Reducing Bloated Illustrator Files

March 11, 2004 - 3:00am ||| 0 Comments | Add new

Each new version of Adobe Illustrator adds at least a few new palettes, each with its own presets to get you started, like the ones in Graphic Styles, Symbols and Brushes. Unless you explicitly delete those presets before you save your Illustrator file, the default options come along for the ride, increasing file sizes and leading to the malady known as Illustrator Bloat.

Illustrator Bloat can get in the way when you're emailing files, when you're running out of hard drive space, when you're creating hundreds of small Illy files for inclusion in a layout program or as web graphics.

It wasn't always this way. I remember I once designed a tabloid-sized, CMYK magazine cover in Illustrator v6 and the final .eps file was 92K. And then I put it on a floppy and walked ten miles through a blizzard to deliver it to the client, because that's what we did before e-mail, dadgumit.

As a comparative test, try this: Open a recent version of Illustrator and create a new letter-size CMYK document. Drag out a plain old rectangle somewhere on the page using the default settings (1 pt. black stroke, white fill). Save the file in native .ai format using the default settings as well.

On my Mac running OS X, creating this with Illustrator CS (the latest version) results in a file that's 468K. For a rectangle!

Turning off PDF Compatibility in the Save dialog doesn't help, in fact, it increases the file size, even if you keep "Use Compression" turned on. (My rectangle grew to 536K when I tried it.)

To slim down your files, you could tediously go through every palette menu, choose Select Unused, and click the trash can icon to delete them.

Or if you have Illustrator CS, you could run a built-in Action meant for just this task:

1. With your bloated file open, open the Actions palette (from the Window menu).
2. Select the tenth one down, Delete Unused Palette Items, and Play it.
3. If you've already saved the file, do a Save As and overwrite the previous file.

Running this action and overwriting the file reduced my original rectangle.ai file from 436K to a far more palatable 120K. Woo-hoo!

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Permanent Unbloating
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If you'd like all your new files to start out pre-slimmed, just run the "Delete Unused" Action on the templates that Adobe Illustrator uses whenever you create a new document. (Or if you have an earlier version of Illustrator without the Action, you can manually delete the presets, as described above, on the same templates.)

These two files — one for RGB docs, one for CMYK — are in the program folder holding the Adobe Illustrator application. Where exactly in that folder depends on the version of the program, but they always have the word "Startup" in them and they're always actual Illustrator documents.

In Illustrator CS, look in the Plug-ins folder for the files "Adobe Illustrator Startup_CMYK.ai" and "Adobe Illustrator Startup_RGB.ai". Put duplicates of these in a safe place in case you need to revert to their defaults. Then open one of the templates in Illustrator, run the Action, and do a Save As to overwrite the file.

Try it, and then create a new file in Illustrator. You'll see it opens without any of the default presets, and starts out as only 100K in size or so instead of 400K+.

To retrieve those default presets for a given palette in your document, use the palette menu's Load… command and choose either Default_CMYK or Default_RGB from the list of files you can load.

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