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Is there a way to send your Illustrator file as PDF so that it doesn't contain the vector artwork? How can you protect the vector artwork and send it as PDF?

  • Welcome to GDSE! Make sure to check our help to see how best to use the Graphic Design Stack Exchange. I've edited your question to make it more clear. – bemdesign Jan 27 '16 at 11:56
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I am guessing you are trying to protect you artwork from being extracted and re-used by the party you are sending it to.

The best way to achieve this is by saving it as a PDF. In the Save Adobe PDF dialog, there is a "Security" section. This is where you can limit the way the user can interact (or use) the PDF.

You'll need to tick the section in the middle 'Use a password to restrict editing Security and Permissions settings', then at the bottom select 'Any except extracting of pages' from the Changes Allowed. Lastly, untick the 'Enable copying of text, images, and other content' box.

At this point, the PDF can only be printed (but not to a PDF), and would accept the addition of notes/comments.

Hope this method would serve to what you are trying to achieve.

  • And all i need to do is to print the damn thing to a postscript file and I can open that in AI for editing. Or i can just open it in a open source pdf and strip of that restriction. It simply does not work with anybody who has a clue on how to deal with PDF files. – joojaa Jan 27 '16 at 17:00
  • It's still vector. It doesn't stop anyone from placing the file using "file place" in a blank new AI document and putting a clipping mask around the vector elements to basically isolate and steal them. – LateralTerminal Feb 1 '18 at 18:18
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    PDF security is a joke. It's about as fool-proof as putting an image on the web that can't be stolen.. easily circumvented if desired. If you think it's actually protecting you, you are mistaken. – Scott Feb 1 '18 at 20:42
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You can:

  1. Save the AI file as a high res JPG
  2. Open the JPG (into Illustrator)
  3. Resize the artboard to actual size
  4. Save this file to a PDF

The PDF is now FLAT and an un-editable PDF.

  • This should be the real accepted answer. The accepted answer doesn't really prevent anything from not being vector or being abused. – LateralTerminal Feb 1 '18 at 18:19
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You could always export / render a vector file to essentially "convert" it into a large enough bitmap image. Make sure you satisfy the resolution (dpi) requirements of the printing application it's designed for it depends on the distance document will be viewed at. That's a topic outside the scope of this question. If it's a multi-page PDF then a series of bitmap images.

Generally that procedure has many drawbacks. Vectors have plenty of advantages, they are essentially math formulas and as such, scalable, which offers the precision needed for print, cutting, all sorts of other physical applications. Converting vector data to bitmap data gets rid of all that.

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There is no way to send vector artwork as un-editable. None. PDF password protection is really a joke to anyone wanting to circumvent it. And all vector supporting formats, will have the vector data, so it'll be editable.

You can make vector editing very difficult by merging all shapes, flattening transparency, etc. However, if you send a file as vector then it will always be editable to some degree.


If you just want to send artwork, and are not concerned whether it is vector or raster, then as others have posted, there are a number of ways to rasterize artwork and send that. I, personally, prefer to open the file with Photoshop then Save As a .tiff or .jpg or whatever raster format is appropriate for the client.

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If you want to send Illustrator-created artwork as PDF in such a way that the vector artwork is not editable/usable, take a screenshot of the artwork and convert that screenshot to PDF.

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