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How to Save File for Prepress in Illustrator

How to Save an Illustrator File for Prepress (Adobe Illustrator tutorial video by Markzware)
This how-to shows you ways to save your Adobe Illustrator files for digital prepress use to professionally print your artwork. Transcript from video – see video tutorial below.

Save an Illustrator file for prepress with FlightCheck preflight software!

We see if you do a search in Google for “How to Save File for Prepress in Illustrator” that the first result is a Markzware one. In particular for FlightCheck, which is vital for Illustrator users, for preflighting your artwork before document output, and also allowing you to package fonts and all artwork used in your file, for archiving or for sending to the next party in the print workflow.

Let’s pop into and open Adobe Illustrator CS5, in this case, and we will open up this file. We are going to now go in here and add some new text by adding a new text object in Illustrator. As you can see, we can now save this for prepress or print in several ways. As we have gone over in several other Markzware videos, sometimes we will want to convert these fonts to outline. You can watch the other tutorial on exactly how you can do that, but it is quite simple in Illustrator menu item: choose the Type item and then choose, “Create Outlines.”

In many cases, you will not want to create outlines of the fonts, for you are not ready for that stage yet. We might need to adjust this native file on a continual basis. But you still want to be able to professionally print it.

We can go to “File-Export” and see the Export options we can instill, and the many different file formats we can use, including CAD and JPG. What you will see is, if we do a “File – Save-as” instead of an Export, that we can, of course save as a native Illustrator (ai) file, but also as an .EPS file, an Illustrator EPS file. So let’s go ahead and save this example logo as an Illustrator EPS file now.

We will get several options, which are very important for printing. We can include CMYK postscript in RGB files, which can be very important for printing. We can choose the level of Adobe PostScript you want to use, like LanguageLevel 2, for instance. We can also embed fonts (for other applications).

Now, if we had this “embed fonts” checked off in Illustrator, what you would  see is (writing Illustrator EPS Format‚Ķ) that this could cause a big problem, preflight-wise. This is where FlightCheck can come into play, to help you, to help you find these printing problems. To find lo-res elements of the artwork which may have been used. So the logo looks fine on our web page, but will it print correctly?

These are the obstacles which stand in the way between web and print. As graphic designers we must be very aware of these facts. And even though we may be very good graphic designers, we all have our Monday mornings and our Friday afternoons. This is where FlightCheck can help Illustrator graphic design users. Let’s show you how FlightCheck works in relation to that print EPS (vector based) we just created.

Now many times, Illustrator for prepress means that logo file may be used down the workflow road in another document. For instance, in Desktop Publishing Layouts (DTP layouts) like Adobe InDesign or even QuarkXPress, Microsoft Publisher or Corel!Draw. As an example, if we created a new InDesign document, we can add some text (text box), adjust the fonts size and used font. Then let’s add that Illustrator EPS image in the .INDD file. File > Place. Then go and select that EPS we just created and place it in there. We can arrange the layout and all of that now, too. It all looks fine and dandy, so we can save this InDesign file.

Let’s open FlightCheck on the Mac and see what happens when we preflight this InDesign layout, which us using the Illustrator artwork we just prepared and supposedly prepared for prepress use. Thus, it should print perfectly. Let’s see what happens when we take this InDesign file with the used fonts and images and drop it on the FlightCheck FlightStrip.

The preflight process initiates. In mere seconds, we get a FlightCheck Results window, where we can very quickly see that there are problems in red, and warnings in blue or orange. Look, there we see that Illustrator EPS image, which we asked to be warned about in our Ground Controls of FlightCheck! Why? Well, often EPS images or EPSF files can use fonts or images which may not be included and seen as missing by the printers RIP at prepress. In this case, FlightCheck allows us to see that the printer font IS MISSING! You can see here that the screen and printer fonts are both missing.


In the FlightCheck main window, you get all of the details on your file. Not only the file, page and print info, but also your Color, Fonts and Images. It is in those Colors, Fonts and Images sections of FlightCheck, where you can see what we are talking about. We can see that we have three missing fonts. We can see which exact type of font that is, the version and even who is the manufacture or font foundry for that typeface – very handy if you need to go purchase or buy that font. FlightCheck can help you do that.

Here you can see the image, which we used, the EPS file. Through FlightCheck, we get a preview of the image, with the test we had in there. We can right away see that this file is not ready for prepress use or for print. This Illustrator EPS image has a missing screen font and a missing printer font. And once again we can even see exactly which font is missing.

This is key, FlightCheck and preflighting, for getting your Illustrator file ready for prepress. It should be noted that InDesign’s Live Preflight cannot see any images or fonts used or embedded within that Illustrator EPS. FlightCheck can.

Not only will FlightCheck find and pinpoint these problems, it will also Package that InDesign file with all fonts and images, including those used in the Illustrator EPS placed within InDesign. Very handy!

I should also note that FlightCheck can also preflight Illustrator and package Illustrator files in the native application, as well. It can even preflight for instance the Illustrator EPS image. Watch, no problem!

It will even allow you to collect that image with used fonts if they were not embedded. Very handy for passing on to the next graphic designer in the workflow. FlightCheck software will also collect native Illustrator or Photoshop files.

So as you see, how you save a file for prepress in Illustrator really depends on your final need or usage. In many design cases, you may not know that final graphic design need until later. Or the needs may change, which is one reason many graphic designers will not flatten the fonts or the artwork so quickly, or embed the fonts quickly, in the design process.

There are various options when saving your Illustrator files or doing a “File, Save-As” in Illustrator CS5, in this case. You can even place PDF’s now-a-days or even native Illustrator files. Saving as an Adobe Illustrator EPS is still one of the most popular ways to utilize vector artwork that you have created within Illustrator for prepress. Naturally, there are other ways of exporting a file such as a JPEG (JPG), or even as a TIFF (tif), all fine for static image use as well, flattened.

The important thing is ensuring that your print file in Illustrator is using hi-resolution artwork, has all of the fonts used available and/or converted to outlines, and a host of other preflight issues for which Markzware FlightCheck can help you check, going through the file, bit-by-bit, looking for potential printing or prepress problems.

Over on Markzware.com, you can find more information about FlightCheck. You get a full video demonstration on how FlightCheck works, learn about FlightCheck Ground Controls, to check your Illustrator, InDesign or Photoshop files, and also the PDF file you export. There is even a free FlightCheck demo 30-Day version that you can download and try yourself!

That has been “How to Save File for Prepress in Illustrator”, the How-to for today from Markzware. This is David Dilling from Markzware, signing off.