Tagged: file format

Use native graphics files when placing into your layout

I can’t stress enough the importance of saving your Photoshop and Illustrator files as native .psd and .ai files, rather than the old standby .tif and .eps. While these older formats will work just fine for most uses, when you place native files you get the advantage of full transparency support and most times, smaller file sizes. Let’s say you have applied a drop shadow to an object in Illustrator. If you save it as an .ai file, the shadow will appropriately darken whatever color or object that is underneath it in your InDesign document. If you save the same Illustrator file as an .eps you get unexpected results – usually a white bounding box behind the shadow either on screen, when printed, or both.

Saving your Illustrator files correctly

After installing the Adobe Creative Suite on a new MacPro and getting down to business on it, I noticed that a native Illustrator file (.ai) placed in my InDesign document was not displaying correctly. The first clue was that the transparency of the placed file wasn’t displaying at all in my InDesign document – that is to say, the artwork had a white bounding box around it. Fortunately, I remembered that I really hadn’t checked my Options in the Illustrator Save As dialog box when I saved the file. If you’re experiencing the same issue, it’s easily fixed. When you save your Illustrator file as an .ai file, make sure you have the Create PDF Compatible File box checked.

Photoshop file formats for print designers

Photoshop is primarily used by print designers for graphic imagery and generally isn’t the “final” format for any particular piece of work. Most designers with very little exception end up with the files in either InDesign, Illustrator or Quark XPress. But Photoshop has a lot of users in other industries including video, multi-media and photography. For this reason there are a lot of file format options available when you go to save your file. Below is a brief explanation of some of the formats you may use or come across as a print designer, along with some opinions about them that I’ve formed over the years: Photoshop (.psd) Photoshop’s native file format and can be read only by Photoshop, Preview and few select other applications. When saving your file in the .psd format, you retain all editability of fonts, layers and effects. If you wish to use the .psd format with other applications you can tick a preference to maximize file compatibility to save a “flattened” version of the layered file inside the file so it can be previewed by the other applications. With Quark XPress recently adding the ability to import layered Photoshop files, the .psd format is probably the only format you ever need to use for print design – since it includes spot channels, clipping paths, transparency, etc. It’s about the only format I use anymore when dealing with Photoshop images. Bitmap (.bmp) The Bitmap format is a Windows-based format and is generally restricted to flat black and white artwork, though it can contain color. Because of its limited use even on the Windows platform, I don’t recommend using it for any real work. EPS (.eps) EPS, which stands for Encapsulated PostScript, can contain both vector and bitmap information in the file, but is very different than Illustrator .eps formatted files. EPS format used to be the preferred format by designers when a clipping path was used to “cut out” the background of an image for use in Quark XPress. With the release of InDesign and the updates to Quark, this file format has really fallen by the wayside. If you are saving your files as EPS, I recommend you use 8-bit TIFF preview and Binary encoding for maximum compatibility with other platforms. JPEG (.jpg) This format probably needs little explanation. JPEG or JPG, which stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, provides lossy compression to image files, thus making the image files much smaller than they actually were before compression. Most all standard applications (graphics and otherwise) can save or import the JPEG format, but it should be used with caution. Because JPEG is a lossy compression format, your images should be saved with the Image Options/Quality no less than 10 and the Format Options – left at Baseline (Standard) – anything less and you run the risk of image artifacts showing up. Large Document Format (.psb) Large document format is for saving huge files (300,000 pixels in any dimension) and can only be read by Photoshop CS and CS2. I can’t imagine the need for any print designer to use this format, but there probably is call to use it in the outdoor imaging markets. Photoshop PDF (.pdf) This is yet another way to save a PDF file which can include layers, alpha channels, spot colors and metadata, but gives you the flexibility of everything that the PDF format offers such as font embedding, flattening, etc. I really see no reason to use this format other than it allows you to set security options on an image file. Photoshop RAW This is NOT the same as digital camera RAW format, which is more of a digital negative. Photoshop RAW is really a bare-bones way of transferring the file between applications and platforms. I’ve never used this format or come across anyone else in the industry that uses it, and as a print designer I can’t see any reason start. PICT File and PICT Resource(.pct) The PICT format was used by older versions of the Mac operating system as the native way of displaying graphics in the OS. PICT images are rarely seen or used anymore. One way they may be used is when trying to pull graphics out of other applications that don’t offer a way to export the graphic to get it into Photoshop for further work. Scitex CT An old format used by early graphics technology in the pre-press industry. It has virtually no use anymore. TIFF (.tif) The TIFF file format has been around for a long time and is widely accepted as a “standard” format. TIFF, which stands for Tagged-Image File Format, can by saved as CMYK, RGB, LAB, Indexed Color, Grayscale and Bitmap mode and can include (as of recently) layers, alpha channels, paths, transparency and metadata – though only the flattened image is used by other applications like InDesign, Quark and Illustrator. TIFF used to be the preferred method of saving image files and is the most widely adopted format by the graphics industry, however with graphics applications accepting native Photoshop formatted files (.psd), TIFF’s days are probably numbered. Not only that, but the newer features such as the ability to save layered TIFFs appear to not work too well with other graphics apps like InDesign and Quark XPress and many print industry RIPs. If you do save your files as TIFF, you should make sure that the LZW Compression box is not ticked when saving to prevent any issues at print time. Photoshop DCS Desktop Color Separations (DCS) format is a version of the standard EPS format, and allows you save color separations of your images which includes spot-color channels. This used to be the only format you could use to place an image with spot color into a standard graphics application such as Quark XPress – but you can now simply save your file as .psd (layered Photoshop file). This format gives you the option of ticking check boxes to save the file as a composite file with a preview or separate files for each color used in the file which are joined later in the printing process. You may run across a few printers or applications that require the use of this format, but I highly doubt it. As you can see, the print industry has pretty much been limited to TIFF and PSD for the last few years, with even TIFF beginning to erode as the wide adoption of .psd compatible apps find there way into users hands. JPEG has a strong hold on the Web design field and as a means for backup of original images for most print designers, but I don’t recommend using it for much more than that. Overall the native Photoshop file format is all you should need for modern day applications and use.

Adobe Illustrator file formats explained

When you save files from Illustrator, the three main choices you have for print production work are Adobe Illustrator Document (.ai), Illustrator EPS (.eps), and Adobe PDF (.pdf). The following is a brief rundown of the formats you can choose to save your files as when using Illustrator.

Adobe Illustrator Document (.ai)

This is Adobe’s native Illustrator format, and only Illustrator is able to read this file format. The data contained in the file is based on PDF, but it isn’t a format that Acrobat can read correctly. When saving in .ai format, you retain all your editability and transparency in your file. When you save your file as an .ai file, Illustrator includes a PDF 1.4 composite preview inside the file in an unflattened form. The .ai format is the best format to save your file as for internal use while you’re still working on the file, as well as for placing into Photoshop or InDesign. The .ai format is my preferred method for saving files, as I use InDesign for my page layout. However if you use Quark XPress, you’ll have to stick with the older .eps format explained below.

Illustrator EPS (.eps)

This long-standing file format, which is short for Encapsulated PostScript, is supported by most all standard graphics applications. Unfortunately, .eps files do not support transparency, so files you create that contain transparency are “flattened” so other programs can import them. When you save as an .eps, most effects are expanded and text may or may not be broken apart in order to flatten the file – however Illustrator saves a copy of the file in .ai format inside the .eps file so that you can edit the file later in Illustrator if you wish. The .eps format has been widely used as the “standard” file format for saving artwork to be used for print production work with Quark XPress for many years, but recently began loosing love from users due to its large file size and lack of support for transparency. Personally, I no longer use the .eps format. Since the introduction of InDesign and Smart Objects in Photoshop, I find the .ai format for flexible and the file sizes more manageable.

Adobe PDF (.pdf)

We all know what a PDF is. When you save a file from Illustrator as a .pdf file, Illustrator saves the data so that any PDF reader can understand and display the file. Thankfully, Illustrator saves a copy of the file in native .ai format inside the PDF file which is unflattened for later editing – as long as you remember to leave the Preserve Illustrator Editing Capabilities checkbox ticked as it is as a default. If you uncheck that box, the file size is drastically reduced, but so are your options for editing the file later. Text will be virtually uneditable, effects are flattened, etc. I generally don’t recommend saving your files as PDFs from Illustrator.

Illustrator Template (.ait)

This format is exactly what it says. It’s a template format for Illustrator that allows you to save your file as a template for using as a “building block” for later files.

SVG Compressed (.svgz) and SVG (.svg)

SVG stands for Scalable Vector Graphics and is an XML markup language for describing two-dimensional vector graphics, both static and animated and is an open standard created by the World Wide Web Consortium. The SVG format can contain vector shapes and paths, raster graphics (images) and text. The SVG format is mostly used for Web-based work, and is beyond the scope of this article, so I won’t bother to go into it here.

Export options

Illustrator also allows you to “export” your file to nearly a dozen other formats (which also means it can read them) such as .jpg, .png, .swf (Flash), .bmp, .tif, .txt (text format), .wmv (Windows meta file) and .dxf (AutoCAD Interchange Format). Overall, Illustrator has a lot of flexibility in the formats it saves as, allowing you to maximize the file use in other applications.