I've heard "EPS is a dying format" so many times my brain completes the sentence every time I hear "EPS"...yet whenever I research the issue, I can only find posts about why it's a dying format in 2012, 2008, 2002, etc. (And yet it seems to have not died yet, imagine that.) I am not using software from 5 years ago and the quirks and limitations of Illustrator CS2 or whatever are irrelevant to me.

As a marketing designer, I often have to deal a lot with sponsor logos that go onto printed collateral. I repeat myself ad nauseam about what kind of file format I want them in, and the short answer I tell people is "EPS with all text converted to outlines." (It never seems to be designers giving specs directly to other designers, but designers giving specs to marketers who are giving specs to other marketers who are MAYBE giving the specs to their designers, and trying to get the message distorted as little as possible in transit while also trying to make it comprehensible to the lowest common denominator.)

I specify EPS because 1. it seems to be the answer most likely to get me an actual vector file with nothing extraneous in it, and 2. when placing an EPS into InDesign, InDesign places the object with the bounds conformed to the edges of the artwork, not the edges of the canvas. As far as I can tell, this has to do with the default settings for saving EPS and AI files and nothing to do with how I'm placing it, but it's important to me for managing spacing and alignment.

So what I'm wondering is if EPS really is inferior to AI for reasons I haven't noticed yet that are still relevant in 2017 and there's some good reason why I shouldn't be asking for EPS, or if all this "EPS is a dying format" dogma is something that was more pertinent in previous versions of the Adobe software?

P.S. I refuse to ask for a PDF, as getting an actual vector in one seems to be a complete coin toss, and trying to explain to marketers how a PDF can be either a vector OR a raster image ("What's a raster image??") is a complete nightmare.

3 Answers 3


Realize that "EPS is dead" comment customarily comes from people in the industry 5 - 10 years or more. There was a time when EPS was king and everything as an EPS was better - even straight raster images, due to color profile embedding and clipping paths. That hasn't been true since the 90s or 2000s however.

Note that EPS is just a "wrapper" and can absolutely contain raster images. Requesting and EPS does not mean there is no raster data in the file.

EPS may not be quite dead..... But it is kind of a "zombie" format with very specific uses today. Realize today, the EPS format offers nothing really unique in itself, except how the "wrapper" is written (i.e. compatibility). There's nothing one can do inside an EPS that can't be done in a PDF for example. So the EPS format generally comes down to a preference more than anything.

As you've discovered... transferability, inter-application exchanges, and legacy software are really the only reasons vector EPS is still a viable choice at times. And straight raster EPS files are pointless in today's world and truly are dead as a format.

  • Some applications (Inkscape, Sketch, etc) can't write .ai files. Its a proprietary format. But they can write EPS files. So you aren't restricted to only using Adobe product by using EPS files.

  • The converse is also true.. not every application out there can utilize PDF or .ai files. Embroidery machines and other industry-specific software has never been concerned with anything beyond EPS. And I don't know about more recent versions of QuarkXPress, but last I looked it wanted EPS files as well, not allowing import of .ai files.

  • EPS files kill alpha transparency for the most part. If there's a concern that subtle transparency is used in a design, requesting an EPS file generally will take care of that. There's no "blending modes" in an EPS and alpha transparency is flattened to 1 bit - either "on" or "off". This in itself can show the inexperienced a great deal about how files need to appear for reproduction.

With all this posted, for offices working among themselves, sharing files in their own building, among their own workers, and either sending PDFX-1a files to press or creating screen images, EPS really is a dead format. It is only when unknown workers will be touching files that EPS even enters the mind. There's zero reason to send an EPS file to an Illustrator user if you know the version to save to. There's no reason to send an EPS when a PDF is more staple, contains transparency, type hinting, live text, etc. unless someone states they need or require an EPS.

The only reason to use an EPS today is if a file is leaving your office and an EPS has been requested, or if you simply don't know what someone will send you so requesting and EPS circumvents some common issues with other formats.

  • That's exactly it— I have no idea what they will send me, and asking for EPS seems to get me the best results out of that grab bag. Maybe it's a bit of an "idiot check" more than anything, like if they can navigate saving as EPS then they're likely to also figure out what a vector is and how to outline type and use CMYK. It's tricky and demeaning but as long as it gets me what I need with as few communications exchanged as possible then that's not really my concern. Thank you for explaining to me why I keep hearing "EPS is dead" when I find it to be quite useful.
    – kduz
    May 24, 2017 at 19:19
  • Yup.. it's way easier to ask for an EPS than to try and explain that transparency needs to be flattened in Illustrator. It is kind of a shortcut to get around what is possible in software today that was just not possible with software 20 years ago. (Transparency in Illustrator, as of version 10, has had the biggest impact overall)
    – Scott
    May 24, 2017 at 20:06

EPS is a programming language, not a format as such! The definition, as a programming language, leads both the best feature of EPS as well as the worst feature. EPS is not dead, just being strangled by mom. It's purpose has reverted to more traditional uses.

EPS is great, if you are publishing stuff from several sources but have no way of integrating or no interest in doing so. What you do is you just inject the EPS file as is into the printer stream and the downsream application (RIP, Distiller, GhostScript...) or printer handles the stuff for your output. This has several advantages:

  • Decissions can be done closer to metal. You could hand craft your EPS to know wheter its being printed in black and whote or color etc.
  • You do not need expensive applications to do this. A text editor is enough.
  • ...

But nobody is doing this! Why? Well you have been sold a adobe centric way of working. EPS is threath to Adobe! Which is the main reason it has not been updated. Need CMYK images in word? Use EPS, because no matter what word does if it can send the eps downstream intact who cares how bad Word is at doing things the EPS overrides word at the printer.

Ok so EPS is a bad general purpose format. Because it is a programming language it has several weaknesses. One, its not so clear how to read a custom EPS entity. Sometimes it works fine, other times not so fine as all the cool features done in the EPS need to be ripped out.

EPS was killed by Adobe, it is sortof dead, PDF has superceeded it and EPS has not been updated since forever. Admittedly, though, adobe has lost some of the edge when it comes to PDF as of late. So it would not surprise me if a Adobe rolled out a new pipeline.

EPS is a bad format if you rely on intellectual property as your business. As it makes your custom stuff being easily read by others.

  • EPS + MS Office applications is dead. First, MS changed EPS import to convert EPS to EMF on the fly (there went the programmability advantage). Then, when that opened a security hole) MS banned it altogether. For a while there were registry keys you could flip to force "per spec" EPS imports, and later, keys you could flip to force the apps to accept EPS at all, now that's all gone. No EPS Allowed is the rule. IIRC, if you keep your software updated, you've enforced this rule in Office versions as old as 2010. Feb 15, 2019 at 16:23
  • @SteveRindsberg Yes i know. But it is for legacy reasons frequently enabled.
    – joojaa
    Feb 15, 2019 at 16:30
  • Previously, yes. Not any longer; MS has totally disabled EPS and the registry entries that used to allow it. If you rely on EPS in Office and it's still working, you may want to turn off Office updates, lest one of them disable EPS irrevocably. Feb 16, 2019 at 16:48
  • @SteveRindsberg yes today true. But back in 2017 all the thousands of computers near me could still do this for legacy reasons. But they didnt kill the eps support exactly because of a bug. I mean they could have just passed the image to the printer.
    – joojaa
    Feb 16, 2019 at 17:16
  • Unfortunately, we're not in 2017 any longer. And MS wasn't reacting to a bug so much as a security hole that specially formatted EPS could attack. Given time, budget and motivation, I'm sure they could have fixed that, but there'd be very little business case for putting resources into EPS when so few people use it. And true, they could have just passed the EPS to the printer as God and Warnock intended, but MS had already committed to interpreting the EPS locally, which made sense for the majority of Office users. Overriding all that took so many reg changes that they gave it up. Feb 16, 2019 at 17:35

Well, an interesting question would be... who killed EPS and the answer is PDF (Was not not AI)

Not asking for a PDF for fear it is a raster image inside has little sense to me. (But I really understand what you mean)

If a person has the vector file it is most likely they will send it to you if they don't... probably they will not.

A lot of EPS I saw around some time ago (I do not use it for quite some time now) is a bad auto traced version of an image or a total useless file, for example, the gradients could be separated into a lot of solid color bars... or, you guessed it, a simple photo inside.

A modern version of a PDF will keep the node information, gradients, transparencies, etc.

But at the end you probably need to be clear with your client and to give them options. If they have a EPS, PDF, AI, CDR, SVG, let them send it to you.

If they send a raster image charge them a small fee to vectorize them... and they will put more effort to find the vector file.

  • I should mention that the thing about PDFs containing rasters more often than EPS is entirely anecdotal and not necessarily logical, but that makes the results I'm seeing no less true. Maybe because people who don't know what they're doing are less afraid of the PDF format...maybe some other reason. And I wish I had any control over who gets charged what for doing what, haha... I'm just a salaried cog here, not really making the rules aside from what specs I get to specify.
    – kduz
    May 24, 2017 at 19:02
  • Yes. When I was writing my answer one version included the phrase (But I really understand what you mean). There are a lot of people asking. How do I "convert" a Jpg to Pdf. And I just... facepalm.
    – Rafael
    May 24, 2017 at 19:11

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