Should we use save our Illustrator files as .ai, or .eps?
March 20, 2007 1:26 PM   Subscribe

Should we use save our Illustrator files as .ai, or .eps?

In our design studio we have a mini-debate going about formats for saving our Illustrator logo files. We all use Adobe CS2 and some of us feel that files should be saved as .ai's (reducing file size and allowing previews in Finder) and others feel we should save as .eps' (for maximum version compatibility and complying with industry standards).

I would like to hear other advantages and disadvantages for either or both sides, so that we can gather info and make an informed decision. Thanks AskMeFites!
posted by iamkimiam to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You should save as EPS if you're going to be sending the files to anywhere that might not use Adobe products. Outside software can read EPS files much more likely than .AI. For example, if you're sending a print-ready file to a printer using Quark, you're going to need to give them EPS files, not AI files.

As for the finder, I'm not as Mac-savvy as I should be but I can't imagine there isn't a tool out there that would let you create previews for EPS files.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:33 PM on March 20, 2007

.ai files are designed to hold all the content of Illustrator files with all the context and information intact. EPS manages this through document structuring comments. While everything should round trip correctly, I'd bet that ai files will load *way* faster over time.
posted by plinth at 1:44 PM on March 20, 2007

For local archival storage and editing, you should always save as native .ai files.
Save a copy as .eps if required by your print vendor or for use in some other application.
When you save as an eps, Illustrator should give you an option to include previews for the Finder.

To further reduce file sizes, be sure to de-select "Create PDF-compatible file" That'll cut the file size in half sometimes.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:03 PM on March 20, 2007

If your file is imported into another document (InDesign, Quark, etc.) then save it as an eps. If you are not needing to import the file anywhere and it is being printed as is from Illustrator, save as native ai.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:09 PM on March 20, 2007

Best answer: Fast saves and small file sizes help your studio. Maximum compatibility and industry standards helps your clients.

Solution: save projects internally as .ai and save client deliverables as .eps.

Our firm faced a similar dilemma and used a similar solution. That made everybody happy.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:15 PM on March 20, 2007

A good rule of thumb is to keep files in their native format for as long as possble while working in-house but convert to industry standard when the job goes out the door.

Or, what infinitewindow said.
posted by lekvar at 2:25 PM on March 20, 2007

For what it's worth, in our art department we prefer our Illustrator files in .ai format, saving it in legacy version 8. That way we can open it with Corel Draw (version 12). If you work with anyone using Corel Draw, that might be something to consider. We can't get eps files to open in Corel, however.

If you don't have to consider Corel, I'd still lean toward .ai files for archive purposes. Or what infinitewindow said.
posted by bristolcat at 2:27 PM on March 20, 2007

Response by poster: These are logo files that will be placed in InDesign documents primarily. Then collected for vendors to print. In this context, should file size and faster saves take priority over vendor compatibility (when the vendor would be receiving an InDesign file with the .ai or .eps placed in it)?

For various Illustrator art requests, or when the file is printed directly from Illustrator, we would save it out as EPS for that instance anyway.

We are trying to avoid having a double set of logos (ie. one set of .ai versions and one set of .eps.). The question is which library to create.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:30 PM on March 20, 2007

Best answer: Speaking as a vendor, please please please please pretty please with sugar give me .eps files. I am the prepressman at a commercial printer, and designers who give me InDesign files with .ai and .psd links go to the back of the to-do list. When an InDesign file comes in that has non-compliant links I have to open them and resave them as compliant files. Not a big deal? Every file I have to open and resave costs me production time. And that's just opening and resaving. There are a dozen things that can go screwy when files are opened ad saved to another format outside of the designer's computer. This gets clients sent to the back of the line not out of spite, but because the clients who have compliant links are a snap to process, which get plates out and presses spinning. Once the pressmen are occupied, then I have the time to go back and slog through the links.

And don't get me started about transparency.
posted by lekvar at 2:49 PM on March 20, 2007 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Here's a good link about the differences between Illustrator's file types. Based that link, it makes sense to save as .ai internally and then .eps for vendors.

Me, I'd keep it simple and just use .eps.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:38 PM on March 20, 2007

Best answer: I say always place/link files that are good to go to press (which means no RGB jpgs that I'll get to "later"), but maybe that's because I've been in too many last-minute, oshitalltheselinksneedtobefixed situations. For me that means one AI and one EPS. I guess your usage of this depends on what kind of workflow you have. If you are placing early versions of Illustrator files in inDesign and updating the originals as the design changes, I can see how the two-file system could become onerous. If you find you have to create EPSs out of AI files all the time you could write a little script to automate it so you'd always have the two versions you need.
posted by wemayfreeze at 3:54 PM on March 20, 2007

lekvar...if you had your choice, would you rather get a pdf over anything else?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:41 PM on March 20, 2007

When .pdfs are made by a competent designer I only curse under my breath a little bit. But .pdfs are so rarely made well that I try to get the original files whenever possible. The problem is that Adobe has spent so much time hyping up the .pdf format as perfect and inviolate that a lot of people don't realize that there are very real limitations, (some fonts, for example, simply will not embed) and that a .pdf created for the web or deskjet printing is going to look like ass when it comes off the big press. Also, nine times out of ten, when someone asks me if I accept .pdfs, they mean do I accept .pdfs created in Word or PowerPoint.
posted by lekvar at 4:54 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

lekvar is a god.
posted by sandra_s at 6:07 PM on March 20, 2007

Well thank you, but I'm really just a control freak, as all prepress people have to be.
posted by lekvar at 6:21 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

How long do you need your data?

Use open formats if you need your data for longer than two releases of whatever you're using on it. Have you ever tried to open a file from MICROS~1 Word of ten years ago?

Don't rely on some company's good will and persistence to live. Adobe is probably healthy today, but if you think you'll be using the same software in the year 2014 then you're delusional. And that's the same distance away as 2000 -- remember that year? Me too.

Ars longa, data brevis.
posted by cmiller at 6:59 PM on March 20, 2007

Actually lekvar, as a design student with a prepress professor who isn't actually teaching much prepress stuff, any chance I could get some pointers to good reading material? And what was that about transparency?
posted by Richard Daly at 9:26 PM on March 20, 2007

Best answer: Sorry, I don't have any recommendations on reading material other than I'd be happy to answer any questions you have (contact info is in the profile) but the specifics change so quickly that any printed material is outdated by the time it hits the shelves.

Transparency? Don't use it. If you use transparency, use it sparingly. Despite the fact that Adobe is the creator of the PostScript language that drives modern imagsetters, platesetters and high-end digital printers, the transparency effects that Adobe saw fit to incorporate into Illustrator, InDesign and the .tif format are poorly supported. Often you can get away with simple transparency, but if you get crazy with it you can expect problems. If you use transparency in Illustrator, it's best to flatten your artwork or rasterize it before exporting your .eps. If you have to have a transparent background for your Photoshop file, save it as an .eps with a clipping path.

The biggest favor you can do yourself is get to know your prepress department. Chances are, if you go in and say, "I've heard that x, y and z are potentially problematic," if they're worth a damn, they'll be perfectly happy to discuss it with you. If you even pretend to be interested in what they say you will be their favorite designer.
posted by lekvar at 12:30 AM on March 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

As a designer you should work in prepress for six months to a year, at the beginning of your career. It'll make you aware of the fact you, the print designer, aren't really making anything. It's the pressman overseeing your job that ensures that the colors come out right. Hopefully you would start to see printing as a collective process, where you work with your prepress and print guys to make sure you stuff comes out looking great.

For every job you do, you should talk to the printer early in the game and listen to what they say about how to set up your files. Ask questions, even if they seem stupid. You'll learn a lot and get a better feel for the print process and be able to spot crappy prepress people (yeah, they do exist)

I'd say transparency is fine, as long as you flatten it before you send it out. I usually save the final files at 1.3 pdf and take a good look at them to make sure the flattening didn't screw up the look.

If you're comfortable with usenet comp.publish.prepress is place where a lot of old time pressman who are tech savy hang out and can explain just about anything.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:22 AM on March 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

lekvar and Brandon speak large truths. I second the suggestion of hanging around on PrepressForums. Great place. And more than a little humbling for the designer.

Sadly, at least in my neck of the woods, clients are increasingly cutting print budgets to the point where we have to resort to cheap digital output (not traditional offset) for anything other than the most complicated of print jobs.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:40 AM on March 21, 2007

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