Release Bulletproof files into production.?? Part One: There is no upside to saving a file in the .eps format.

The .eps file format A.K.A. "Your Boss's Boss's solution for everything"??

The .eps file format was originally developed to allow the placement of art from one program into another.??The .eps allowed you to place Illustrator or Freehand files into Quark documents, Quark Documents into other Quark documents, Pagemaker files into Quark documents, Quark Documents into Pagemaker files and everything in-between. There was even a time when the only way to process an InDesign file was to export it to an .eps. In the beginning an .eps was the Panacea for all things Desktop Publishing.

SOPs we all relied on to solve Yesterday???s file processing problems are actually creating problems in todays prepress environment. While your heart may be in the right place, it is possible that the extra work you are doing to help out the folks downstream may actually be making things more difficult. In this series I want to address common problems that find there way into my prepress department. Most of which are born out of the well intentioned hoping to make my job easier. Time to let go of some old standards and embrace the new way of doing things. Embedding fonts and images into your illustrator file rather than saving them in the .eps format is a prime example of how things should be done today.

While the .eps definitely solved a lot of problems early on, at its core it was really just a work-around. An encapsulated postscript file is just what it sounds like. It is a mini postscript file that can be placed into any ???Parent??? file or document. Since Quark, Pagemaker and other desktop publishing programs had no idea how to parse art files created in anyone else's software, an .eps or "Encapsulated Postscript" was put into a layout document in place of the native file. When the parent file was printed the host program did not need to know how to parse the various linked files because they were parsed (.eps) already. In the early days of desktop publishing the .eps ???work-around??? was just what the industry needed. While everyone wanted to be the design software that could truly stand alone, no-one wanted to be the program that didn???t play nice with any software used to create logos and edit images.


With advancements in design software and the standardization of file processing the .eps format has become a work-around that is not only obsolete, but generally creates more problems than it solves. The .eps is a "One size fits all" format that has been streamlined for processing. As History has proven, when something is designed to be all things to all people it rarely does any one thing particularly well.


What goes wrong with the streamlined .eps format?

Sometimes "streamlining" includes flattening. Images might be down-sampled to reduce file size. Occasionally art is merged from many complex but highly organized layers into a single ???simple??? layer. There was a time when computers needed all the help they could get (think back to computers with 25mb of ram. but I digress). Given the processing power of todays design softwares, computers and processors a streamlined file is no longer necessary.


Don't get me wrong, as long as your file is perfect and you save it correctly and no changes have to made you can get away with saving the file in the .eps format. IMHO perfect is a pretty tall order. Better??to save your files in such a way that if anything is slightly askew the prepress department can bail you out. Especially when doing so gives you all the benefits of the .eps format with none of the risks.


Avoiding the .eps format

You can (and should) embed your fonts and images while saving your Illustrator file. Saving your file in this manner allows it to be reviewed by anyone with adobe acrobat which can be a huge benefit. Your file can also be put into production by the prepress department without even opening it which can save time and money. Your Boss???s Boss accomplished this objective by exporting an illustrator file to an .eps format. While that option is still available there are several reason???s why you shouldn???t go there.


1) An .eps cannot be viewed in acrobat without first being distilled. (did I mention that if you save your file like I'm suggesting??it can be viewed in Adobe Acrobat?)

2) Saving an Illustrator file in .eps format will significantly increase the file???s size. (Sometimes as much as 10X!)

3) If you don???t export to an .eps correctly or you are using an older software you might flatten the art and/or merge everything onto a single layer.

4) A correctly flattened file may process properly, but lacks the flexibility a prepress department needs to make any adjustments or changes.

5) A flattened file almost always messes with automated and manual trapping processes.


When you save your final ai file, check these 3 boxes and you will have created an ai file that accomplishes the same objectives as saving in the .eps format with none of the potential downside. "Create a PDF Compatible File" is the magic button that allows the office staff to review your production file in Adobe Acrobat!

Embed your Fonts and Images as you save your file

Brace yourself?????? The Photoshop .eps is also obsolete and can be problematic.

While file size difference between the .eps and other formats is not an issue there are other potential problems that arise when you place a Photoshop .eps file into Illustrator. The Illustrator file will process fine if it does not have to be opened but If the file has to be opened to adjust bleed or address any other issue, the embedded Photoshop .eps files will come up as missing. Ergo, If you have placed Photoshop .eps images you will have to provide the source files along with the layout file or hope your file is perfect.

??This??is a screen shot of a correctly saved Illustrator file with embedded .eps, .tif and .psd??images opened with out any of the external links available.
(It should also be noted that if your ai file includes live fonts they will need to be loaded when you open the file for any reason. Embedded fonts are only active if you process a the file without opening it)

The Photoshop .eps is obsolete because using recent software versions you can save .tif files with spot color channels and clipping paths (You can also save .tif(s) with transparent backgrounds and multiple layers but I personally would prefer that you save them as .psd files). You can place .psd files into your layout file. All of these formats will embed properly in the layout file (meaning if the file has to be opened these image file formats will not come up as missing). The Photoshop .eps is problematic because even if you save your illustrator file properly a placed .eps image can still bite you on the back side.


??????as long as you don't have to open the file to make any changes or adjustments?????? never happens. There is always something that needs to be tweaked. Use today???s file formats and best practices so us prepress technicians can make those minor adjustments and or changes for without harshing your mellow.


(I process 50 unique files per week from agencies large and small and every time I look at a new file I am amazed and wish I had your creative talent. So as a technician who aplauds creativity in all its forms, I say this with all the love and respect in the world. A file that is ready for production is a rare occurrence. Not because I choose to pick nits but because my part in the process??is to make sure your art goes??through the production process without a hitch. In a perfect world, this series would put me right out of business. But I???m OK with that. I could use some time off :-)

January 2017