Illustrator - exporting, packaging, printing
a few ways to get your work out of Adobe Illustrator and into other formats
You have spent all of your time building your amazing vector masterpiece, but now how do you get those graphics out of Illustrator?
Your Adobe Illustrator .ai file (just like the Photoshop .psd file) is a master “working file” that includes your shapes, layers, groups, symbols, live text, etc. It is the place where you work and build and edit, but it is definitely not the file you will use to share with the world. There are different ways to save your work into a functional file depending on the purpose of your output.
If you would like to keep your work in vector format, you can simply choose File > SaveAs and pick what format you would like to use. Some formats will allow you to save the entire document and others will allow you to trim to the artboard.
If you are taking your graphics to a printer for offset printing, be sure to coordinate what formats and settings they prefer. Every company is a little bit different in what they want. I've usually had good luck with PDF and EPS files in the past, but be sure to verify.
If you would like a “flattened” version to post to the web or include in a website, you will need to use File > Export > Export for Screens. In this dialog box you can choose to output to many different formats, sizes, and screen resolutions all at one time. Each artboard can be exported with different options. Depending on the project, it may take some time to fill out all the different options.
Be sure to press the little gear icon at the top of the Format section. This allows you to tweak the settings for each file format. For example, the various .jpg options can be set to Anti-Alias based on text or art focus.
Learn more at this Adobe Blog post: Adobe Illustrator’s Export for Screens Saves You Time – Big Time. This Export for Screens video by CNDesigns walks you through options and even covers Asset Export.
Illustrator files can become quite complex and include many extras like fonts, placed raster images, etc. If you are going to send your work to a printer or share with a colleague then you will want to package your file up. This automates everything so nothing gets missed in the process. Choose File > Package and fill out the options including whether to include linked files and copy fonts. You can Create Report to get a text file listing what was included and if there were any errors. I have worked with printers that wanted that report included so they knew what to look for.
Package Files from Adobe Help walks you through the process.
If you are having trouble with any linked/embedded files that are not showing up or are causing issues, you can use the Links Panel to get organized. Turn it on by choosing Window > Links. You will get a mini-file manger panel to organize your files. Learn more about Links Information from Adobe Help.
Printing in Illustrator is not quite as simple as hitting a print button. The printer will need to convert your vector shapes into raster information. Any gradients will need to be converted. Fonts have to be processed. Colors have to be managed. Fortunately it isn't too hard to adjust settings and send to a printer. There are many options and settings, however, that printing companies will need to play with so the printing interface can be quite intimidating.
For our purposes of printing to the classroom printer, there are only a few settings to be aware of. Be sure to choose the X printer. Use the preview graphic on the side to verify it is going to print what you actually want to print. On the left side of the print dialog above the preview image is a list of setting categories. Go to Output and choose Composite. Under Graphics make sure Paths is set to Automatic or Quality.