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So one of the most common questions I get is, "Will this stuff print?" and the thing is this: When you're sending out a job to a commercial printer, you want it to be PostScript friendly, and PostScript RIPs--which are the Raster Image Processors, the pieces of hardware that interpret the PostScript and set into the image setter, or the plate maker--they don't support any of this stuff. The RIP doesn't support Transparency; it doesn't support Blend modes and so forth. But the soft RIP built into the computer which is PDF does. So 99% of the time when you are printing directly from Illustrator you should have no problems. Where I've found that problem sometimes occurs is when you are going to take the document and place it inside of another program such as Adobe InDesign, which is a page layout program.
And in those cases I have run into situations where Blend modes don't print properly, Opacity doesn't work properly and where Gradients might not even print properly. Now it's still rare but it happens frequently enough, let's say about 2% or 3% of the time, that it's not a bad idea to protect yourself and create a bulletproof file. And there are all kinds of options available to you inside of Illustrator. If you go to the Window menu, you can choose Flattener Preview which brings up this panel and if you expand it, it's got just a ton of very complex options that allow you to essentially determine how vectors are going to be converted to raster art.
But I find rather than muddling through that, the easiest thing to do is just export a TIFF file, and here is how that works. Go up to the File menu and choose the Export command. If you loaded dekeKeys I have given you a keyboard shortcut of mash your fist X. So Ctrl+Shift+Alt+X or Cmd+Shift+Option+X on the Mac, and I have already created this guy right there, Rasterized lightbulb.tif. And by the way, you want to make sure to set your Save As Type option to TIFF not AutoCAD Drawing as by default. And the reason we use TIFF instead of for example, JPEG, is because TIFF offers lossless compression.
So you are going to get the best file possible. And in my case I have already saved the file out in advance, so as soon as I click the Save button Illustrator is going to ask me if I want to replace it, I will just say Yes for now, so we can get to the next dialog box. You probably want to leave your Color Model set to CMYK. You can set it to RGB if you are planning on creating Web art let's say, or printing to an Inkjet printer, but if you're preparing an image for commercial output you want to leave it set to CMYK. The Resolution by default is going to be set to High--300 ppi--which is just fine.
That's going to work out beautifully. You can go higher than that if you want to. You can choose Other and dial in your own value which could be as high as you like. However, it's going to take longer to render and most likely the PostScript printer is going to down sample it to 300 pixels per inch anyway. Anti-aliasing: if your document doesn't contain any text, you should leave it set to Art Optimized. If it contains small text, then you might want to go with Type Optimized so that Illustrator takes advantage of the hinting, which is useful generally for type sizes that are 12 points and under.
In my case I am not going to worry about it, I'm just going to set it to Art Optimized. You want LZW Compression to be turned on. That's going to result in a smaller file that is lossless compression. It's not going to create any problems and you definitely want to Embed an ICC profile and then you click OK. In my case, I am going to click Cancel because I have already created the file in advance for you. Now I am going to go to the File menu and choose Browse in Bridge in order to switch to Adobe Bridge as you can see here, and I will double-click on Rasterize lightbulb.tif in order to open it in Photoshop. And it looks great, right? Everything is rendering just perfectly.
We don't have any problems. Nothing is disappearing on this. All of the Blend modes and Transparency settings and Dynamic effects are being respected; they are all rendering great. The problem is, what's with this white at the top? And a little bit of white at the bottom? Well the culprit is this star. You can see if you look very closely here that the top of the star shape exceeds the artboard, and so Illustrator was rendering that out as well. We can solve this problem because we don't want to send this anywhere. We can solve this problem by turning on a checkbox that is turned off by default.
It shouldn't be, I don't think, but it is, so I will go ahead and switch back to Illustrator and here is the option. You go up to the File menu; you still choose the Export command just as before. You still want the File type to be TIFF; the rest of my advice still holds. The only difference is you want to turn on this checkbox right there, Use Artboards, and it does not stick. So just because you turn it on now doesn't mean it's going to be on tomorrow. Every time you bring up this dialog box, you are going to want to turn on Use Artboards again. Presumably you want to export all your artboards, but if you want to dial in a Range, you most certainly can.
I only have one artboard, so I would just click Save and run through the other steps. But instead I am going to click Cancel and show you what that looks like. By going back to the File menu and choosing Browse in Bridge and it's this file right here, Green light artboard-01. Illustrator automatically adds the 01 or if there is more artboards, 02, 03 and so forth. And you can see now that Illustrator has managed to create a file that's cropped to the artboard exactly as designed, and so again it looks great. Everything is working out perfectly.
Let's see one more scenario. I will go ahead and switch back to Illustrator and I will switch to this file right here called White Outlines. And the thing is sometimes you will run into situations where you see stuff on screen and you are curious, "Is this how it's going to print?" For example, can you make out those seams right there at the shoulders and at the hip? If I zoom in on the artwork, they continue to appear which generally indicates--if you don't see things fading in and out at different zoom levels--that generally indicates that that's a genuine problem and I could look into the culprit here.
For example I will click on this hip shape right there in order to select it and my selection edges are hidden. If I press Ctrl+H or Cmd+H you can barely see these yellow selection edges. Anyway I will press Ctrl+H or Cmd+H again to hide them; we don't want them to be visible as we are trying to figure this out. Now I will switch over to the Appearance panel and I had just naturally assumed that the stroke was the culprit because Illustrator is trying to draw a mini stroke back here, but if you turn the stroke off, then that doesn't solve the problem. We do have these little edges still around the shape, but it's not the stroke's fault.
So go ahead and turn it back on. The problem is this guy right here, this fill that's set to 50% Screen. It's a gradient and if I turn it off, notice the seams goes away, turn it on, the seam comes back. The thing is transparent and if I press the G key to switch to the Gradient tool, you can see that it starts opaque way down here and ends transparent at this point. So there is no way it should be affecting this region. So naturally what you would do right is print the document, but I'd like you to get out of the habit of printing unnecessarily to test problems, because you're probably not printing to a PostScript device.
And so unless you have got PostScript locally, you are not going to know how things are going to render from your commercial printer. Instead what you want to do is go ahead and export the file to TIFF. So I went to the File menu, chose the Export command, went ahead and turned on Use Artboards of course, clicked the Save button and switched the Resolution to Other and cranked it up to 600 ppi. Now I am not going to save that out in front of you because the progress bar would be on screen for quite a few moments because it takes a while for Illustrator to render out these files.
I have done it in advance. So I will just click on the Cancel button, go back to the File menu, choose Browse in Bridge again and then double-click on this guy, Gradient monster-01. Because I turned on the artboards--and we end up with this version of the file, and sure enough as I zoom in-- we do not have any seams either at the hip or at the shoulders. And if I go ahead and scroll over to the face here and zoom in to 100% I can see that everything is looking absolutely pixel perfect, down to every single Transparency and Blend mode setting that I've applied to countless gradients inside of this file, being intact. And not only that, the Knockout group has survived nicely as well.
So the moral of the story is, when in doubt, go ahead and export the file as a flat TIFF image, that way the pixels are all baked. The vectors are gone. There's nothing for the PostScript RIP to interpret. And then my recommendation is that you go ahead and send that file--for example this one right here--to whomever is going to lay out the artwork into InDesign or what-have-you. And not to be pedantic but I've laid out hundreds of manuscripts and I have created more than 80 of my own books as well and I can tell you from experience, this works out beautifully and the artwork ends up printing super sharp and super smooth.
And that's the most reliable way to prepare even complex artwork for commercial reproduction inside Illustrator.
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