Illustrator is used to create vector artwork, which by nature has a relatively small file size. The files that I work on usually are 500KB to 2MB. By contrast, the files that Mike works on in Photoshop can be anywhere from 20MB to 200MB.
Recently I created two files for rubber stamps using the artwork shown above, and submitted them to the stamp manufacturer. I was told that my artwork was too large for the art department, and that both files needed to be under 1MB. (I won’t go into how ridiculous it is that a company’s art department can’t handle a file that is over 1MB, but I will say that printers are notorious for poor websites and outdated software.)
Since my artwork was already incredibly basic, to reduce my file size I needed to actually discard the “extras” that Illustrator throws in to every document. I simply opened up my symbols palette, selected everything and dragged it to the trash. Then I did the same with my graphic styles and brushes palettes. When I saved, my artwork was now about 200 KB instead of 1.2MB.
If I want to start a document that is already FREE of all the extras (most of these “extras” are just basically junk anyway) the quickest way is to open a raster image with Illustrator, like a jpg or a png. Illustrator will open an Illustrator document that has that image embedded. You can simply delete the image, reset your document color mode if needed (File > Document Color Mode) and get to work in a document that is stripped of any extra padding!
Normally this isn’t something you have to worry about, actually. But sometimes your document has a surprisingly large file size. If this is the case and you need to know why, look for the following in your document:
Do you have raster images that you have brought into your document? If so, how large are they? And how many images do you have, or how many copies of the same large image? You can reduce your file size by only using raster images that are already sized correctly. For example, if I am doing a baby announcement that has five photos in my 5×7 card, then probably most of these images are only going to be 1 or 2 inches tall or wide. I can reduce my file size if I’m working with five 2-inch photos rather than five 17-inch photos that I’ve sized down to 2 inches in Illustrator.
A couple years ago a student was having major problems with her file size. Her Illustrator file was unmanageable and in fact too large to even save and send to me to troubleshoot. Since she couldn’t save her document, she was going to lose all her work. What we discovered is that she had used a high resolution 12-inch PNG, sized down to 1 inch, as a pattern swatch. Then she had applied the pattern swatch to several objects in her document. So Illustrator was essentially making hundreds of copies of a very large raster file within the document. As a program that is meant to handle vector graphics, not raster graphics, Illustrator was simply incapable of dealing with this.
If you are unsure of what raster images may be in your document, open your links panel (Window > Links). This will list any raster images that are either embedded or linked in your file.
Have you performed a complex live trace? The more objects your Illustrator document has, the larger the file size is. (But don’t worry! Illustrator is much more capable of handling thousands of vector objects than it is at handling several high resolution photos.)
Are you using raster effects in your Illustrator document? Like textures or drop shadows? These will increase the size of your Illustrator document. If you need to reduce the size, consider, are you designing for print or web? If you are designing for web, go to Effects > Document Raster Effect Settings and change it to 72 DPI. This will decrease your file size and help Illustrator render your graphics more quickly. (In fact, even when I’m dealing with print, I usually have my document set to 72 DPI while I’m designing, and then when I’m ready to save for print, I will change it to 300 DPI.)
If you have a large file size and don’t understand why, feel free to leave me a comment!