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ADO-1010 • Adobe Illustrator vector file output issues (flatness)


I am having Adobe Illustrator vector file output issues.



There are so many settings in a program to understand or stay away from because they you never used them or never knew what they do, but they exist for a good reason and they can be helpful. Below is one such valuable option.

As long as vector illustration programs have been around so has the feature for "flattening". Postscript is a complex language and there are many ways for a print to fail, memory over load is a common one.

In the past when networking was young programs created files that were too complex for some to print. Well, things don't change much even though networks have advanced software is still ahead of them and today's users have features very advanced (sometimes too advanced for their needs) and gigs of RAM and drive space making them feel that the "sky's the limit" so they design with reckless abandon.

Sorry to burst that bubble, but what you design must be printable. If you can make separations you can make screens.

Too many anchor point (nodes) will create more memory than the Postscript language of any printer can handle and create an overload. At that time the printer flushes the job and you get just a page with an error message. Over designed art can be from a scanned image that is auto traced using streamline or live trace. If you select your image and all you see are thousands of blue anchor points that is a good indication that it will not print.

However you can try to "flatten" the data when it prints so ease the postscript load and that is done in the print window of both Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw.

What does flatness do?

Between each anchor point (node) on a vector curved line there are thousands of small straight line segments, you can't see them but they exist. There are no single flexible lines in a computer program they are lines made of thousands of other lines joined together end to end and that is where the memory comes from.

As you increase Flatness you reduce the amount of lines between points thus reducing memory and making it easier for the postscript engine to process the file.

The breaking point:
You can have too much of a good thing. Increase the flatness too much and what appears on the screen as a "circle" with anchor points located North, South, East and West will actually print as a "diamond" shape. Just 4 straight lines between the points. Now that is extreme but you get the picture now.

How do I set the proper flatness?
As you adjust the flatness the smooth edges of the object will "print" (but not appear different on screen) rougher and rougher until it's just ugly.

The key is to experiment with adjustments to get a balance of what is acceptable and printable.

Where are these settings:

When using Adobe programs you must have a "postscript print driver such as AccuRIP" selected for these features to be available in your print window.

Adobe Illustrator: this setting is in the Print window. Click the section called "Graphics" and turn OFF "automatic". Now you can slide the arrow between quality and speed.

Any document, pdf or link mentioned in this article can be located in the Resources.

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