Images can be either linked (ie. external) or embedded in Adobe Illustrator documents. Both methods have their pros and cons, but embedded images are common and often have to be adjusted.
It’s a strange fact that Adobe never endowed Illustrator with a method to allow users to edit or access embedded images. Whereas linked images are provided with an option to edit the original linked file, embedded images are normally locked in. This can cause huge issues when a last-minute adjustment is required that only Photoshop can perform.
This tip shows how to overcome this obstacle and save heart-ache when the deadline is fact approaching.
Default situation and gotcha
You’ve been passed an Illustrator file. The client wants you to edit the central embedded image – say, airbrush out some artefacts – and get it on the press in 5 minutes. So you copy the embedded image in Illustrator, go to Photoshop, create a new document (which is now based on the dimensional size in the Illustrator document) and paste. Edit and then copy/paste back into Illustrator. Send off to print. Job done.
Or so you thought…
The trouble is that in most cases, the resolution of the image has been changed. And typically for the worse. So your print will have gone to the press and is returned with a pixelated centrepiece image!
And it can get much worse if the image has levels of transparency or contains spot ink channels. Neither have we introduced the common scenario of the original having been transformed, eg. rotated, or had a live Effect applied which really destroys the process.
Gotcha in more detail
The situation has changed over the later iterations of Illustrator and it all appears to centre around the limited memory size of the clipboard system. For example, with Illustrator CS2, a large simple CMYK image could be copied to the clipboard and then pasted correctly into Photoshop. The trouble was the return journey, were if you attempted to copy in Photoshop and past in Illustrator, you’d get this message:
With Illustrator CS3 and above, the act of copying in Illustrator was carried out as originally described in the preceding paragraph; the image would be copied to the clipboard in Illustrator based on its dimensional size. So for example, the following 300dpi CMYK image embedded in Illustrator is copied to the clipboard:
Now when switching to Photoshop and creating a new document (which by default will be based on the size of the image in the clipboard) we find the following:
Note that the image’s dimensional size is the same as found in Illustrator (previous image). However, the dpi is now set to 72 – ie. the screen resolution, rather than the original’s 300dpi. The only advantage of this is that the image is now small enough to be copied and pasted back, but with the consequence of being far too low resolution for a commercial print job.
The final nail in the coffin for the copy/paste approach is when the image contains any form of transparency. For example, if transparency was introduced in Photoshop and then the image was copied and pasted back into Illustrator, you won’t get what you’re expecting…
The left-hand image is a view in Photoshop showing the background sea has been removed using the magic wand leaving a transparent area. This image (of sufficiently low resolution), copied and and pasted in Illustrator CS2 and CS3 produces the chopped-up result as can be seen in the middle image, ruining future editing. If copied into Illustrator CS4 or above, the transparent areas are made opaque once more, being filled with black, shown in the right-hand image.
In-line embedded image editing
The best route is to reach for the Edit Image tool provided by Phantasm CS Studio and Publisher (it’s not available in Phantasm CS Designer). Simply follow these steps:
Select the embedded image(s), or the group or object containing the image including those that are transparency masked, select and watch the correct image pop open in Photoshop.
Edit the image in Photoshop including changing color mode, resolution, etc., save the file and close the window.
In Illustrator, select . The edited image will then replace the original embedded image at the correct resolution and maintaining all other attributes includes transformations, transparencies, live Effects, etc.
Note: when editing images contained within a opacity mask, the object being made transparent is accessible by default. If the embedded image is contained within the actual opacity mask, first click on the right-hand preview square in the Transparency panel before attempting to select, as depicted below:
An alternative method is to re-link the embedded image first using the tool offered in Phantasm CS Publisher. This will be covered in a later tip this week.
See this process in action
A video has been made of this process to illustrate it further. It may be viewed by clicking here or on the frame below…