Category Archives: Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator: The Harsh Layout Mistress

beer-can house costume

I’ll keep this short and to the point: Don’t do page layouts in Adobe Illustrator. Ever.

I have no beef on AI’s remarkable tools for drawings and diagrams. It ain’t made for page layout. To elaborate:

  • It has a very kludgy interface for placing images
  • Type handling characteristics are not pleasant
  • There is no Collect-For-Output feature.
    You leave a file behind, you won’t know it until your service bureau/color house/pub calls and says “hello, bucko, you’re missing x fonts/images. Now what?”
  • When it comes time to save, the unwary are confused between “Save With Links” and “Embed”

I suppose some people started using AI back when Quark was the only page layout game in town, and they couldn’t get used to viewing a low-res image in a picture window.

Hint: Make a quickie PDF of that page/spread. It’s called a “soft-proof”

In the last several years InDesign has eaten a lot of Quark’s lunch. (It was long overdue, which will be the subject of another post).

However, in the context of this AI post–people liked the hi-rez preview. And I got to examine a lot of AI layouts. Here’s how I’d handle these files:

  • Start by opening the fonts in Suitcase or other font utility. Oh, how I miss Adobe ATM <sigh>
  • Now open the file. Do pushups while waiting, in some instances.
  • Watch for the missing image alerts
  • If there was an image folder/files available, try to link to them.
  • Sometimes, the designer had started with low-rez jpegs, and swapped out w/ hi-rez files. Maybe they even have the same names.
  • Now the file is open. Look at it in outline mode to see if there are ‘phantom files’ in the layout or margins. Its happened more than once.
  • Got bleed? Lotsa folks don’t understand that 1/16″ is precious little between a bleed and a sliver of daylight which can make them look like an idiot.
  • Go to the Links palette, and click the images one by one, noting size and enlargement. Anything over 300 lpi was home free. Hey! I’m not paid to make aesthetic judgements. To quote the late Brandon Tartikoff, “If I programmed what I liked, the network would be dark 4 nights a week”

Inshallah, everything checks out OK. The file is released to production.

There are some of you out there thinking “Gee Mr Pre-Press? How come you didn’t spank the file with Markzware Preflight??”

I wished it were so. What I discovered about PreFlight, a program I love, is that when it looks at AI files, half the time it does not dig down into the second and third layer below the surface. Like when a monster AI file is imported into an IDCS document just so it can be proofed. I got stung earlier in the season by a Workbook advertiser who sent a file that was incomplete that way, and it involved multiple catch-ups to get the file ripped and the proof back to the customer.

And that is the short take on why Adobe Illustrator Is The Harsh Layout Mistress

Size Matters: When Bigger Is Not Better

burning jeep

This summer I saw a file that took all available prizes in File Management. I saw the IDCS doc, and then a folder with a bloated AI file, and the Links folder.

file mgmt.jpg

The ground rules for submitting files to a CMYK pub are pretty basic. Four colors. No spots, no metallics. Even a boiled-down FAQ, which is rarely read. However this is my livelihood, so I dig in.

The following is an annotated and redacted memo which described the state of affairs.

From: Larry Gassan
Date: July 23, 2007 4:05:15 PM PDT
Subject: [Problem file]


This is the breakdown on the spread:


1] source doc is AICS3 [“customer ad”_r1.eps]
with embedded PS files. The embedding caused the file to swell to 514mb.

Embedded files cannot be extracted when color work be required.

Yes, the file can be opened in Photoshop, but you are limited by the exact cropping available, and if there are any masks, blends, channel work—you are constricted further

The AI file was then brought into an IDCS3 file [0000_customerdoc.indd]
to rip by the color house. The spool file on a 514mb document would easily
exceed 1-2gig if printed from the original document.

Someday for your own amusement, take a fully linked file and export it as a PostScript file. When its done, check the size. That’s your spool file when you send it to a printer. Then think about the times your printer timed out on you.


2] Pantone 877 is a metallic, and has no direct CMYK conversion.

Remedy: 50% gray.

3] Support files were included in a folder called “LINKS”.

Each embedded PS file no less than 45mb in its original configuration. Only
one file, the left-hand [original file], was appropriate to its actual placement.

The average size of each window was 3 x 4″—meaning the original file was reduced 40% to fit. But wait!

4] ea file was imported, and rotated 180 degrees in [Adobe Illustrator] AI. This also causes a
file to swell—each transformation requires much more memory than a file imported at 100% of layout size.

This was straight out of Quark, 1989. Moving along to other issues, like “Which File Were We Supposed to Link To?”

5] A preliminary look at the file TEST compared to “test-219_cmyk.tif” cast doubt as to whether or not the included file was relevant, as the colorcasts were slightly different. Files in LINKS included dupes of “[original files]”

[original files] [in cmyk and rgb]. Which one is it?

Another classic move. Especially with Photoshop and Illustrator, people get nervous, and they do one or more of the following;

  • submit files for “back-up” and “just in case”. Like, which ones did you want me to use?
  • are unaware that in Photoshop, once you import files, they are the document.
  • People who build files and put in FPO artwork, unaware of the reality that documents can now handle high-resolution files.

Calls were made to the advertiser. Eventually we got an Illustrator file, where the artwork was placed & linked, not embedded, CMYK and the files were actually size appropriate.

And that is the subject of another post “Adobe Illustrator: The Harsh Layout Mistress”