Create an Interactive PDF with rollover popups

Tutorial - Adobe Illustrator & Adobe Acrobat Pro DC

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Create an Interactive PDF with Popups

a Tutorial for Adobe Illustrator and Acrobat

create interactive pdf tutorial

In this tutorial we will learn how to create an interactive pdf with Adobe Illustrator CC (2020) and Acrobat Pro DC. The interactive pdf will have popup text that appears when the mouse hovers over certain areas that we specify. For this example we are going to use a simple holiday itinerary map and create some text popups that appear when we hover or rollover them. Watch the video tutorial on the right or scroll further down to follow step-by-step instructions at your own pace. You can download the project sample files below to follow along and practice with. This simple technique is useful for creating more engaging and dynamic pdf presentations.


(1) Open Illustrator and create a basic background scene.

We will start by importing a simple background image into Illustrator. If you already have a scene created in Illustrator and want to skip straight to creating the popup elements then skip ahead to (2)
For our example we will use a simple map background that we will add some map pins and text popups to.

(1.1) Go to File > Place and select an image or illustrator project you have already created


(1.2) In the layers tab rename the background layer to something - its going to be important to rename all of the layers you import for this project so that they match and are easy to find because we are going to group them later on.


We will import some map pins that will be what the mouse hovers over to activate the popups. Select File>Place and import them. Place the pins where you like, duplicate them by copying and pasting.


Rename the map pin layers in the layers tab.


(2) Create Popup Layers

Now we have our background done, its time to add the layers that will serve as our pop up elements when the mouse rolls over the map pins in our scene.

(2.1) First lets create some lines protruding from the map pins using the Line Segment tool.
Choose the Line Segment tool and draw some lines, you can make them more visible by increasing the stroke width or changing the stroke color


Ensure to once again give the lines a name consistent with your other layers to keep everything neat and easy to work with.


(2.2) Lets add some Text that will popup with the lines.

Choose the type tool and click and drag to create a text box, type your text and change the font or colour accordingly. Once again make sure to continue naming your layers.


(2.3) Lets add a simple solid background box to make the text stand out more
Use the rectangle tool, click and drag to draw a rectangle. Bring it underneath the text layer in the layers tab.


Create more rectangles for your text layers and then make sure they sit under your text layers in the layers tab. Also make sure to rename them.


We should now have a project that looks like this with our 3 different text boxes, lines and text box backgrounds


(3) Grouping rollover layers in preparation for export to Acrobat Pro

We need to group our layers that we want to popup. We need to make sure they sit above and outside of our original background group in the layers tab.

Click 'Create New Layer in the layers tab'. Ensure this layer sits outside and above all other layers.


(3.1) Rename the layer and then select all layers for your first rollover popup and drag and drop them into this new layer.


(3.2) Repeat the process for the other layers that you would like to turn into rollover popups.

(3.3) Now turn OFF all of the layer groups that will be made into popups.


(4) Save the project as a PDF

Go to File > Save As, choose Adobe PDF. Then when the ‘Save Adobe PDF’ window appears, ensure that ‘Create Acrobat layers from Top-level layers’ is checked. This is vital. Choose the compression settings as you like and then Save it.


(5) Open Acrobat Pro

In Acrobat open the PDF you just saved.

(5.1) Now you need to ensure the popup layers we turned off in Illustrator prior to saving are visible in the Layers Tab: On the left hand side of screen click Layers: View layers and show/hide their contents. If this option or the popup layers you turned off are not visible as individual layers then you didn’t save the pdf correctly in Illustrator.


(5.2) Next, go to Tools > Prepare Form > and Click Start


(6) Create rollover zones/hover zones that will activate our popups.

Now we need to create the rollover or hover zones that our mouse pointer will hover over to activate the popups.

Turn on one of your popup layers and then select the ‘Add a Button’ tool


(6.1) Now, with the button tool selected, click and draw your hover zone where your mouse will activate the popup.


(6.2) In the Field name box that appears, type in a title.


(6.3) Double click on the box and it will open the button properties window

Now go to Appearance > Fill Colour > and set it to ‘No Colour’ to make the hover zone/rollover zone transparent.


Go the the ‘Actions Tab’ in the same window and choose the following settings

Choose Select Trigger > Mouse Enter

Choose Select Action > Set Layer Visibility

Click 'Add' and then click 'Ok' when presented with the window ‘The target layer states of the selected actions will be set to the current state.’


We have now setup the rollover zone we drew so that the popup appears when the mouse enters the zone. We can now close the Button Properties Window.

Now we need to set the action to make the popup disappear when the mouse exits the hover zone.

(6.4) Turn off the same layer we turned on earlier to create the button for.


(6.5) Double click on the hover zone we created to open the Button Properties Window once again.

Go to the Actions Tab and choose the following settings:

Choose Select Trigger > Mouse Exit

Choose Select Action > Set Layer Visibility

Click 'Add' and then click 'Ok' when presented with the window ‘The target layer states of the selected actions will be set to the current state.’ Then click 'Close'.


This has now setup the rollover zone we drew so that the popup disappears when the mouse exits the rollover/ hover zone.

Now you need to repeat the steps we just completed for your other popup layers (Draw the button rollover/hover zones and then set the properties for the Mouse Enter and Exit states as we did throughout step 6.

(7) Preview the finished product

Once you have done all the steps you can click 'Preview' to see the finished product.


To clarify any steps watch the video at the top of page or feel free to leave a comment below.

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    clippingpathlab / 5:14 pm / Reply
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    Hey Jeff, I think it should also work in Foxit and Nitro, theres actually a more up to date way of doing this using Adobe InDesign which should also be able to be implemented in a browser, please see this tutorial –

    Angus / 5:14 pm / Reply
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    Good tutorial, but the rollovers don’t seem to work when viewing the PDF in browsers or standalone viewers (including Acrobat Reader DC), but only within Acrobat Pro itself. What’s the trick to making it work for people viewing it in their Web browser?

    Jeff / 5:14 pm / Reply
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      Yes I am also facing same problem. Interactive pdf does not work in browser. is there any updates ?

      dharam / 5:14 pm / Reply
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      I was having this same problem too Jeff. The rollover effect works when opening the pdf in Adobe Acrobat but when I tested it in my browser, it stops working. My client needs it to work when opened in multiple browsers (Chrome, Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.). Any solution for this?

      Joe / 5:14 pm / Reply
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    Hi! I was wonder how or if I could save a pdf with buttons so that it could be put on a document and put on a website

    madie butler / 5:14 pm / Reply
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    Hi! I was wondering how/if i could export a pdf with buttons on it so that it could be placed on a document and put on a website. Thanks!

    madie butler / 5:14 pm / Reply