Tools & Tips

Quick Tip: How to Organize and Save a Vector File


Vector is a great medium for collaborative work, but can become frustrating if the file you're using is badly organized. If you work in a collaborative environment, or want to upload files to stock sites such as Graphic River, you should always take the extra time to clean up and optimize your file. In this Vector Quick Tip I will be showing you how to organize and optimize a vector file so that it can be easily edited and understood by others.

Step 1

Open the file that you want to optimize. Then open the Layers Panel, the Graphic Styles Panel, the Symbols Panel, the Brushes Panel and the Swatches Panel. All of these can be found under the Window menu.

Step 2

Delete the layers that aren't needed. In this example I have a duplicate layer of the Girl that isn't needed and a few blank layers.

Step 3

Separate out the various elements into their own layers. In this example the dog and the background are on the same layer, I've copied the background circle, created a new layer for it to go on, then locked the other layers and pasted the circle in place (Command + F) on the new layer.

Step 4

Group together the items within a layer that should be a group. To do this select the items that you wish to group and press Command + G, this will make a Group Layer within the Main Layer (see the example below). Name the Group Layers. Make as many sub layers as required.

Step 5

You can make additional Group Layers within Group Layers. Sometimes this is handy when you have elements that should be grouped together but are an editable part of the file.

In the example below, I have a shadow under the Right Leg of the figure. As the shadow may be edited or deleted by another user, I've set the shadow as a sub layer of the Right Leg Layer Group and named it accordingly. You can work within groups by clicking into the isolation mode of a group.

Step 6

As you make Layers and Sub Layer Groups you will come across Path Layers that are not needed in the file. In this case, I have some strands of hair that wont make a difference to the illustration, I've selected these Path Layers and Deleted them.

Step 7

To find additional "Lost Shapes", turn the View Mode to Outline (Command + Y) and examine each layer one at a time. In the example below I have a stray line on my Background Layer. Select the stray shapes or the corresponding Path Layer and delete them.

Step 8

Complex paths look bad and increase the file size, so you should get into the habit of using Simplify and/or manually deleting unwanted nodes with the Direct Selection (A) and Delete Anchor Point Tools (minus). In the example below I used the Simplify function. The simplify function can make it hard to edit the path later, so if you want additional control over the lines I suggest cleaning them up manually.

Step 9

Expand lines and brushes. I've done this by using Expand Appearance (Object > Expand Appearance), and then, in the case of the Background Circle, I've selected the outline and fill and used the Pathfinder Unite to merge the two elements. This step will ensure that any lines or brushes won't distort if the image is reduced or enlarged. If you're saving this artwork for your own use, you can skip this step as it reduces the ways you can edit the file.

Step 10

Name all the Layers and Sub Layers. This is how my layers look now, they're much more organized than before and ensure that elements of the illustration can be hidden or moved with just a few click of the mouse. Much better!

Step 11

You may have noticed that vector files come with their own set of swatches and brushes. One of the most annoying things about this is the number of "Junk Swatches" that come bundled with some files. To avoid annoying your clients and work partners, clear out your swatches.

This step is where the Panels come into use. Make your way though the Graphics Styles, Symbols, Brushes and Color Swatches Panels to delete all the unused swatches. For each of the Panels you can find the "Select All Unused" option from the fly out menu to make this easier. When you get to the Color Swatches, select all of the colors, except for the white, and registration swatch and delete them (use the Bin Icon).

Step 12

Now, select the entire artwork and click on the "New Color Group" icon at the bottom of the swatches panel (highlighted below). Name the color group to match your file name and check Selected Artwork and Convert Process to Global, click OK. The swatches panel will now have all the colors used in the illustration. Because they're Global swatches, if the color is changed it will change the color in the Illustration. Unfortunately gradient swatches won't save this way, if you've used any gradients, select them then add them to the swatches panel (with the little page icon).

Step 13

For this file to open on a variety of computers, the file will be saved as an EPS version 10, this version sometimes has a few problems with Transparent Gradients. Where possible, change color to transparent gradients into solid gradients. I found that the only rendering problem I had was with a dark color gradient to transparent on a light background. I fixed this by sampling the color behind the gradient and dragging that color into the transparent gradient chip. Always check your EPS file after saving to see if you need to worry about any rendering issues.

Step 14

Give your file a name that represents the theme of the illustration. Always use underscores in the file name and make sure that the file extension is included, this helps the file open on different platforms as Mac and PC can differ. Save a version as an Illustrator file and save a version as an EPS version 10. Saving as an EPS 10 will ensure that the file can be opened by a wide selection vector editors.

Step 15

Make a small text (.txt) file with some basic information about your files and how to contact the creator (you). I've included the file type versions, the title, the creator and a URL of where the file came from (you can use an email address for a workplace collaboration). This is a good reference for both collaborative work and files sold as stock. Save the files as a .Zip and you're done!


A stitch in time saves nine, and if you take the time to organize and file your vectors properly, you will always be able to find, edit and collaborate at a moments notice! You will find some helpful Quick Tips and Tutorials below. I hope you've enjoyed this Quick Tip.

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