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One of the main benefits of using Adobe Illustrator is the fact that any artwork that you create is completely scalable to any size. That's what we refer to as being resolution independent. Compared to Photoshop documents, which are tied to a specific resolution, an Illustrator file can be scaled to any size that you need. However, it's important to note that inside of Illustrator we do have several effects that we can apply to our document that do result in a rasterized result. For example, live effects like glows and shadows, those things do get rasterized. So when they do, which resolution do they get rasterized at? The answer is that there is a setting inside of Illustrator that determines it. But if you are not careful about paying attention to that setting, you may end up tripping yourself up when you want to print out your document.
Let me show you what I mean. I'm actually going to create a new document here. I'm going to press Command+N or Ctrl+ N on Windows to get the New Document dialog box. You can see that where it says New Document Profile, if I have the Advanced options open, and you can just simply toggle that by clicking on this Arrow here. I can see that for Web profiles, my Raster Effects are set to 72 pixels per inch. That means that if I create drop shadows or I apply Photoshop effects like Pixelate or Mezzotint, those kinds of things get rasterized at 72 PPI. However, when I change to a print profile, you could see that the Raster Effects are now set to a higher resolution or 300 pixels per inch. So Illustrator is really smart in that the profiles contain the raster effects resolution that's best optimized for the kind of work that you want to do.
However, there may be times when you have a print document that you've created and you are copying and pasting content into a document that's specified for web. Alternatively, you may be working with documents that other people have created and you are not really sure what resolution those documents are set to. Even in a more common scenario, this particular feature where Illustrator is smart enough to know which resolution you want to choose based on your profile, only became available when Illustrator started having new document profiles. That's been since Illustrator CS3. In fact, from versions Illustrator 9, all the way through CS2, the default Raster Effect settings for any kind of document is only 72 pixels per inch.
So if you have documents that you are working on that have been created in those versions, you will also need to adjust this Effect Setting. So let me show you exactly where this setting actually applies inside of a document, and then we'll talk about exactly why it's important to pay attention to the Setting as well. I am going to start with a print document that's currently set to 300 pixels per inch. When I click OK and that creates my new document here. I can actually change that setting here by going to the Effect menu and choosing Document Raster Effects Settings. By choosing that over here, you can see that right now it is set to the High setting. That's because I chose the print profile. Remember had I chose the Web profile, the default setting would have been 72 pixels per inch. These resolution settings apply to the following effects. I'll click Cancel here.
If I go to the Effect menu, anytime that I use the Stylize, Drop Shadow, Feather, Inner Glow or Outer Glow effects, those elements to be rasterized at a setting that is currently used for document Raster Effects settings. It's important by the way to pay attention to this first word here, Document. This setting applies to all objects in your file. You have really no way to select one object and have that rasterized at one setting and have another particular object rasterized at a second setting. It's a document wide setting. You will also notice that if you choose the Rasterize option, you will have the ability here to say Use Document Raster Effects Resolution. That way, if you ever do rasterize things, you can just say well, use whatever setting I have in one place.
There is actually one other area where this setting is incredibly important. I'll click on the Cancel button here. You can see that the Effect menu is actually split into two different categories, Illustrator Effects and Photoshop Effects. Now, all these effects right here are actually plug-ins or filters that have come directly from Photoshop. As such they are all raster in nature. Therefore, any of these settings that appear in this list here also get rasterized at the setting that is currently set in the Document Raster Effects Settings. Now it's important to realize this because this is actually split up into two different lists for a reason. I want to show you an example of exactly what I mean. I'm going to go over here to my toolbar, I'm actually going to use my regular Ellipse tool, and draw two circles on my page. Let me go ahead and create a copy of this. We'll leave them side-by-side right here. And what I'm going to do is I'm actually going to get rid of the strokes on them.
Let's choose a Red fill. So now I want to apply some effects to this. For example I'll click on this one on the left over here. I'll choose Effect, then I'll choose Stylize. Let's apply a Feather to this. I'll choose let's say for the Preview option here I'll use the 50 point Feather. That looks pretty good. Now, we'll come and select this object and I want to apply a different effect. I'll go over to the Effect menu, I'll choose Blur, and then I'll choose Gaussian Blur. Remember this appears in the Photoshop Effects list, not in the Illustrator Effects list. So I'm going to go ahead and choose Gaussian Blur. I'll choose a setting for example like 60 pixels. Click OK. I can see that now both these shapes have somewhat of a similar appearance as far as how fuzzy they are.
But let's say I decided that I now can take some artwork that I defined in this particular document for print, and then I want to re-purpose it for some kind of web design. That document might have a document Raster Effect Settings set to 72 pixels per inch, not 300 pixels per inch. Well, take a look at this. I'm actually going to go back to the Effect menu. I'm going to choose Document Raster Effects Settings. For this document, I'm actually going to change the resolution to 72 PPI and not 300 PPI. When I click OK, take a look what happens to these objects here. This Gaussian Blur, which used 60 pixels, became such a large blur. It even gets clipped by the edges here. However, the Feather itself really hasn't changed in appearance at all. Why did this happen? So let's take a closer look at exactly what each of these filters do.
When I click on this one over here, and I go to my Appearance panel, I see that I have a feather. I'm going to click on the Feather, and I can see that my Feather Radius is set to 50 points. Points is a relative measure. Just because I have added more pixels in my document, Illustrator does the mathematical equations to figure that how many pixels need to fit inside of 50 points. So the overall appearance of that particular feather stays the same. Now, I'll click Cancel. Let's take a look at this object right here which has a Gaussian Blur applied to it. When I open up the Gaussian Blur effect, I can see that over here the Radius is set to 60 pixels. Pixels is an absolute measure.
By changing the number of pixels in my document, well it was once before 300 pixels per inch, which means my pixels are very, very, very small. Now, I have set my document to 72 pixels per inch, which means that the pixels get bigger. Hence, my Gaussian Blur becomes much bigger as well. That's the real reason why you have two different settings inside of the Effect menu. Anything that appears inside of the Illustrator Effects menu, even if it does get converted to raster as a final result, for example the Drop Shadows and the Inner Glows. Those are still vector in nature which means that Illustrator just figures out what I need.
However, the Photoshop effects all rely on the actual pixel setting itself. As such, anything that you ever apply to this Photoshop Effects menu will change in its appearance when you change the Document Raster Effects Settings. Now I just want to point out one other important thing inside of Illustrator. There are actually two resolution settings inside of Illustrator. One is dealing with effects as we've just been talking about here. Whenever I apply any kind of effect inside of Illustrator and that effect ends up turning into a rasterized image, that image will get rasterized at whatever setting I have set in the Document Raster Effects Settings.
However, you may also know that when it comes to transparency flattening, you also have the ability to set your document to a Low, Medium or High Resolution Flattener Setting. For example, if I go over here to the Edit menu and I choose Transparency Flattener Presets, I see that there is Low, Medium and High resolution settings. These settings here actually have nothing to do with the Document Raster Effects Resolution Settings that we have been talking about until this point. The Low, Medium and High resolution settings only come into play when Illustrator needs to flatten artwork due to transparency. For example, if I have two overlapping gradients that are transparent, the areas of those overlapping gradients to become rasterized, do so at whatever setting you have set here, meaning Low, Medium or High.
However, just as an example, if you have your Document Raster Effects Resolution set to 72 pixels per inch, for example with a Web profile and you then choose the High Resolution Flattener Preset when you print your document, that Drop Shadow or any of those other rasterized effects will still print at the 72 PPI setting. Now in reality, if you are doing web design, you really don't care about Transparency Flattener Presets at all, because everything is just being rendered to the screen. However, in a print-based workflow, you'll always want to make sure that your Document Raster Effects Setting is set to 300 pixels per inch from the beginning. Remember if you actually receive a document that was created in an earlier version of Illustrator, say Illustrator CS2, that document may be set to 72 pixels per inch. If you change the Document Resolution setting to 300 pixels per inch, any of those Photoshop types effects may change in appearance. So it's just something actually to look out for.
In addition, when you do print your document, you also want to make sure you are using the High Resolution Flattener Preset when printing final output.
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