Most people are aware that Illustrator allows you to place raster-based images (i.e., photographs) into your document. When doing so, you can choose to have that image linked or embedded. Likewise, once an image is already linked, you can choose to embed that image at any time by selecting the image on your artboard and clicking on the Embed button in the Control panel.
In my book, I detail the pros and cons of linking vs. embedding, but above that discussion is a request that I hear often enough. There are times when you have an image that is embedded in an Illustrator document, and you want to unembed that image. How does one go about doing that? This can be especially useful when you receive a file from someone else, and there are embedded images which you'd like to process or touch up in Photoshop.
In the past, there have been plugins or scripts that have come and gone to help with this specific task, but Jean Claude Tremblay has brought a technique to my attention that I was not aware of. It's actually pretty awesome if you ask me. For those who don't know, Jean Claude (JC as he's known amongst friends) is the Technical Editor of the Real World Illustrator book (including the soon-to-be-published CS4 edition). The technique is simple, straightforward, and utilizes a setting in Photoshop that I was not previously aware of. Let's take a look.
1. If your file contains embedded images, simply save the file as a Native Illustrator Document file (.AI). In the Illustrator Options dialog box that appears, make sure the Create PDF Compatible File option is checked.
2. In Photoshop, choose File > Open and choose the Illustrator file you just saved. The Import PDF dialog box appears, because as you've learned before, Photoshop sees the embedded PDF file.
3. At the top left of the Import PDF dialog box are two options: Pages, and Images. We don't want to place the entire page here, we just want the images, so choose the Images option. Photoshop will then display thumbnails of all of the embedded images that are in the file. You can hold down the Shift key to select multiple images. Click OK to open each image as its own individual Photoshop file.
4. Use Save As to store the images on your hard drive or server.
What's great about this technique is that the images open in Photoshop at their original size and resolution -- even if they have been scaled in the Illustrator document.