This is a short and easy family tree art tutorial. It will show you how to turn an image or an existing (not yet editable) PDF into a fillable genealogy PDF, using Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. You can have a peek at the family tree I made with this method over here.
BEFORE WE BEGIN, HERE’S WHAT I LEARNED WHILE MAKING THIS TUTORIAL. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES!:
1. When I do this on a desktop computer it’s MUCH easier, for some reason. Today was my first time trying this on a laptop, and I found that moving and sizing was much less precise than on my work computer.
*If you have a choice, try this tutorial on a desktop.
2. When you duplicate form fields, if you give them the same name, text entered in one box will appear in all boxes with the same name. This can be useful, but be aware of it.
3. Starting with a higher resolution file makes it easier to control the sizes of everything. It also makes it easier to fit the text in the text fields.
Okay, let’s turn an image into a fillable PDF!
I have this lovely tree image, and I want to make it into a fillable family tree. You can download the picture (it’s free, using the button below) and follow along for practice. Let’s jump right in!
OPTIONAL: TRY THIS WITH A PDF INSTEAD.
If you want to learn to make fillable PDF forms starting with a normal PDF instead of an image as your starting point, pop over and download one of the wonderful, free Census Forms from the Midwest Genealogy Center to practice this on. (My link opens in a new window, so you won’t lose this page.) Download one of their non-fillable census forms from the bottom of that webpage.
1. Open your image or regular PDF file in Acrobat Pro DC.
If you’re on a Mac like me, you can find the file you want to use, hold down the control button on your keyboard, and click Open with > Adobe Acrobat Pro DC.
2. Click “Prepare Form” in the side toolbar.
Now, you’ll see that it says “Form field auto-detect is ON.” [Or OFF.]
If I had opened an existing PDF with lines or boxes that I want to make fillable, I would leave this ON, because it would try to automatically create form fields for me. This can really save a lot of time!
Since my image has no obvious fields, I’m going to turn this off. To do that, I click Change > uncheck Automatically detect form fields > OK.
A little popup prompts you to save this as a new document, so click Save and enter whatever you want it to be called.
3. Add text fields.
At the top of your window, you’ll see a little icon that looks like a box with the letter T in it. (It’s at the bottom right in the picture below.)
Click that T-in-a-box icon and drag the blue rectangle to the dimensions and location you want. You can change this later if you want to adjust it.
CHANGE THE TITLE OF YOUR FORM FIELD
Now, double click that box to change its title and other properties. I’m making a family tree for kids, so I’ll change the title of this field to “Me.”
Under the other tabs in the box that pops up, you can find a couple of very useful things. In the appearance tab, you can choose the font and size of your text. The easiest is to choose Auto. Otherwise, sometimes the text gets clipped.
Also under the Appearance tab, click Fill Color, uncheck Transparent, and choose the color you want for the background of the box. You can play with other settings here too, like putting a border around the box. Choose Solid for a normal line around your box.
ALIGNMENT OF TEXT
Under the Options tab, check Multi-line, and uncheck Scroll long text. Click Close.
3. Add an image field.
This works exactly the same as the image field and has similar options. Click the mountain in a box icon (blue in the picture below).
Optional: Under the General tab, Common Properties: Form Field, select Visible but doesn’t print. That means people filling this out later will see that they can upload a photo, but if they print this out without one, all that will show is the tree artwork, without a blank box.
I’ve added a matching border to my image field to connect it visually to the child’s name. This is what I’m seeing so far:
4. Need help lining things up? Try this:
5. Now let’s duplicate these boxes for the rest of the family.
Remember, you can rename each box by double-clicking it to open its properties panel.
6. Move these boxes where you want them.
Moving the boxes is the bit that can get a bit fussy. We’re having a heat wave here, so it might just be my computer overheating, but moving the boxes around was a bit tricky. Or perhaps with a higher resolution starter image, the controls will be more delicate, and less clumsy?
7. Preview your form.
8. Save your form.
To allow Adobe Reader users to save the data they typed, click File > Save As Other > Reader Extended PDF > Enable More Tools (Includes Form Fill-in & Save).
Name it whatever you like. Choose where you’ll store it on your computer and click Save. After you save it, Close file.
9. Now when you open the file again, it’s a fillable form!
My borders aren’t lined up perfectly in this example, but if you want to test it out just to see how it works, you can download this fillable kid’s family tree PDF here. Just click “Add to cart”, and go through checkout to get the free download. You don’t have to enter any card info or anything. It’s 100% free, a genealogy gift for you from House Elves Anonymous.
Remember to Pin this post so you can find it later!
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! This is the same technique I used to create one of my most popular family tree designs. It’s a fillable PDF for 6 generations. You can click through to see some pictures and get inspiration for your own family tree project: