I have tried a lot of different things, including reading a lot of answers on here about this question and I still feel like there has to be a better way. Basically, I am trying to design these labels that are an exact size. I want to be able to send them to be printed and tested, but I'm having issues with sizing and resolution. I just figured out that if you select 72 PPI it will export with the correct dimensions. Awesome, but it doesn't look good at all because of the low resolution. So right now I have to take higher quality images and import them to Pages and make sure that they are the right size. Please tell me there is a more streamlined way of doing this. Thanks.
Illustrator does not actually have a resolution at all, vector graphics do not. If you design for print you should print the vector content. So you would just save your design as PDF and your printers pre-processor will automatically rasterize the image to the highest possible resolution for that printer!
Now, clients have requested a pixel unit into Illustrator, but pixels do not have a a size (nor are pixels rectangles). So devs* have had to fudge a bit, so that unit is set to one 72th of an inch.
If you export with save for web or save for devices illustrator assumes that you have designed your design in number of pixels, because such devices and such workflows do not really care of your pixel pitch value because it only matters for a physical output device (printer). Anything else is not sane. Reverting to the definition above. Neither of these are meant for print ready images.
But if you save your work with Export it assumes your paper has real physical size, and it now asks for PPI value. It now has really exported at that PPI without heeding one pixel size is 72 DPI.
- You can open AI documents in Photoshop. They behave like export but have bigger upper limit to number of pixels.
- You can open AI images in any PDF tool (unless you disable PDF compatibility of AI files), such as ghost script again you can rasterize to your hearts content.
* As to whether or not adobe should have done this is hard to say. Even beginning the discussion with most designers is a bit futile as they do not understand DPI/PPI. Also all of this is a bit irrelevant in a page description language as its possible to have multiple PPI values in a document. In anycase there are 3 ways to look at this thing.
So you have a specific physical printed dimension target. In my example, it will be 3 inches x 2 inches. Typical rule of thumb for printing is 300 ppi. Therefore I want an artboard that is 900 pixels by 600 pixels.
If I have software that (for some reason) will not allow me to specify pixels directly and forces me to output at a specific 72ppi, then I must adjust the artboard size to get the same pixel dimensions: 900px/72 = 12.5 inches; 600px/72 = 8.3333 inches note that 8.3333 * 72 arrives at a fractional pixel, so you might want to set that dimension slightly higher or lower in size so you have an integer value for the pixel dimension.
I would then take the resulting exported image (12.5 x 8.333 @ 72 ppi) and place it at the desired physical (inches) dimensions (3 inches x 2 inches ) in the compositing software, ignoring the ppi. The result will print at 3 x 2 inches, and the effective resolution will be 300ppi.
72DPI is for screens, for print the standard is 300DPI. DPI or PPI is just a density, not the size, so if you choose 300dpi your quality will be more than 4 times better with the same size.