I have been preparing artwork for a vinyl album jacket, inner sleeve, etc. A friend offered to check these for me before I bothered sending them to the pressing company. I put three very large Illustrator files up on Google Drive:

  • album jacket - 193.7 MB
  • inner sleeve - 299.6 MB
  • center labels - 8.7 MB

I surmised that these file would include the images I had placed, because they are so large. Furthermore, the inner sleeve document is smaller than the album jacket, but it has much higher-resolution images. I assumed from these facts that the image data is, in fact, in these documents.

My friend downloaded and opened these Illustrator files and could not see the images for some reason:

OK, big problem. The images aren't linked. So the files are empty. You need to resave them, and choose "Embed image files."

Some notes about the files:

  • Illustrator files created using CS4 (yes, I know this is fairly old, but it's what I have)
  • Images placed directly from Photoshop CS4 files in CMYK mode
  • I did not separately include the Photoshop files—it seemed unnecessary, because the Adobe Illustrator files are so large I assumed image data was included
  • Aside from the images, there is nearly nothing in these documents except some template marks (bleed, crop, safe lines, etc.).

What steps should I take to prepare these files to send to the pressing company? I'm very much hoping I won't have to recreate them, but I am willing to do so, as long as I can be sure I'm not wasting my time and just creating more broken Illustrator files.

Other questions: Must I first export my image files to TIFF format or is it OK to place the Photoshop files directly? Must I purchase/download the latest Illustrator and Photoshop to remedy this problem?

  • 4
    I don’t understand what the problem is. The note from your friend tells you exactly what you need to do: either send the images along as well or embed them in the Illustrator files. Currently, the images you see in your Illustrator file are just hyperlinks to the actual image files on your machine, which your friend doesn’t have access to. Send your friend the files and they can update the links; embed them and they become part of the Illustrator file itself. Note: embedded files won’t update if you edit the original in Photoshop. Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 22:57
  • 3
    Usually you would send pdf files to the printer.
    – joojaa
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 23:05
  • @JanusBahsJacquet the illustrator files are already ENORMOUS. One is 300MB. Surely the image data is already in the file? Also, I've copied the largest to my wife's Mac, and she was able to open the file using Preview and see the image without any missing images or font complaints.
    – S. Imp
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 23:11
  • No, Illustrator files can easily be 300 MB if you use lots of vector effects, gradients, drop shadows and things like that. Preview can’t open Illustrator files, only the PDF-like thumbnails they contain, which do have the image, but only as a lower-resolution thumbnail. You also didn’t say anything about how big the Photoshop files are – I have many PS files which are >1 GB in size, and obviously those wouldn’t be embeddable in a 300 MB Illustrator file. Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 23:14
  • 1
    I can't explain the underlying code at work. But AI doesn't simply reference a linked file, there's more to it... something under the hood to ensure color or compatibility, etc. Whereas InDesign really only references all linked assets.
    – Scott
    Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 1:04

3 Answers 3


In Illustrator... Open the Links Panel.

Linked images have no icon to the right of the name in the Links Panel....

enter image description here

Highlight a linked image and choose Embed Image from the panel menu.

enter image description here

Embedded images have an icon to the right....

enter image description here

(Above shows Illustrator CS6 panel)

The procedure is the same for all raster formats - .psd, .tif, .png, etc. Embedding the images is going to increase the file sizes (kb).

I believe this procedure has been the same since roughly Photoshop 3 and Illustrator 8.
(I do mean 3 and 8 - not CS or CC versions - the fact you may be using CS4 shouldn't really matter.)


Once you have embedded the images as @Scott suggests, you can keep the file size smaller if you uncheck the "Create PDF Compatible File" option in the Illustrator Options save dialog.

enter image description here

If you were to enable the PDF option, your file size will double. Essentially every image will be included twice, once in the Illustrator document, and also in the PDF document (which will be included in the AI file).

I tested this. An Illustrator file containing an embedded raster image, without the PDF, is half the size of the same AI file that includes the PDF.

enter image description here

  • But does nolonger work in preview
    – joojaa
    Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 10:10
  • @joojaa - sure, but that's the price to pay if you want a smaller AI file.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 10:12
  • Or one could only send a PDF file.
    – joojaa
    Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 10:26
  • @joojaa - of course, but in the comments the OP says the printer doesn't list PDF as an acceptable format.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 10:30
  • 1
    Come now, what can they possibly need the AI file for that the PDF does not do except hgat their hands on the original file.
    – joojaa
    Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 10:47

Trying to answer each of your questions...

Presses take PDF files directly. I don't think I've had to supply Illustrator files in a very long time. Maybe they're asking for your source files because they know you're new at this and didn't want to have too much back and forth with you to get a proper PDF file.

If file size is a major concern, export your PSDs to a flat format, i.e. doesn't have layers, and embed or link those exported files instead. This is something to do at the very end of your process because it would be tedious to keep updating this flat image every time you change the corresponding PSD. Check with the press if they have requirements about using CMYK or RGB.

The latest Illustrator has a "package" feature that addresses the issue of how does one send all the project files. I don't think you need to get the latest Photoshop.

  • To be honest pdf is not necessarily flat. It can be though.
    – joojaa
    Commented Jul 12, 2022 at 7:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.