Illustrator is not the most performance oriented software for design. It's alright for small layouts or vectors but it's not really built like Indesign for huge files. Unless you set your preferences accordingly, some file formats will have their full high resolution preview shown in Illustrator and of course this will slow you down if Illustrator needs to render a few. You can do layouts with it but can't simply import things in a pull-up banner/large scale layout the same way you would with a lettersize flyer.
Your printer probably provided you the template and suggested what ppi you should use. So I guess you followed these instructions and now you're having performance issues.
When you do big projects like this, you have 2 options:
1) Use Indesign/QuarkXpress and do your design at half the size but double the resolution.
InDesign has better performance because of the way it links the images and you also have more control on the quality of the previews. You can import your template in Indesign and all your other elements.
Working with Indesign or Quark isn't very different from Illustrator but it far better for large files. You should really see a difference and it's a good habit to start doing layouts with one of these software actually.
2) Use Illustrator but work intelligently
- What can be done in vector should be done in vector because it's
usually faster to process and lightweight compared to raster images.
- Don't embed the files, simply link them.
- If you import Photoshop montages, don't link a PSD with the layers...
Link an eps with a Maximum quality JPG preview for example. This file
is flattened and light too compared to other raster. Some people will be horrified at the mention of "JPG" but for a trade booth design, it's alright if it's saved at high quality; it's not a Dali reproduction. Plus, nothing stops you from doing your work with JPG and THEN relink these files with another "better" format when you're done. Any flattened image will be better than linking directly a PSD with the layers.
- Whatever file you'll import, the heavier the linked files the more
your suffer of "lag"
- You can also look in your preferences in Illustrator and set the
preview quality to low resolution for the eps; it will look pixelated onscreen but
you'll see your exported print-ready PDF will look just fine.
You can also remove some fancy preferences in Illustrator that takes a bit more memory to process (eg. anti-aliasing on bitmaps, tooltips, extra plugins, etc.) Same goes for your system if you're on OSx; disable moving dock and the notification center, avoid having too many fonts installed directly in your system but the basic ones.
- I guess I don't need to mention to turn your other software off if
you don't have much ram, especially web browsers that can be amazingly crazy on ram...
- Open only the fonts you need if you have a font management software (eg. Extensis Suitcase/Extensis Fusion is great and easy to use)
- If you can, don't use all sort of special effects in Illustrator
(shadows, embossed, 3D...) or at least rasterize them to low
resolution while you work, and make them at high resolution when
you're ready to output your print-ready file. The best is probably to
simply do them in Photoshop.
- Check your preferences and see if you have the scratch disk enable. It doesn't do miracles but it helps when saving big files. For the same reason, if you only have 20-50gb left on your hard disk, try to free some more. I think you should have at least 70-100gb free.
- Work on your hard disk directly, not an external hard disk or a
- You can work in "outline" view but... that's not very fun or easy if you
import a lot of raster! That could be the last final option.
- I like to use the "Memory Clean" app on my Mac. There's a free
version in the app store and it helps clean up some cached elements
quickly and free up some ram
Already by doing this, it should help your greatly. Some are really tiny details but everything on "auto-pilot" can really decrease the performance of your computer and software.
If it still doesn't help, use Indesign or QuarkXpress, or limit the number of imports you have in your Illustrator. It's a big file, if you have 4gb ram and no disk space, there's not much more you can do. At 8gb ram and a bit of room for virtual memory on your HD, you shouldn't have these issues.
More on this by Adobe: Learn what you can do to make Illustrator speedy and efficient on Mac OS X