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Reducing the size of embedded images in your illustrator document

This post outlines the method for reducing the pixel count (resolution) of images that are embedded in an illustrator document.

When should this method for reducing the size of images be used?

I generally prefer to have all my images in a folder alongside, or in the same folder as the illustrator document. Instead of embedding the images I just link to them. As more images are added to my .ai file the file size doesn’t get much bigger. Using links is better for performance, and is more flexible.

Having said that, if you are collaborating with other people it can be a bit annoying getting documents sent to you without the linked images. If you prefer to embed images in your .ai document then you really need to downsample these images so that the file size does not get too out of hand.

You could do this in photoshop or another raster editor. But this may take a while, and it’s not always obvious what resolution you require.

The basic method for downsampling images in your illustrator document

  1. Select an image and go to Object>Rasterize and choose the resolution you want downsample to. i.e. 300ppi.

This does not work with multiple images selected: they will get merged together.

Using the links panel to speed up going through all of your images

  1. To see a list of all the images in your document go to Window>Links.
  2. Now you can go through the images one by one and rasterise them.
  3. Select an image in the list then click on the go to link button to select it in the document.

Isolating images that have clipping masks

If you rasterise an image that has a clipping mask then you will get an image that is the same size as the original but is white or transparent for every area outside the clipping mask. This is not ideal.

The work around is to isolate the image first.

  1. Do this by right clicking on the selected image and click on Isolate Selected Image.
     
  2. Alternatively, you can isolate by double clicking on the image until it is isolated.
  3. Go to Object>Rasterize and choose the resolution you want downsample to. i.e. 300ppi.
  4. Exit isolation mode and the clipping mask is re applied.
  5. You can then adjust the clipping mask later if you like.

About Luke

I am the Geology Department's Scientific Illustrator.

8 comments on “Reducing the size of embedded images in your illustrator document

  1. This worked wonderfully, thank you! Reduced a postcard design with four large embedded photographs from 144MB to 30MB. This enabled me to send it to the printing company, who had a 100MB limit.

    Reply

  2. You’re so interesting! I don’t believe I have read through something like this before.

    So great to find another person with some original thoughts on this issue.
    Seriously.. thanks for starting this up. This site is something that is needed on the internet, someone with some originality!

    Reply

  3. By jolly, I’ve been looking at a way to do this for a long time. I’ve googled several times. Today, I got lucky. I’m creating a credit card sized discount voucher graphic with a high resolution image linked to it. The file size turned out to be more than 15 megs. Now, it’s down to 1.5 megs. Bravo!

    Reply

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