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Cleaning Up in Illustrator

by Sara Froehlich


Every time you save an Illustrator document, you save extraneous objects that increase file size. Here’s how to clean up documents before you save them…

Every time you save an Illustrator document, you save extraneous objects that increase file size. Here’s how to clean up documents before you save them.

As you probably know, you can save Illustrator graphic styles, symbols, custom color swatches, and brushes. These can be loaded into Illustrator to be used over again, or shared with others. You probably also know that when you start a new document in Illustrator you have a selection of brushes, color swatches, symbols, and graphic styles that are in the palettes ready for use in the document.

Styles, swatches, brushes, and symbols are document level resources. What this means is they’re saved with the document, not in the program. Every time you save an Illustrator document, all of these items are saved with the document, whether you used them or not, along with any empty paths you have accidentally created. How many times have you clicked on the page with the type tool, or clicked with the pen tool where you didn’t mean to? These actions leave empty paths that have no purpose on the document, and in some cases can even alter the intended dimensions of the document. If you are creating ad copy and you accidentally click outside of the actual ad area, the empty path will be counted in the dimensions of the finished document.

All of these extras add to the file size, and they aren’t necessary, so let’s look at how to get rid of them.


Getting Rid of the Extra Paths

Step 1. Getting rid of any extra empty paths is easy: just go to Object > Path > Clean Up. In the resulting dialog, check all three boxes to have Illustrator look for stray points, unpainted objects, and empty text paths.


If there is no clean up to do, Illustrator will give you an all-clear message that no clean up was necessary. If you do have stray paths to clean up, it will just delete them and you won’t see any confirmation message. So now we’ve deleted extraneous paths. Next we’ll clear the palettes of excess objects.

Step 2. I’m using the Graphic Styles palette as an example, because it should always be cleaned up first, but you should follow the same steps for the Swatches palette, the Brushes palette, and the Symbols palettes. There’s a reason we clean up the Graphic Styles palette first. Graphic Styles can use brushes and swatches and if they do, the brushes and swatches palettes will not completely clean up and will leave any brushes and swatches that were used in the Graphic Styles in the palette. If there are no Graphic Styles in the palette, the brushes and swatches palettes will clean up fine.

Open the Graphic Styles Palette. (If it is not open, go to Window > Graphic Styles to open it.) From the palette options menu, choose Select All Unused. All of the Graphic Styles you have not used in this document should be selected.


Step 3. Click the Delete button on the bottom of the Graphic Styles palette, and when asked if you want to delete the styles, say yes. Because Graphic Styles are a document level resource, and are saved with the document, deleting them will not actually delete them permanently, because they are safely saved in the Illustrator StartUp file.

Step 4. Follow the same steps for the other palettes: Symbols, then Brushes, and lastly, Swatches. Make sure you do the Swatches palette last. The reason for this is that if you do it before the others, any colors used in Styles, Symbols, or Brushes in the palettes will not be cleaned up, because even if they aren’t used in the document, if they are still in the palettes, technically, they are still in use.

When you are finished with cleanup, you are ready to save your nice, tidy document.


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©2005-2008 Sara Froehlich