To embed or not to embed?

Designers (and Printers) - what is your preference when sending an Illustrator Print Ready PDF to a printer with very large linked images? Do you embed? And if you do, would you leave as a PSD or convert to a TIFF and then embed?

Some background - this is for a 36x81" banner so embedding the files are increasing the file size by a lot. I always prefer to provide linked images separately but this printer wants them embedded.

What do you do?

For a PDF it won’t matter a sod if it’s embedded in Illustrator or not.

If you’re sending the illustrator file - either send them the linked images separately - or embed the images directly in Illustrator - either way the file size amounts to the same.

If you’re sending a PDF - then the images are automatically embedded in the PDF from the Illustrator file.

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As opposed to what? Sending the image separately and wanting the printer to do it for you? Maybe I’m not picking up on what you’re asking.

There’s no point in converting PSDs to TIFFs. PSD is an Adobe format and all the Adobe layout apps are compatible with it. I stopped converting to TIFFs, probably, ten years ago without a problem. Even the Affinity suite supports PSD — it’s become something of a standard.

Is the printer specifically asking for a PDF? Large format printers often prefer the native files since large format output sometimes involves fiddling with things a bit, which can be difficult when everything is bundled up into a PDF. When in doubt, I’ll sometimes send both.


Completely missed this.

This is 100% pointless.

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I’ll go back on this. As with every situation there are reasons to choose tiff over psd.

It can matter. But shouldn’t make a huge difference. Some scenarios psd is better, and vice versa.

Mostly I’d save as pdf if vector text, shapes or masks then pdf would be preferred.

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What I thought, as well. I never embed the image links. I always save as a PDF and send the image separately just as a precaution in case they need it (which they never do). This printer is telling me to embed all image links into the final PDF.

Yes, as opposed to sending the file separately. I always save as a PDF without embedding first, but will usually send the links separately as a precaution. This printer does not want native files and wants me to embed all image links first.

Thanks for clarifying about PSD and TIFF. I was unsure one was better resolution than the other and I also was unsure if embedding files meant compressing.

Thank you! Exactly what I was wondering - if it was an unnecessary step.

Transmission problem in communication or printer knowledge deficit.

ok, yes what I am thinking as well. I told him I would send a PDF with any image links on the side in case he needed them and he said he didn’t not want to have to adjust or touch the file at all but told me to make sure I embed all the image links.

Making a PDF that doesn’t contain all the content needed to print what you want printed makes no sense. Are you expecting the printer to open the PDF, then add the images that, for some reason, you didn’t want to embed. That’s a bad idea. Why do you not want to embed all the images into the PDF.

As I mentioned previously, sometimes I’ll send printers PDFs (with all the files included in the PDF) and an additional complete set of packaged native files. This give the printers the option of using the PDF or opening the InDesign or Illustrator file directly to make adjustments as needed. It makes no sense to bundle up only part of the files into a PDF, then send the remaining files as independent entities. If I were a printer, I’d likely send it back and request the designer bundle them up properly.

Again, I might be misunderstanding what you’re saying because what I’m thinking you’re doing doesn’t make much sense.

Resolution equates to the number of pixels crammed into a given area. When a one-inch row of 72 pixels is printed, the resolution is 72 ppi. If you cram 300 pixels into that inch, the resolution is 300 ppi. The resolution has nothing to do with whether it’s a TIFF, PSD, or some other file format.

As for compressing the embedded files when making a PDF, compression of those embedded files depends on the options you check when saving the PDF. You can specify degrees of lossy compression (as in a JPEG), lossless compression (as in a ZIP), or no compression at all. Saving an Illustrator or InDesign file to PDF always presents you with those compression options.

Doesn’t Illustrator embed the files the same way it embeds fonts when saving as a PDF? The printer told me he has no intention of adjusting or opening the file but is sending straight to print.

Either way, it makes no difference to me if I am embed the files or not as long as it makes no difference to the quality of the file during the print process - hence the main purpose of this post. I’ve never had a printer request a file be embedded when sending a PDF in the past (even though I always send the image separately just in case). So, I just wanted to make sure if they absolutely had to be embedded (which significantly increases the size) that I was putting the best file format in there.

Clearly, I’m overthinking the PSD vs TIFF format. The images are set to 300dpi.

As I said, maybe I misunderstood you. I thought you were saying you saved the PDF without the embedded linked files. If, instead, you’re saying that you send those files separately in addition to them being embedded (similar to fonts), that makes more sense.

If you do that, it’s similar to how I sometimes send a complete PDF and also the entire set of packaged files in case they’re needed. However, when I do that, I don’t only send the linked images; I send everything.

For what it’s worth, you’ve been discussing Illustrator. I sometimes embed images into Illustrator, but InDesign has better tools for managing linked files. Which I choose depends on the nature of the job, but in most cases, I’ll assemble the pieces in InDesign unless there’s a good reason not to.

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That was actually an honest question. I did not realize the images were embedded similar to fonts until it was mentioned elsewhere on this thread. So, just making sure I understood that correctly.

I think I am good from here on out. I’m going to save the PDFs just as I normally do, and then send the linked images in a separate folder in case he does have to open the file.

You don’t need to send the images separately.

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Illustrator provides a choice on whether to link to an image or to embed it. You can ensure an image is embedded via the links panel (Window > Links). In that panel, select the linked images, then click the hamburger menu in the panel and select “Embed.”

However, when you save an Illustrator document to PDF, any linked images are automatically embedded into the PDF.

On the off chance the printer needs to modify the files, you should package all the files rather than only gathering up the linked images into a separate folder. Substituting one file for another in Acrobat isn’t a straightforward process for various reasons. Of course, you could save the PDF with the “Preserve Illustrator Editing Capabilities” box checked, which would enable the printer to open the PDF as an Illustrator file, but there are issues there too.

As I mentioned, a better way to provide the printer with all the files as a backup is to package them. To do this in Illustrator (or InDesign), make sure to save your Illustrator file, then go to File > Package and select whatever options you want. Packaging the file creates a duplicate of the Illustrator file, the linked images, and the fonts (at least those with permissions that enable packaging). Doing this maintains all the links and enables the printer to open the Illustrator file and the linked files in the packaged file set to make whatever changes are needed and to print directly from the Illustrator file or even make a new PDF if needed for some reason.

Couldn’t you save and compress images over a certain size? If its for a really large banner to be viewed at a distance I’m not sure all the detail needs to be absolutely crisp unless. If the banner is hung up somewhere high enough you could probably get away with converting to 150dpi or even 75. If its high enough and far away.

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It’s for a 36x81" retractable banner that people will be likely standing next to and taking photos - about 10 banners with up close images of award winners for an event. I’m not super confident in how much I can compress an image that it won’t affect quality during printing. So, I’d rather just leave the file as.

Thank you. I’m rereading all of this and realizing why it’s coming off as confusing. I’ve always known how to embed links in Illustrator but never really had to use the option. I am picking up freelance jobs that I haven’t had in about decade. So most of what I had been designing over the years had been sent to gang printers (as this thread educated me on when I first joined) and only required a finished PDF and nothing more to upload. Working directly with a local printer and paying extra detail to how I save the file or how I provide the file is not something I have a whole lot of experience with. So… I am overthinking every little detail all the way down to not realizing that of course Illustrator is automatically embedding images when I save as a PDF; otherwise it wouldn’t be viewable as a PDF. Lot of scatterbrain moments here as I was feeling inundated with information. Thank you for clarifying all of that.

I have packaged contents in the past with InDesign. I don’t know why I never saw that option for Illustrator - I am self taught despite going to a community college for design. So there is always something basic that I just never came across. Did Illustrator always have that capability? Don’t answer that if it’s a yes. ha

I’ll make this my standard process for working with local printers moving forward. My client’s current printer hasn’t been as open to communicate with me based on reasons I mentioned in other threads - hence why I keep coming here for more guidance. I found a local printer near me who does ask for the files in the same way you are suggesting - there is this willingness to communicate exactly what is needed and that there will be a proof provided afterwards. I’m going to give him a shot and hopefully he’ll be a good fit for my clients and for me and I can have less headaches moving forward.

Thank you for breaking it all down!

Even when viewed at a relatively close distance, the raster imagery on a banner doesn’t need to be razor-sharp. It’s not as though someone will be holding it up at arm’s length and reading 12-point type on it. A resolution of 150 ppi would almost certainly be enough, and my guess is bringing it down even lower would be fine.

As long as the typography and other hard-edged objects are in a vector format, those elements will be razor-sharp. A photo or a background image on a banner just doesn’t need to have the same kind of sharpness that’s required for a brochure or a magazine held at a typical reading distance.

Below is a window graphic I designed a while back. People walk by it a meter or two away, The resolution of the large image was 90 ppi. Ideally, if the original photo had been larger, I would have kept the resolution at about 120 ppi, but honestly, it worked out fine at 90 ppi.

Depending on the image, I’m all but certain that a reasonable amount of JPEG compression on your banner images won’t be noticeable. If in doubt, compress one of the images in Photoshop using JPEG to see how it looks.

Yes, I understand your wanting to be safe rather than sorry, but there’s no need for overkill either.

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