


      my $outline = $pdf->new_outline('Title' => 'Item 1');
      $pdf->new_outline('Title' => 'Item 1.1', 'Parent' => $outline);
      $pdf->new_outline('Title' => 'Item 1.2', 'Parent' => $outline);
      $pdf->new_outline('Title' => 'Item 2');
  • new_page([parameters])

    Add a page to the document using the given parameters. new_page must be called first to initialize a root page, used as model for further pages.


      my $a4 = $pdf->new_page( 'MediaBox' => $pdf->get_page_size('A4') );
      my $page1 = $a4->new_page;
      $page1->string($f1, 20, 306, 396, "some text on page 1");
      my $page2 = $a4->new_page;
      $page2->string($f1, 20, 306, 396, "some text on page 2");

    Returns a handle to the newly created page.

    Parameters can be:

    - 'Parent' the parent of this page in the pages tree. This is a page object.

    - 'Resources' Resources required by this page.

    - 'MediaBox' Rectangle specifying the natural size of the page, for example the dimensions of an A4 sheet of paper. The coordinates are measured in default user space units. It must be the reference of a 4 values array. You can use get_page_size to get the size of standard paper sizes. get_page_size knows about A0-A6, A4L (landscape), Letter, Legal, Broadsheet, Ledger, Tabloid, Executive and 36x36.

    - 'CropBox' Rectangle specifying the default clipping region for the page when displayed or printed. The default is the value of the MediaBox.

    - 'ArtBox' Rectangle specifying an area of the page to be used when placing PDF content into another application. The default is the value of the CropBox. [PDF 1.3]

    - 'TrimBox' Rectangle specifying the intended finished size of the page (for example, the dimensions of an A4 sheet of paper). In some cases, the MediaBox will be a larger rectangle, which includes printing instructions, cut marks, or other content. The default is the value of the CropBox. [PDF 1.3].

    - 'BleedBox' Rectangle specifying the region to which all page content should be clipped if the page is being output in a production environment. In such environments, a bleed area is desired, to accommodate physical limitations of cutting, folding, and trimming equipment. The actual printed page may include printer's marks that fall outside the bleed box. The default is the value of the CropBox. [PDF 1.3]

    - 'Rotate' Specifies the number of degrees the page should be rotated clockwise when it is displayed or printed. This value must be zero (the default) or a multiple of 90. The entire page, including contents is rotated.

  • get_page_size(<pagesize>)

    Returns the size of standard paper sizes to use for MediaBox-parameter of new_page. get_page_size has one required parameter to specify the paper name. Possible values are a0-a6, letter, broadsheet, ledger, tabloid, legal, executive and 36x36. Default is a4.

      my $root = $pdf->new_page( 'MediaBox' => $pdf->get_page_size('A4') );
  • font([parameters])

    Prepare a font using the given arguments. This font will be added to the document only if it is used at least once before the close method is called.

      my $f1 = $pdf->font('BaseFont' => 'Helvetica');

    Parameters can be:

    - 'Subtype' Type of font. PDF defines some types of fonts. It must be one of the predefined type Type1, Type3, TrueType or Type0.

    In this version, only Type1 is supported. This is the default value.

    - 'Encoding' Specifies the encoding from which the new encoding differs. It must be one of the predefined encodings MacRomanEncoding, MacExpertEncoding or WinAnsiEncoding.

    In this version, only WinAnsiEncoding is supported. This is the default value.

    - 'BaseFont' The PostScript name of the font. It can be one of the following base fonts: Courier, Courier-Bold, Courier-BoldOblique, Courier-Oblique, Helvetica, Helvetica-Bold, Helvetica-BoldOblique, Helvetica-Oblique, Times-Roman, Times-Bold, Times-Italic or Times-BoldItalic.

    The Symbol or ZapfDingbats fonts are not supported in this version.

    The default font is Helvetica.

  • image(<filename>)

    Prepare an XObject (image) using the given arguments. This image will be added to the document if it is referenced at least once before the close method is called. In this version GIF, interlaced GIF and JPEG is supported. Usage of interlaced GIFs are slower because they are decompressed, modified and compressed again. The gif support is limited to images with a LZW minimum code size of 8. Small images with few colors can have a smaller minimum code size and will not work.


    - filename: file name of image (required).

URI links have two components, the text or graphics object and the area where the mouseclick should occur.

For the object to be clicked on you'll use standard text of drawing methods.

To define the click-sensitive area and the destination URI you use the annotation() method.

  • annotation([parameters])

    Define an annotation. This is a sensitive area in the PDF document where text annotations are shown or links launched. PDF::Create only supports URI links at this time.


        # Draw a string and undeline it to show it is a link 
        # Create the hot area with the link to open on click 
                 Subtype => 'Link',
                 URI     => '',
                 x       => 450,
                 y       => 200,
                 w       => $l,
                 h       => 15,
                 Border  => [0,0,0]

    The point (x, y) is the bottom left corner of the rectangle containing hotspot rectangle, (w, h) are the width and height of the hotspot rectangle. The Border describes the thickness of the border surrounding the rectangle hotspot.

    The function string_undeline returns the width of the string, this can be used directly for the width of the hotspot rectangle.

Page methods

Page methods are used to draw stuff on a page. Although these methods are packaged in the separate module PDF::Create::Page you should call them always through the $page handler you get from the new_page() method.

There are internal changes on the horizon who will break code calling methods differently !

  • new_page()

    Add a sub-page to the current page.

    See new_page above

  • string(font, size, x, y, text [,alignment] )

    Add text to the current page using the font object at the given size and position. The point (x, y) is the bottom left corner of the rectangle containing the text.

    The optional alignment can be 'r' for right-alignment and 'c' for centered.

    Example :

        my $f1 = $pdf->font('Subtype'  => 'Type1',
                            'Encoding' => 'WinAnsiEncoding',
                            'BaseFont' => 'Helvetica');
        $page->string($f1, 20, 306, 396, "some text");
  • string_underline(font, size, x, y, text [,alignment] )

    Draw a line for underlining. The parameters are the same as for the string function, but only the line is drawn. To draw an underlined string you must call both, string and string_underline.

    Example :

        $page->string($f1, 20, 306, 396, "some underlined text");
        $page->string_underline($f1, 20, 306, 396, "some underlined text");

    To change the color of your text use the setrgbcolor function.

    string_underline returns the length of the string. So its return value can be used directly for the bounding box of an annotation.

  • stringl(font size x y text)

    Same as string.

  • stringr(font size x y text)

    Same as string but right aligned (alignment 'r').

  • stringc(font size x y text)

    Same as string but centered (alignment 'c').

  • printnl(text font size x y)

    Similar to string but parses the string for newline and prints each part on a separate line. Lines spacing is the same as the font-size. Returns the number of lines.

    Note the different parameter sequence. The first call should specify all parameters, font is the absolute minimum, a warning will be given for the missing y position and 800 will be assumed. All subsequent invocations can omit all but the string parameters.

    Attention: There is no provision for changing pages. If you run out of space on the current page this will draw the string(s) outside the page and it will be invisble !

  • string_width(font,text)

    Return the size of the text using the given font in default user space units. This does not contain the size of the font yet, to get the length you must multiply by the font size.

  • line(x1, y1, x2, y2)

    Draw a line between (x1, y1) and (x2, y2).

  • set_width(w)

    Set the width of subsequent lines to w points.

  • setrgbcolor(r, g, b)

  • setrgbcolorstroke(r, g, b)

    Set the color of the subsequent drawing operations.

    PDF distinguishes between the stroke and fill operations and provides separate color settings for each.

    - setrgbcolor() sets the fill colors used for normal text or filled objects.

    - setrgbcolorstroke() sets the stroke color used for lines.

  • moveto(x, y)

    Moves the current point to (x, y), omitting any connecting line segment.

  • lineto(x, y)

    Appends a straight line segment from the current point to (x, y). The current point is then set to (x, y).

  • curveto(x1, y1, x2, y2, x3, y3)

    Appends a Bezier curve to the path. The curve extends from the current point to (x3 ,y3) using (x1 ,y1) and (x2 ,y2) as the Bezier control points. The new current point is the set to (x3 ,y3).

  • rectangle(x, y, w, h)

    Draws a rectangle.

  • closepath()

    Closes the current subpath by appending a straight line segment from the current point to the starting point of the path.

  • newpath()

    Ends the current path. The next drawing operation will start a new path.

  • stroke()

    Strokes (draws) the path.

  • closestroke()

    Closes and strokes the path.

  • fill()

    Fills the path using the non-zero winding number rule.

  • fill2()

    Fills the path using the even-odd rule

    Example drawing:

      # draw a filled triangle
      $page->setrgbcolor 0.1 0.3 0.8;
      $page->moveto 100 100;
      $page->lineto 260 300;
      $page->lineto 300 100;
      $page->lineto 100 100;
  • image( image_id, xpos, ypos, xalign, yalign, xscale, yscale, rotate, xskew, yskew)

    Inserts an image.

    Parameters can be:

    - image: Image id returned by PDF::image (required).

    - xpos, ypos: Position of image (required).

    - xalign, yalign: Alignment of image. 0 is left/bottom, 1 is centered and 2 is right, top.

    - xscale, yscale: Scaling of image. 1.0 is original size.

    - rotate: Rotation of image. 0 is no rotation, 2*pi is 360° rotation.

    - xskew, yskew: Skew of image.


PDF::Create comes with a couple of limitations or known caveats:

PDF Size / Memory

PDF::Create assembles the entire PDF in memory if you create very large documents on a machine with a small amount of memory your program can fail because it runs out of memory.

Small GIF images

Some gif images get created with a minimal lzw code size of less than 8. PDF::Create can not decode those and they must be converted.


I support PDF::Create in my spare time between work and family, so the amount of work I put in is limited.

If you experience a problem make sure you are at the latest version first many things have already been fixed.

Please register bug at the CPAN bug tracking system at or send email to bug-PDF-Create [at]

Be sure to include the following information:

- PDF::Create Version you are running

- Perl version (perl -v)

- Operating System vendor and version

- Details about your operating environment that might be related to the issue being described

- Exact cut and pasted error or warning messages

- The shortest, clearest code you can manage to write which reproduces the bug described.

I appreciate patches against the latest released version of PDF::Create which fix the bug.

Feature request can be submitted like bugs. If you provide patch for a feature which does not go against the PDF::Create philosophy (keep it simple) then you have a good chance for it to be accepted.


Adobe PDF reference

My git repository for PDF::Create

Other PDF procesing CPAN modules Routines to produce formatted pages of mailing labels in PDF, uses PDF::Create internally Perl interface to Haru Free PDF Library PDF creation from a one-file module, similar to PDF::Create Yet another PDF creation module A wrapper written for PDF::API2


Fabien Tassin

GIF and JPEG-support: Michael Gross (

Maintenance since 2007: Markus Baertschi (


Copyright 1999-2001, Fabien Tassin. All rights reserved. It may be used and modified freely, but I do request that this copyright notice remain attached to the file. You may modify this module as you wish, but if you redistribute a modified version, please attach a note listing the modifications you have made.

Copyright 2007-, Markus Baertschi Copyright 2010, Gary Lieberman

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