Top tip: Compress Adobe Illustrator files with Create PDF Compatible File—75% smaller files

Compress Adobe Illustrator files with Create PDF Compatible File

How to make smaller Adobe Illustrator files with ease

Ever saved an Adobe Illustrator file and noticed a substantial increase in file size? Want to learn how to make an Illustrator file smaller? Create PDF Compatible File could be the solution. Compress Illustrator files up to 75% with this simple tip. Following this short article, you’ll be able to distribute AI files between collaborators without hassle. No need to worry about those excessive email file size limits.

Check Create PDF Compatible File

The first time a graphic designer or illustrator saves a new Adobe Illustrator file, the Illustrator Options prompt will appear. Here, a number of useful options will appear—sadly, none of which include Compress Illustrator file.

Historically, before Adobe CC became the norm, different clients, collaborators, graphic design agencies and printers used different versions of Adobe Illustrator. The Adobe software suite was expensive, and not all businesses updated their license annually. Now, with Adobe’s subscription plan, this isn’t a common problem. There isn’t a substantial demand to export files to earlier versions of Adobe Illustrator. But, the option remains for those who seek it.

The default Options check Check PDF Compatible File, Embed ICC Profiles and Use Compression. We’ll be looking at Create PDF Compatible File.

Hint: If Illustrator Options doesn’t appear, click File > Save As… (⇧⌘S). This will ensure the prompt appears after a file location is chosen.

Check Create PDF Compatible File

6.2mb Adobe Illustrator file

First, save the Adobe Illustrator with Create PDF Compatible File enabled, as default. This particular file, post-2-pdf.ai is 6.2mb. Not unreasonable? That depends on the content. The file in question includes 17 artboards and 17 embedded RGB images. I think we can do better.

PDF file size

Uncheck Create PDF Compatible File

Now, let’s choose File > Save As… (⇧⌘S) to prompt the Illustrator Options panel. Save this file with Create PDF Compatible File turned off. Excited?

Uncheck Create PDF Compatible File

1.5mb Adobe Illustrator file

We’ve called this file post-2-ai.ai. The file is smaller. We’ve compressed the file almost 76% from 6.2mb to 1.5mb. Great, huh? I don’t think our file can be much smaller than that—that is, unless we replace all 17 embedded images with linked images.

So, what happened? I think we’ve found our Compress Illustrator file option. Essentially, with Create PDF Compatible File turned on, Adobe Illustrator saves a PDF-compatible file inside the native Adobe Illustrator file. Adobe Acrobat—and similar PDF readers—understand this file. Adobe Acrobat, on the other hand, doesn’t understand native Adobe Illustrator files. The PDF compatible file is also editable. PDF compatible files are flexible—but flexibility comes at a cost.

In the screenshot below, the non-compatible file doesn’t include a thumbnail. The compatible file does. MacOS can’t natively read Adobe Illustrator files—but it can read PDF files.

While I like to see a file thumbnail, I often produce content on servers with limited space and bandwidth. For this reason, I frequently turn Create PDF Compatible File off. The missing thumbnail shouldn’t be an issue if the file is labelled correctly.

AI file size

It’s that simple

Sometimes flexibility is important. Sometimes we don’t have space to hold 1,000+ Adobe Illustrator files on our laptop SSD hard drive. I would however, archive all Adobe Illustrator files with an accompanying PDF file. It’s difficult to predict what the future holds. The AI and/or PDF format could alter before that file is revisited again.

It’s important to note—the Create PDF Compatible File option can be turned on and off at will. Once Create PDF Compatible File is turned off—it can be restored. Now, go forth and email that smaller file.

What’s that in the background? It’s another tutorial, of course. Check out Tutorial: How to use all 16 Blending Modes in Adobe Illustrator cheat-sheet to learn more about Adobe Illustrator. Want to compress Illustrator files but don’t have Adobe CC? Click here to make an account.

Compress Adobe Illustrator files with Create PDF Compatible File