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Tag Archives: Illustration

Reducing the file size of reports, theses and other written documents (compressing)

This page covers reducing the file size of reports, theses and other written documents (compressing). Figures/images are the main contributor to large file sizes for documents. I show you how to deal with figures/images as you make them. I also show you how to compress the images in the document when you have finished writing. Continue reading

Illustration/Graphics resources incl. USGS patterns pack

I’ve just put a new section on this website with Illustration/Graphics resources. In this section is a page with a USGS AI pack instructions and a download link. The pack contains patterns for geological mapping such as schist, limestone and other things. The instructions make it really easy to use.

I will be adding a USGS Inkscape pack soon with instructions. I will also be adding more Illustration/Graphics resources as time permits.

Creating a topo profile and blank cross section using ArcGIS

Creating a topo profile and blank cross section using ArcGIS (Video instructions)


Creating a topo profile and blank cross section using ArcGIS (text instructions)

Get the cross section template



Optimising PDFs in acrobat pro (including downsampling and compressing rasters)

Sometimes we are required to reduce the file size of a pdf so that it can be uploaded, emailed etc. When we are printing something we always want to use an uncompressed version though.

Some concepts

There are a couple of key concepts that are useful to understand when reducing the file size of a pdf. Usually vector text graphics etc. take up a small proportion of the pdf file size and the thing that makes pdfs large are embedded rasters (aka bitmaps, images) such as photos. To make these rasters smaller we can do two things to them.

1 Downsampling

This is the process of reducing the number of pixels in an image. Typically downsampling will be achieved by choosing a lower pixel density (PPI) such as 150ppi rather than 300ppi. This will result in a squared reduction in file size. For example if you downsample from 300 to 100ppi the new file will be ¼ the size of the original. You might choose to downsample an image if you don’t expect someone to view it at a high pixel density (i.e. for images that will only be viewed on screen).

2 Raster compression

This is the process of storing the information about an image more efficiently. Compression falls into two categories: lossy and lossless and there are a variety of file types that utilize different compression algorithms. Jpeg compression is lossy and stores information about how the colours change from one corner of an 8×8 pixel square to the other corner (if you look closely at highly compressed JPEGs you can see this effect . Sometimes compression is used generally to refer to any kind of activity that will reduce the file size, I will use raster compression to explicitly refer to the compression to a raster image not including downsampling.

More concepts

For a bit of background check out the blog post I did about pixel count resolution etc.

The quick and dirty method: saving as reduced size pdf from acrobat pro

This is a bit of a mystery approach. I’ve looked into it and I cannot figure out what this actually does to the rasters. Sometimes this works ok. This is the quick and dirty approach.

Save as options from Acrobat pro

Save as options from Acrobat pro

The better approach: save as optimising pdf

Saving as optimised pdf gives you a lot more options including the ability to see what is taking up space in your pdf (Click on Save as> Optimized PDF>Audit space usage).

Pdf optimiser options

Pdf optimiser options. Each of the boxes on the left hand side are submenus.

Clicking on audit space usage will bring up a box listing the size and percentage for each element in your pdf. In the example below there are three main contributors to the large file size:

  1. Images
  2. X-object Forms: the vector graphics in the document
  3. Piece information: In the case of this document this turns out to be information created by the program that made the pdf (LaTeX) and we don’t actually need it.
Audit space usage dialog box

Audit space usage dialog box

We can do stuff to make 1 and 3 Smaller but there’s not much we can do about 2 (in some rare cases rasterising the really complex vector graphics may help).

Other optimising things

Before we start downsampling and compressing the images it’s useful to look at what can be done to the rest of the pdf. I found this useful information out from . Chris’s post deals specifically with pdfs created from LaTex but the principles should be transferable to any pdf.

Below are the settings he recommends for each tab (for more detail read his post).

Recommended options for PDF optimising

I recommend saving these settings so you can use them again. In the example above where piece information contributed ~50MB the file size was reduce by approximately 50MB.

Image downsampling and raster compression

The amount of downsampling and raster compression that you choose to use is going to depend on the purpose for the document. The lower limit I would go to is bicubic downsampling to 100ppi for all image types and JPEG at high quality. This should produce a much smaller pdf for viewing on a computer (e.g. 20MB vs. 150MB). You may want to save various configurations for downsampling and compressing that are fit for different purposes.

Do not do any compression to the version you want to print. Print is much higher resolution than on screen and any compression is much more noticeable.

Some notes on saving PDFs with illustrator compatibility and/or embedded images.

I’m not entirely sure if optimising a pdf will get rid of extra images that are stored when pdfs are saved from illustrator with ai compatibility checked and embedded images. See my previous post for information about best saving practices from AI.

Adobe illustrator: Ai, pdf, linking, embedding and saving

This post is all about how to deal with linking, embedding and saving in adobe illustrator. If you are in the geology department I have put a poster up in the graphics lab with this information on it.

How to save to .ai

Go to File>Save As and choose .ai from the drop down list.

From here you can choose which illustrator version you want to save to, whether the file should be pdf compatible and whether to embed images (include linked files).

How to save as .pdf

Go to File>Save As and choose .pdf from the drop down list

From here you can choose to preserve illustrator editing capabilities (make it .ai compatible). There are also various options for down-sampling and compressing images (compression).

Embedding images

There are a few options for embedding images in adobe illustrator. By default if you drag and drop your images in, they will be linked rather than embedded.

If you add your images via File>Place you can choose to link or embed them then.

Once an image is added you can embed it by selecting the image and then clicking embed in the toolbar at the top of the window.

The other option is to embed them when you save the ai document by checking the box for include linked files.

Image storage and file size


Adobe have blurred the lines between their pdf format and their ai format. I would argue that this is not a good thing. Ai is a good working format for your figures and pdf is a good export format. My preferred approach is to use ai for working. I also use linked files (except for some small images). Using linked files improves the saving time and performance working with ai. Usually I will put a copy of the images in a folder with the ai file to keep them together. Another benefit to this approach is that you can edit the image and have it update.

For export I use .pdf with illustrator compatibility unchecked. At export time you should  also downsample and compress your rasters to reduce the pdf file size (acrobat can also do this via optimise pdf).

Note: If you have embedded illustrator compatible images in your pdf you cannot get rid of these using acrobat you must open the pdf in illustrator and save without ai compatibility.