Getting Files Out of Illustrator

Getting Files Out of Illustrator

Files that are native to Illustrator (files saved in the Illustrator format within Illustrator) can’t be read by every application. However, these files are Portable Document Format- (PDF) based, so any application that can read PDFs generated by Acrobat 5 or a later version (including Acrobat Reader 5.0) can also read Illustrator files. For the applications that can’t read Illustrator-native files, Illustrator can export a number of different file formats.

To decide which format to use, consider the eventual use of the file. For instance, if you’re posting your artwork on a Web page, you probably want to use either JPEG or GIF formats. (Find out more about these formats in Chapter 16.) If you want to place your file in a Microsoft Word document, you can use EPS, EMF, or BMP formats. (More on those formats in a moment.)


Typically, the manual that accompanies your software describes which file formats it accepts. Illustrator supports the export of 17 different formats, so just choose a format that works in the target application from the list of available formats.

To export your artwork in a certain format, choose File→Export from the File menu, choose the format you want from the Format list, and save the file. Some Export formats open an additional dialog box for that specific file format after you click Save. You’ll also find various file formats under the Save for Web command, such as PNG, GIF, and SVG as well as JPEG and SWF, which are also found under the Export command.


Not all file formats support vector-based data! (See Chapter 2 for details.) If you use EPS, PDF, Flash, or SVG, you preserve your paths; but most other formats convert your Illustrator files to pixels.

The following list is a brief summary of the most useful file formats available in Illustrator:

  • EPS: Encapsulated PostScript files are accepted by most software packages. Raster and vector-based data are preserved in EPS files.

  • For more information about vector-based and pixel-based graphics, see Chapters 2 and 16.

  • GIF: Graphics Interchange Format files are commonly used on the Web for files with few colors (good for solid-color logos and text).

  • JPEG: Joint Photographic Experts Group files are highly compressible files that are used on the Web. They’re especially good for photographs.

  • PNG: Portable Network Graphics files are the most flexible of the Web formats, providing support for compression and detail in a single file format.

  • TIFF: Tagged Image File Format files are the industry standard for pixel-based images for print work.

  • PDF: Portable Document Format files are designed to keep the look and feel of the original artwork and can be read by anyone with a copy of the free Adobe Acrobat Reader (

  • PICT: PICT files are the built-in Macintosh pixel format. Export any graphics to be viewed on Macintosh screens as PICT files.

  • BMP: BMP files are the built-in pixel format of Windows. Use the BMP format to export any graphics that will be viewed on Windows screens.

  • EMF: Enhanced MetaFile formatted files are perfect for embedding graphics in Microsoft Office applications, such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

  • PSD: Photoshop Document files are native Photoshop files, which can contain Photoshop layer information.

  • Flash: Flash files are a vector-based graphic format for the Web.

  • SVG: Scaleable Vector Graphics files are the up-and-coming Web standard of vector-based graphic formats.


Whenever you export files, use the same name as the original document file but with a different extension (the three letters after a filename, traditionally required by Windows and DOS computers). These letters tell you the format of the file just by looking at its name.