Advanced Illustrator

From TOI-Pedia


On this page you will find more handy Illustrator features. These will help you increase the work-flow and lets you take advantage of Illustrator's powerful graphical design features.

Image management in Illustrator

Illustrator as layout program

For the large part Illustrator can be considered a vector editing program. But is has the capability to open and transform pixel images. This makes Illustrator ideal for making up presentation posters or flyers.


Illustrator is a suitable layout program, but this does not mean you can make everything it, CAD drawings are better done in a technical drawing program (vectorworks, AutoCAD, Microstation, Revit) and pixel images are better created and altered in a pixel editing program (Photoshop, Paintshop pro, Painter, Gimp). Therefore a normal work-flow would make Illustrator your 'gathering place" of images, drawings, photo's, sketches and other products that you would like to have on your poster.

There are two ways to get external files into your Illustrator file, which will be discussed below:

Embedding Images

Getting your pixel images (for example renders or photo's) into Illustrator can be done by just opening them, after which you can copy/paste them to your poster. While this method is fine for simple scenario's, it has certain disadvantages, which are:

  • The Illustrator file gets very big, which can result Illustrator running very slow, and the Illustrator files become bulky.
  • An image gets 'embedded' into the Illustrator file, in which the image loses its ability to be altered in an external editing program like Photoshop. For example, if you want to change your render which you placed on your poster, you will need to delete the image from your Illustrator poster, alter the original image in Photoshop, open it in Illustrator, and copy it again to your poster.

You can check if images are embedded by going to the links manager, which can be found under Window > Links. If a file is embedded you will see a grayish icon behind the file name. This means that that image is in the Illustrator file.

Link window.jpg

Linking Images

Another way of opening images in your Illustrator file is a method which also is present in InDesign, which is linking. Where you load a file into your Illustrator file, without actually embedding it, you create a link. This method has certain advantages:

  • The image works exactly the same as a embedded image. You can move, rotate, scale it
  • You can alter the original file in a program of your preference. For example, a render, which you can edit in Photoshop. After saving the alterations, Illustrator will prompt you with a message saying the file has been changed, do you want to update?, after clicking yes, it will update the image. While updating you don't lose your transformations (move, scale, rotate etc.), so it will stay in the same place with the same size
  • Because the Illustrator file does not hold the images, it will remain very small, thus fast

Workflow link.jpg

In order to link a file you go to File > Place where you can select any supported file-type (ai, pdf, jpg, tif, psd, et cetera). Make sure you check the Link option.


Linked images can also be recognized in the Links manager, because there is no icon behind them.

Link manager.jpg

When using linked images in Illustrator it is important to take your linked files with you if you want to work on another computer. If you do not, Illustrator will prompt you with a message that it cannot find the file. It will also show a question-mark behind the file in the links-manager.

If you did take your files with you, you can tell Illustrator where it can find them by using the relink icon on the bottom of the link-manager.

Cannot find.jpg

Please note that dragging files into your Illustrator file from Chrome, Explorer, Firefox, your desktop, et cetera, will cause the files to be linked automatically. Therefore, always check the status of the images you've just imported in the links-manager.

If you do not want to link a file which is linked, because you want to have everything in one file, you can embed a linked image. Select the linked image, click on the small triangle in the links-manager, and choose embed. Now the image will be in your Illustrator file, so you do not need to bring along the original file with you.


Exporting files from Illustrator

PDF Files in general

Illustrator has an outstanding support for the PDF file format (which makes sense, since pdf is also developed by Adobe, as is Illustrator). It also has the options to comply with the PDF/X type, a subset of the PDF file, which complies with certain ISO standards. PDF file are perfect containers for anything from presentations to print files. Some of its advantages are:

  • Combine vector and pixel images in one ile
  • Supported by professional print companies
  • Various settings for size reduction
  • Embedded fonts and color (ideal for printing)
  • Possibility of extra features (3D, movies, bookmarks)
  • Support for PDF/A/X (ISO standards for PDF type)

Exporting PDF files from Illustrator

If you want to save your file as a PDF from Illustrator, you first need to ask yourself what the purpose is of that file. Do you want to be able to change it afterwards? Is it going to be printed to viewed solely on a screen. Is the file size relevant, and what is the importance of the image quality?

In Illustrator there are several ways to influence the file size of the PDF file. When saving the file (File > Save > as a PDF file) you will be prompted with a menu where you can manage the file size.

  • Preserve Illustrator Editing Capabilities. This has a significant influence on the file size, by disabling this option, the file will become significantly smaller than with this option enabled. The disadvantage is that you will not be able to open the PDF again in Illustrator with the use of all layers en editing capabilities. This can also be an advantage if you do not want other people to alter or read your layout because it will flatten the layer structure.

  • PDF quality presets. There are several quality presets, ranging from high quality to very low. Obviously with these qualities also the file size is changed. Depending on the purpose of the pdf file you can choose a quality preset. Usually a combination of disabling "Preserve Illustrator Editing Capabilities" and the quality preset "Press quality" results in a file which is small enough the be transferred over the internet, and big enough to maintain enough quality in the images. On the left side of the PDF menu there is also an option to change compression of images by hand ("Compression").

Pdf preset.jpg

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