My good friend Marco from MacMojo.nl asked me this question:
We used to work with Creative suite 1. Now we're happy CS3 users but the Illustrator art with bleed does not show up anymore when I place it in InDesign. Of course I could open all the files and make the document extra large to include the bleed, but for the designers it's faster to just see if and where the bleed is. Would you happen to know if there's a 'fast fix' for this?
This question actually opens up a rather large can of worms. The answer involves a bug that's currently in Illustrator.
As I always do when I teach, it helps to understand the underlying principles before trying to arrive at a solution. The journey is longer, but far more important as we pick up useful information along the way.
I'll start off first by pointing you to a rather famous post I wrote nearly two years ago entitled EPS is Dead to Me (or is it?)... which dealt with some of the important concepts you need to be familiar with when talking about this subject of document size and bleed.
- When you save a file out of Illustrator as a native .ai file (which is what the folks at Adobe tell you to do when you want to place files from Illustrator into InDesign), there's a checkbox called "Create PDF Compatible File" which is on by default. Basically, Illustrator creates a composite PDF of your document and includes it within your native Illustrator file. When you place your AI file into InDesign, InDesign reads and places the PDF file that's embedded within the AI file.
- A PDF file has five different "box" attributes that define the boundaries of any page. These boxes are:
ArtBox. Also called the bounding box, this area is defined by the art that appears in the document.
TrimBox. This area is defined by the Illustrator artboard and is the size you specify when creating a new document.
CropBox. This area is defined by using the Object > Crop Area > Make command in Illustrator.
BleedBox. This area is defined by the Bleed setting you define in the Save As PDF dialog and extends beyond the TrimBox area.
MediaBox. This area is defined by the size of the page on which you choose to print your file (is usually determined by the printer, not Illustrator).
If you want to view these boxes individually for any PDF file (although be aware that not all PDF files necessarily have all boxes defined), open the PDF in Acrobat Professional and choose Advanced > Print Production > Crop Pages. Then uncheck the Show All Boxes option, choose a Box from the popup menu and look at the preview.
You can also choose the Show Art, Trim, & Bleed Boxes option in the Page Display settings in Acrobat Preferences.
Now that we understand this, we can move on to the problem. Illustrator does a few things that make things difficult for us:
- Illustrator requires that objects be on the Illustrator Artboard (found in Document Setup or when you first create a file) in order for those objects to be visible on a printout or when placed into another application via the PDF format. This is not the case for files saved as EPS. If you understand the concept of what TrimBox is, this would seem to make sense. However, the ArtBox should reveal these objects -- at least according to my understanding of the setting.
- Illustrator will clip any object that falls outside the Artboard area. Meaning if an object is partially on the artboard and partially on the pasteboard, the result will be clipped so only the part that is on the artboard will be visible in the PDF. Again, this is not the case for EPS. Again, if you understand the concept of what TrimBox is, this would seem to make sense. However, the ArtBox should reveal these objects -- at least according to my understanding of the setting.
- Illustrator has no way to define a BleedBox for the PDF portion of a native Illustrator file. This means you can't properly define a TrimBox (or document size) and then allow for a bleed -- because you can't define a BleedBox. So you're forced to create your TrimBox (the Document Size) at your BLEED size. Otherwise, the bleed will ALWAYS be clipped. Until the folks at Adobe give us the ability to define a bleed area for the artboard WITHIN Illustrator (much like the way InDesign allows you to define a bleed area in Document Setup), you'll have to use the workaround you've already mentioned in your question -- which is to enlarge your artboard (effectively increasing the TrimBox size).
- Illustrator has a bug in that it incorrectly sets the ArtBox to match the artboard size -- in other words, the TrimBox. In reality, the ArtBox should be your savior here -- if you had a way to place the ArtBox into InDesign, you'd be able to see even the art that appears off the artboard. Instead, the bug clips the art at the artboard because it uses the TrimBox setting. This bug has been present in Illustrator CS2 and now in Illustrator CS3 as well.
Great, so now that we're aware of the problem, what's the solution?
The solution is to save your file as a PDF file, not as an .ai file. Because when you save your file as a PDF, you have the ability to define a BleedBox. Choose File > Save As and choose Adobe PDF as the File Format. Then, in the PDF Options dialog, go to the Marks and Bleeds panel and define a Bleed area. In this way, your PDF file will contain a TrimBox (granted, the ArtBox will be the same size as the TrimBox due to the bug), but it will also include a BleedBox which will include objects that appear outside the artboard area granted those objects are at least partially on the artboard. If you keep the option "Preserve Illustrator Editing Capabilities" on when saving the PDF, you'll get a full native AI file within the PDF, allowing you reopen and fully edit the PDF in AI when necessary (it's basically the exact same thing as a native .ai file, but in reverse). The downside is that should you use Edit Original from InDesign to edit the file, the file will open in Acrobat, not Illustrator. So you'll need to manually open the file in AI to edit it.
When placing your Illustrator files into InDesign, check Show Import Options when placing your file (or better, just hold the Shift key while clicking the Place button in the Place dialog). You can then choose exactly WHICH PDF Box you want InDesign to use when placing your file. The preview can help you make sure you choose the right one. But obviously, in our case, you want to choose the Bleed option.
Moving forward, for all new files, I'm finding myself more and more moving away from the artboard size as being anything meaningful at all. Kind of the way Illustrator now creates a single huge artboard for Web documents (see this post for details), I do the same for print documents by creating an extremely large artboard, and I then use Crop Areas to define my document. In this way, I can toggle between the CropBox and BoundingBox place settings in InDesign to get what I want.
Naturally, I hope that Adobe realizes what a problem this is and that they fix all the bounding box issues with Illustrator and add a true bleed setting for CS4. If you think this issue is important to you and you share my concerns and hopes for this to be addressed in CS4, please sound off in the comments -- let this serve as a powerful petition to Adobe to fix this. Heck, fixing the ArtBox bug with a dot release in CS3 would be TOTALLY awesome as well.
Woz, I apologize for the long post, but I hope this gives you your answer (maybe not the one you were hoping for, but an answer nonetheless).