The built-in PDF export and saving options for Illustrator sucks.

Very painful when working with multiple pages and multiple files/documents.

If I use "Save As", it's suddenly a PDF, not an AI document. If I edit it, I have to remember to save back to AI so that it's the latest iteration!

If I use the export function for multiple PDF's (based on artboards in Illustrator) all the PDF file sizes are the same! regardless of what's in that particular artboard in Illustrator!

Everything would be, like, 64MB even if one artboard/PDF export is blank!

This is the latest Illustrator CC 2024, you guys. Augh.

  • Hi. When you use Save As, you should check what format you are saving it in. I can't reproduce the problem. A document doesn't "suddenly" become a PDF, unless I save it as a PDF. If I save it as an AI, it is saved as an AI file.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jan 30 at 12:34
  • No, I mean my problem is saving it as multiple PDFs. Illustrator just makes it hard to do it. Okay, I suddenly have an idea for the Adobe team: instead of an AI "suddenly becoming a PDF" on "Save As", there should be an option where it will save a PDF but remain an AI file as I'm editing it. (Editing a PDF presents problems in Illustrator, especially in cross-machine situations). Commented Jan 30 at 12:48
  • I am having a hard time understanding the problem. Are you asking how to manage exporting a PDF (without Illustrator capabilities) to save on file size and saving the working file in one export?
    – AndrewH
    Commented Jan 30 at 14:28
  • 2
    Illustrator makes it fuzzy what happens when you save a file. The whole idea of saving as PDF with "preserved editing capabilities" is crazy! Gives you PDFs with AI files inside. In my opinion it shouldn't be possible to "save" a PDF. It should instead be "exported" to distinguish between working file and final file for production/distribution.
    – Wolff
    Commented Jan 30 at 14:36
  • You can fix this by making sure you always save your AI before saving as a PDF.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jan 30 at 17:12

1 Answer 1


File > Save a Copy... is your friend.

Don't Save As.. for a PDF.. Save A Copy... for a PDF.
Option/Alt+Shift+S rather than Command/Ctrl+Shift+S

This, leaves the open document as the original .ai file and merely saves a PDF to disk.
(Similar to how InDesign exports PDFs as separate files rather than replacing the open document.)

I absolutely agree that saving as a PDF should not make the open document then the PDF. But it's been this way since.. well.. AI10 I think. No hopes of it being addressed soon.

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