I'm trying to figure out if there is a proper way to save Print files. I ran into a transparency problem while saving PDF's from Illustrator (into ONYX), I found saving as both a TIFF and a PDF/X-1 & PDF/X-3 fixes the transparency issue.

I've read both TIFF's and PDF's are good for printing, but I noticed the TIFF dulls the color a bit compared to the PDF. I'm curious if anyone knows if thats just because of how tiff's save?

It seems like, from my research, PDF/X is the way to go, I just want to know if anyone is pro TIFF over PDF, and why.


You need to really know and understand what you are doing.

A decision on how to "save" a project to PDF or to Bitmap is not about transparency for print, which is irrelevant (You do not print transparent or white areas).

It is about preserving vectors or rasterizing project. It is about maintaining the native resolution of the embedded bitmaps or rasterizing all bitmaps into one big bitmap.

In general, PDF is an output format. It is not intended to be a working file or to transport assets. So if the PDF is good to print, it is good to print.

Regarding the "dull" colors it has probably more to do with the embedding of color profiles or a color conversion... You do not "Save" to either PDF or TIF... you "Export" which implies decisions, color mode, profiles, resolution, converting to curves, flattening, aliasing options, rasterizing or not, etc. And those desitions matter into the final result.

So, no. There is not PDF over TIF or Tif over PDF.

It is PDF or TIF, or JPG, or Native file, or whatever the project needs.


It doesn't really matter if the artwork is "at size".

If you are scaling artwork upon output, then a PDF is really the only viable output from a vector application such as Illustrator. You'll want the art to remain crisp. As vectors it will, as a tiff and pixels it probably will not.

PDF/X-1a does not support transparency. It will flatten all transparency. PDF/X-3 or greater will support transparency. I would generally recommend either PDF/X-1a or PDF/X-4. There's not a whole lot of call for anything in between.

Tiff doesn't typically support transparency either (Yes I know Adobe's tifs may appear to have transparency, but that's an Adobe trick - using underlying native data that is not inherent to the Tiff format). Colors should not be any different really. Except that a tiff will immediately flatten everything. If flattening causes color shifts, well that's due to flattening not the TIFF format specifically.

Tiffs can be smaller in file size, simply because it's one image rather than a whole lot of vector math data. If that's a concern. Generally it's not though. And if there's any apprehension about a vector PDF not being read correctly, a tiff certainly removes all that.

Ultimately there is no solid, universal, answer to this question. Each piece of artwork may or may not benefit from either format. In addition, any production house may be better suited to handle one format over another.

Now in terms of delivering artwork to a client.. I prefer Tiff when possible. Why? Because Tiffs can't be edited as easy as a vector PDF can be edited. Unless, of course, the client is paying for the vector editing ability.

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