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Exporting Files from Illustrator CS5 (part 1)

10/31/2011 5:59:02 PM
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Illustrator is a robust application that supports a wide range of file formats. Although Illustrator does a great job opening just about any graphic file format, it can also export files in different file formats for a plethora of uses. To export a file from Illustrator, choose File > Export, and then choose from one of the many formats listed in the pop-up list in the Export dialog box. Each of these formats is listed in the following sections, with descriptions of their settings as well as when you might want to use them.

Remember that when exporting, it is expected that some level of formatting or editability will be lost, so always save a native Illustrator version of your file before you export to another format.

Saving and Exporting Artboards

Just as you can create single files with multiple artboards, so can you save and export files with them as well.

Choose File > Export, and choose your desired file format. In the Export dialog box, select Use Artboards (Figure 1), and specify All or a range of artboards to export. When Range is selected, Illustrator will export separate files for each artboard specified. File names will be appended with a 01, 02, 03, and so on. If the Use Artboards option is not selected and your file contains multiple artboards, a single file will be exported with the artboards converted to a single, “conjoined” artboard (Figure 2).

Figure 1. Choose to export, or not export, multiple artboards.

Figure 2. Illustrator then creates a separate file from each artboard (left) or a single file from multiple artboards (right).

The Bitmap (.bmp) Format

Bitmaps are raster-based files that are often used in older applications. Bitmaps are is also used by some applications for displaying logos or bar codes.

When exporting a bitmap, you can choose one of three different color models: RGB, Grayscale, or Bitmap. Bitmap creates a file that contains only black-and-white pixels (Figure 3). Additionally, you can specify the resolution for your image and choose whether to antialias the art.

Figure 3. Many applications (including Illustrator and QuarkXPress) allow you to change the color of a bitmap file that uses the Bitmap color model.

The Targa (.tga) Format

The Targa file format is a raster-based image format used mainly in video applications. For example, you might use the Targa file format to add Illustrator artwork as masks in Adobe Premiere Pro.

When exporting a Targa file, you can choose one of two color models: RGB or Grayscale. Additionally, you can specify the resolution for your image and choose whether to antialias the art.

The Portable Network Graphic (.png) Format

The PNG file format (pronounced “ping”) was originally formed as an open standard format to replace the need for the GIF image file format, because of legal complications with those who developed the compression technology used in the GIF format.

You can create PNG files from Illustrator using the Save for Web & Devices feature. However, the PNG format also appears as an export format because the Save for Web & Devices feature is hardwired at 72 ppi. To export a PNG file at any other resolution, you need to use the PNG export function.

PNG is a raster-based image format and is used for web design, icon and interface design, and general image exchange. In fact, recent Apple operating systems (Mac OS X versions 10.4, 10.5, and 10.6) create a PNG file when you take a screen capture. PNG files can support 24-bit color, but more importantly, the format also supports 256-level alpha channels for transparency, meaning you can give images soft edges that fade to transparent (unlike the GIF format, which supports one-color transparency only).

When exporting a PNG file, you can specify your image resolution as well as the background color. You can choose a transparent background, or you can choose Other to select a color from the Color Picker (Figure 4). Additionally, you can specify antialiasing and interlacing.

Figure 4. You can specify any color as a background color for a PNG file, including transparency.

Exporting Art for Use in Microsoft Office Applications

One of the most difficult things to do is create artwork in a professional design application (such as Illustrator) and have that same artwork display and print reliably in a business application such as Microsoft PowerPoint. Finding the right file format for this workflow is difficult because JPEG images don’t support transparent backgrounds and EPS files don’t display well onscreen. In addition, EPS files require the use of a PostScript printer, which most business professionals do not have.

After much research, the folks on the Illustrator development team discovered that the PNG format was perfect for placing art from Illustrator into Microsoft Office documents. Because the format supports transparent backgrounds and displays beautifully on computer screens, a PNG file set to a resolution high enough to also print well results in great-looking art in Office documents.

To save time and make it easier to quickly export a file from Illustrator to use in Microsoft Office, choose File > Save for Microsoft Office. Illustrator saves your file as a PNG file set to 150 ppi with antialiasing turned on. Once you’ve created the PNG file, you can place it into any Microsoft Office application by choosing the Insert Picture function in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint (Figure 5).

Figure 5. To place a PNG file into a Microsoft Office document, choose Insert > Picture > From File when in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, and locate the file on your computer or server.

Because of a bug in the Mac OSX version of Microsoft Office, transparency in a PNG file does not appear correctly at the default view setting (it does appear correctly when viewed in full-screen mode and when printed). For this reason, the Save for Microsoft Office command sets the background color to white instead of transparent. If you are placing your art into Microsoft Office for Windows, you can create a PNG with a transparent background by using the PNG Export function.

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