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I do most of my work for the web and often use svg files, when I need vector graphics. I designed a logo as part of a project for a client, and the client now asks for an eps file with transparent background. I'm using Inkscape (on Linux), which cannot export eps with transparent background or gradients (without rasterizing it).

Would it be unprofessional to provide the svg files instead? I assume Illustrator/Photoshop can open svg files, and isn't eps a little dated anyways?
I know svg is great for the web, but I'm not sure what the client would miss out on in regard of print.

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    Software that can't create an EPS, is simply not professional-use-case software.
    – Fattie
    Feb 4 at 12:52
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    If you properly read the replies and question, the issue is not that Inkscape is not able to create EPS. The issue is that (semi-)transparency and gradients are not properly exported, which is because EPS does not support (semi-)transparent gradients.
    – jost21
    Feb 4 at 13:59
  • @Fattie - Inkscape can export EPS. That's not the problem here.
    – Billy Kerr
    Feb 4 at 20:00
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EPS is an old format with support for full transparency (i.e the background can be tranparent), and also supports the use of clipping paths for transparency around a raster image, but it doesn't support semi-transparent fills, or gradients with semi-transparency.

Doesn't really matter what software you use. It's not actually possible in a pure EPS format, and is a limitation of the format itself.

Adobe Illustrator EPS files are a bit different, since these also contain the editable Illustrator document as well as the EPS. Inkscape can't output an Illustrator EPS. So this route is not viable for you.

One possible workaround is to export the artwork as a PDF 1.5 from Inkscape. When opened in Illustrator, vector objects within the Inkscape PDF which contain semi-transparent gradients will be maintained. I just tested this and it appears to work quite well, although it throws a warning on opening complaining that an "unknown shading type was encountered", but clicking OK should open the document just fine, and the fill should be semi-transparent. In Illustrator, when I examine the fill, it appears as "non native art", possibly a raster image although I can't be sure, and is contained within a clipping path.

Here's a screenshot from Adobe Illustrator showing the Test PDF I created in Inkscape, displaying a semi-transparent gradient fill.

enter image description here

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    hmm... I read the Q differently... "transparent background --- or ---- gradients (without rasterizing)" - You're right though (like most of the time) a transparent gradient isn't possible in EPS.
    – Scott
    Feb 2 at 19:12
  • @Scott - yeah I kinda wondered. But if you open an AI EPS in Illustrator, semi-transparency is maintained because you are opening the AI document contained within it. The EPS itself however can't contain semi-transparency.
    – Billy Kerr
    Feb 2 at 19:17
  • Well, that depends upon the EPS version. AI10 EPS files will do more to support transparency. In my experience, when I'm asked for an EPS, providing an AI8 EPS is best - but that's merely my world. And AI8 EPS is 1-bit transparency. I think the bigger issue is gradients if they are always rasterized. No AI EPS format will do that with standard gradients unless there's some transparency introduced in the construction (i.e. blending modes, etc).
    – Scott
    Feb 2 at 19:19
  • @Scott Yeah, it can get complicated with all the different versions, and although EPS isn't dead yet, it maybe should be. I don't think I've actually used the format once in the last 5 years, possibly longer. My usual workflow is from AI straight to PDF, and send it off to the printer.
    – Billy Kerr
    Feb 2 at 19:23
  • It's kind of mandatory for embroidery and sign cutting can prefer EPS (I think for Corel Draw compatibility). Admittedly I rarely have a need for it, but it does still pop up once in a while. But yup.. most of the time I'm sending PDFs for just about everything.
    – Scott
    Feb 2 at 19:24
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SVG is often not suitable for...

  • Embroidery
  • Signage
  • Print production

When providing a logo you should provide usable formats for a range of things. SVG, EPS, AI, PDF, PSD, JPG, PNG, even GIF.

Simply because an SVG file can be opened in an editor and resaved is not a reason to fail to provide viable formats to the client. What if the client doesn't want to pay for the Adobe subscription and doesn't know anyone who does? If you, yourself, can't generate the format they need, what makes you think they can generate the format they need?

EPS is not "dead". It still has very viable uses, especially for older third party applications/uses. There are a wide range of specialty software applications that can only use EPS files. That's somewhat irrelevant though - if the client is asking for an EPS with transparency, you should be able to easily provide that.

You should be aware that what may seem easy to generate to you may seem insurmountable to the client. Client's typically won't know what formats are even possible or what a specific format is used for. They may be asking for an EPS because they were asked themselves for an EPS.

If you can't generate a proper EPS with your current software, then you need to upgrade. Or find someone with the proper software so you can farm things out. Don't leave the client sitting with files they can't use or in desperate need of a format they can't generate. That, to me, is the biggest unprofessional thing one can do.

Related: Logo Pack - What should I include?


All that being posted, if the client is asking for something which is simply not possible given the requested format, then you merely need to educate the client as to what the limitations of some formats may be.


Quite honestly, I think this all comes down to a reader's particular purview.

If all, or much, of what one works on is web-related, then they'll see SVG as very useful and reliable. I would ask these designers how they would feel if they request an SVG file, but are given a PDF or EPS instead -- a format that can't be directly used on the web -- and don't possess anything capable of converting PDF/EPS to SVG?

If all, or much, of what one works on is print and press related, then they'll see SVG as unreliable and often unusable without conversion to a more appropriate format.

So, it's only natural that one sees web designers or programmers arguing that SVG is "great"... when, in reality, it's absolutely not for print work.

It's not about availability, but more about usability.. it's about the need for something to convert SVG to a usable format when SVG is unsuitable. Clients don't have that most of the time.

Ultimately.... If a client asks for an EPS, give them an EPS. There are valid reasons to fulfill such a request.

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    I strongly disagree with the list of applications SVG not being suitable for. At my place of work, we actually prefer SVG for signage, engraving and embroidery. Inkscape is available for free – which is a plus for the client. The file format is relatively easy to parse and understand, which helps with automation. So much for production. On the web, SVG is the most ignored standard for logos. SVG is only unsuitable for print since one typically cares about exact CMYK representation. However if that is not the case, SVG is fine, too.
    – Hermann
    Feb 3 at 12:27
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    Thanks for the answer and the Logo Pack link, this is very useful. I think I understand what you are trying to say, but I think "the biggest unprofessional thing one can do" is a little extreme. If I want to eat a fruit that's convenient to eat while walking and order an apple, I wouldn't be satisfied if I get a pear delivered without any comment, even though it would match most of my requirements. I was rather thinking if it would be okay to discuss with the client if another format could an option for them and if svg is a "professional" format. I can see that CMYK would be a big issue.
    – jost21
    Feb 3 at 15:22
  • @Hermann .. again you may be able to easily convert an SVG is necessary.. but "Bob" - the owner of "Bob's Garage" won't be able to. And who is printing CMYK and doesn't care about accurate color? I never meant to imply SVG is "bad". Not at all. Merely that there are viable reasons something other than SVG is necessary.. and I personally, think one should't rely on any client being adept and switching formats.
    – Scott
    Feb 3 at 19:25
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    @jost21 In my opinion, SVG a "professional" format (see my previous comment). I suggest checking back with the client, educate them that, when working with you (do not forget that other designers may use different tools), EPS and semi-transparency do not mix too well. Then you can agree to either switching to a file format both of you are comfortable with (whether SVG or PDF does not matter) or drop the semi-transmarency from the content. If they insist on having EPS, you go and buy a Mac or install Windows and Adobe Illustrator, then put the license fees on their tab. ;)
    – Hermann
    Feb 3 at 22:49
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    "What if the client doesn't want to pay for the Adobe subscription and doesn't know anyone who does?" Isn't that an argument in favor of using an open format such as SVG?
    – jamesdlin
    Feb 4 at 10:21
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but I'm not sure what the client would miss out on in regard of print

What the client will be missing is color accuracy. It used to be that most printers will refuse to accept RGB files which by extension means all Inkscape svg files.

The reason for this is that they risk the client rejecting their print jobs due to the colors not matching. These days printers will simply force you to pay for the print jobs by having a clause in the contract that you accept color inaccuracies because you sent an RGB file. But I still know a few printers that still reject RGB jobs.

CMYK SVG

Now, with regards to CMYK and svg files. It's complicated.

The W3C released a spec for SVG with support for color profiles. Using that mechanism it is possible in theory to support CMYK colors. However, to date no web browser or graphics software support CMYK svg. In addition, supporting CMYK via color profiles is more of a hack and is not what color profiles was originally designed for.

Because of this Inkscape developers refuse to support CMYK svg until it becomes more standard in other software because no other software would be able to open the file correctly. (BTW, it's the same reason why Inkscape does not support multi-page documents).

Workaround

There is a workaround to this. You can open your Inkscape file in another program and convert all colors to CMYK (you will notice that some of your design colors will change since some RGB colors are impossible to print because RGB is made out of light and CMYK is made out of ink - this is the exact scenario clients want to avoid, designers using unprintable colors for their logos).

If you don't have Adobe Illustrator you can download and install the open source Scribus. Using either program you can convert screen colors to printing colors (CMYK, spot etc) and then save the file as EPS.

It is an additional step in your workflow but it saves headaches at the printer.

Pro tip: If your client ask for Illustrator files one trick is to export as PDF and then change the file extension to .ai. This is because the current file format for Adobe Illustrator is a superset of the PDF file format. In addition if you ever need to edit Illustrator files in Inkscape just rename the extension to .pdf to allow Inkscape to open it.

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  • The workflow with Scribus kinda works, the result is not rasterized, but looks different (besides the colors due to the CMYK converion) than the pdf version. I will have to look into what might be the culprit, maybe a mask/clip or similar
    – jost21
    Feb 3 at 15:30
  • Do note that Scribus handling of text from svg sucks. If you have text convert them to paths first before importing to Scribus. Text created from inside Scribus itself are OK. It's just the algorithm they use when importing text from svg
    – slebetman
    Feb 3 at 15:33
  • I tried to summarize what I understood and learned in a separate answer, since it would be too long for a comment
    – jost21
    Feb 4 at 10:54
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Thank you all for your replies, all three answers so far were very helpful and highlighted different aspects. I will try to compile and summarize into one answer, what I understood from reading your input (I apologize if putting that into it's own answer isn't appropriate).

  1. Just providing SVG files for logos is not sufficient, since it lacks CMYK support and therefore is unsuitable for print color accuracy.
  2. SVG is a professional file format for the industry, if the use case are websites or some other mediums that use RGB [edited].
  3. EPS is an old format with support for full transparency (i.e the background can be tranparent), and also supports the use of clipping paths for transparency around a raster image, but it doesn't support semi-transparent fills, or gradients with semi-transparency. [Billy Kerr] Therefore EPS has its limitations and it might be impossible to provide a pure EPS file in certain situations.
  4. Adobe Illustrator EPS is different than EPS, since additional information is stored within the file.[1]
  5. It would be okay ("professional") to discuss with the client their use case and whether they really want/need EPS. Educate them about the limitations of EPS and offer suitable alternatives (maybe PDF).
    If they insist on EPS, either upgrade your workflow so you can provide EPS or don't accept the job.[2]
  6. EPS might be necessary for some use cases (e.g. embroidery, signage, engraving, laser-cutters,...), if the tool the client might want to use cannot handle other formats.
  7. SVG editors (i.e. Inkscape) cannot provide (Illustrator) EPS, but there are work-arounds to provide other printer ready CMYK file formats (see answers @BillyKerr, @slebetman).
  8. Maybe most importantly, but not specific to this question: Think about what is most convenient for the client and provide a complete logo pack so the client will have the suitable file for any situation and use case.

Addition:

  1. A logo MUST be able to exist in formats that don't support semi transparency . [@slebetman, see comment below for explanation]

For more details, please read the other answers and comments. Especially the ones by @Scott, @BillyKerr, @slebetman, @Hermann, and @joojaa

Useful resources


[1] This seems to me, this is potentially not an ideal solution either. I would assume the result then differs whether the client opens the file in Illustrator or not, when using for example gradients with semi-transparency. Assuming everybody is able to work with Adobe seems flawed, even though probably the vast majority in the industry does. Correct me, if I'm wrong.
[2] Or maybe offer a discount? That would be preferable to me than getting a Mac/WindowsPC with Adobe subscription for something you only need every once in a while.

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    I'd also like to add that logos are not like other designs. A logo MUST be able to exist in formats that don't support semi transparency - consider the client want to erect a large statue of the logo cut out of stainless steel in front of their headquarters. Or consider how their logo can be embossed on postcards. Big companies like Google, Exxon, Walmart have rules for how to render their logo in CMYK, RGB, greyscale and black & white
    – slebetman
    Feb 4 at 11:55
  • @Fattie, thanks, I changed it
    – jost21
    Feb 4 at 13:52
  • @Fattie, do you mind sharing in what "certain situations SVG is wrong" in the game industry? I don't think it necessarily means SVG is not a professionally accepted file format, just because it is not suitable for all situations for digital mediums. Those two statements are not mutually exclusive.
    – jost21
    Feb 4 at 19:22
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    you're quite right @jost21 , disregard the words "Actually that's wrong" :) (I cannot edit it now)
    – Fattie
    Feb 4 at 19:26
  • One point about svg, in the game industry (which, recall, by dollar value is overwhelmingly the biggest) in certain situations SVG is wrong and won't work / doesn't help.
    – Fattie
    Feb 4 at 19:26

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