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Adobe Illustrator/Illustrator CS5: How to Reduce File Size


QUESTION: Hello Mr.Kevin Stohlmeyer,

Perhaps, this subject has made you grunt as I can imagine people asking you this question so many times.
But I would like to ask for your aide.  I just began using Adobe Illustrator CS5, so my knowledge is still very limited and there are so many technical terms that I don't quite understand. I would like to know how I can keep my illustrator file(.ai) as small as possible while working .... I have researched for an answer, but I am seeing many opinions and I cannot decide what is a correct way to do.

I am currently working on a project (an advertisement for a company, which will later be press-printed), but the file is bloated up close to 300 MB. This contains 6 embedded print-quality (300 dpi) Jpeg files, stylized effects (drop shadows), and shaped objects.  

Could you please tell me how I can reduce the file size?
The project will be printed (press)in the end, and I don't want to end up making a large PDF files for printers.  

Thank you very much!

ANSWER: Hi Yuko,

Your embedded Jpg files are what is causing the issue. However a large AI file is not an issue. When you send this to a printer you will send them a PDF X1a file which will reduce the file size. You wouldnt send the printer the AI file. Unfortunately Illustrator is not a page layout program and is not efficient with managing images like this. InDesign would work much more efficiently. There really isn't anything you can do to reduce file size without sacrificing print quality.



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


Thank you very much for such a quick response.
So, if I instead choose to embed (<if I need to), I should instead use Photoshop files or Esp files?
What are some additional procedures that may help reduce the sizes?
(flattening transparency, etc...)
Is it generally considered a good idea not to embed the images while working (and only embed when finalizing for PDFs...?)

I am sorry for the additional questions, but I greatly appreciate your response!! Thank you.

Hi Yuko,

If you choose to use linked jpg files instead of embedded that will reduce your file size. I never use embedded files. Creating the PDF will automatically embed them into the PDF so you never have to have them in your AI file except as linked images.

Again there really aren't any "procedures" to reducing your file size without losing the quality for print. If you flatten your transparency you will also loose all editability which is a very bad thing.

What you have to understand is the AI file size is not really an issue. If you link the jpg images (use JPG not PS or EPS) it will reduce the size dramatically. However, since you are giving your printer a PDF, that is what you should be concerned with, not the Illustrator file. There is nothing wrong with this and any attempt to reduce the file size (with the exception of linking the images) will DAMAGE your file.

Trust me, I have had clients come to me after researching how to "reduce file size" and have tried the "procedures" you are suggesting. The end result is an unusable AI file when it came to edit or reuse the assets. In the end, they ended up having to redo the entire piece.



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Kevin Stohlmeyer


I am an Adobe Certified Instructor, Adobe Community Professional and Adobe Freelance Professional. I travel nationally speaking on Adobe Creative Suite applications, including Illustrator and design. I can answer questions about Adobe Illustrator version CS1 through the all-new Creative Cloud.


I am an Adobe Certified Instructor for Adobe Illustrator and have been teaching this software in college/higher education and for an Adobe Authorized Training Center since 2000. I have been an active user of Adobe Illustrator as a professional graphic designer since 1994. I am also the author of the Adobe Illustrator Certified Expert Exam. I am a published author for Adobe Inspire Magazine, writing articles on Creative Suite applications including Photoshop, Illustrator and the Adobe Touch apps.

Adobe Freelancers Program Adobe Influencers Program Milwaukee Adobe Users Group AIGA National Association of Photoshop Professionals C2 Graphics Productivity Solutions

Adobe Inspire Magazine Photoshop User Magazine Layers Magazine

BA - Graphic Design Adobe Certified Instructor - Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat Adobe Community Professional - Adobe Creative Suite

Awards and Honors
Member, Adobe Influencers Program and Adobe Freelancer Member Spotlight, National Association of Photoshop Professionals, November 2011 Runner-Up, The Next Adobe Photoshop Evangelist contest, 2010, 2011 Runner-Up Layers Magazine Design Contest

Past/Present Clients
Harley Davidson, Reader's Digest, GE Medical Division, Kohl's Corporate, Bon-Ton/Boston Stores, Cramer-Krasselt, Marquette University, AIGA, Mattel/American Girl, Photoshop World

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