How to Prepare Your Vectors for iStockphoto

ow to Prepare Your Vector for iStockphoto Submission
It can be tough when you’re starting out as a vector contributor on microstock sites. There are so many little things to watch out for! One little mistake could mean you need to submit your file all over again, or, if you’re still in the application phase of becoming a contributor you may be forced to wait a set number of days before you can send in your application samples again.
I often hear from frustrated contributors who’ve overlooked a small detail in their file and received the dreaded rejection email. So I’ve decided to put together a short list of things you should always be checking… BEFORE you submit your file. Enjoy!
1. Take a break before uploading
I can’t stress this enough. It’s so easy to get tunnel vision from staring at the same bezier points for hours on end. And once you’re done your vector, all you want to do is GET IT ONLINE! But uploading immediately after finishing is a bad, bad idea. You may be missing something that a fresh set of eyes could pick up immediately.
My rule of thumb is wait 24 hours before submitting. Read a book, pour a nice cup of coffee, have a bubble bath. Take a nap! If you get the urge to upload the file beforehand, why not start a new illustration instead? That way you’ll have yet another file to upload the day after.
Once you’ve refreshed, then it’s time to take a new look at your file. It might look as amazing as you remember it, but if it doesn’t, aren’t you glad you now have a fresh perspective? It’ll make it much easier to fix your file.
2. Zoom in
Don’t ever trust your monitor’s 100% view. Customers love to pull apart bits and pieces of vectors for use in their designs so it’s important that you review all the details in your files very carefully. Even if your file did pass inspection with some boo-boos at close zoom, how will your customer feel when they’re unhappy with the file? And how will you feel if Support gives the customer a refund and you lose your royalty?
Some things you will want to look for:
• Are all the objects in your file on their correct layers?
• Do the curves look nice, smooth and clean?
• Are there any extra shapes that aren’t needed?
• Do my shadows and highlights align with the objects they are shading?
• Are any shapes peeking out behind objects when they shouldn’t be?
3. Cleanup
Your file won’t be rejected if you’ve forgotten to name your layers. But proper file cleanup is something you really should get into the habit of: The more you do it, the easier it gets. Honest. There are some good tips for file cleanup here (http://www.istockphoto.com/article_view.php?ID=276). You should also make sure that your file will be easy to navigate for customers: Make sure shapes are grouped properly, and that everything is nicely organized. This brings us to our next point, which is:
4. Delete anything you’re not using
Illustrator’s pretty infamous for adding all sorts of doodads, bells and whistles that most of us will never need. The later your AI version (CS, CS2, CS3 and CS4), the more you’ll notice your file’s size starts to get bogged down. Don’t worry, it’s super easy to get rid of all the excess stuff.
First off let’s get rid of any unused swatches, brushes and symbols. It’s easy: Open each palette and on the top right hand side of the palette window hit the drop down. Scroll down to ‘Select All Unused’. This will select all the stuff in the palette that isn’t in your document. SImply drag these to the trash can icon. Voila, nice and clean! This is also very helpful for customers because some vector files will pull ALL document swatches into a design program, meaning they could end up with hundreds of colors that weren’t actually in the file.
This deleting also includes extra stuff within your file. Some people love to use clipping masks to help trim their artwork to the same dimensions of the artboard. We don’t recommend it (they tend to baffle customers), but if you do use them, make sure you’re not masking out a ton of unnecessary data!
5. Save the correct vector file format
For iStock, you will need to save an AI8 EPS file from your working AI document. (More on the AI8 EPS file can be found here, https://bortonia.wordpress.com/tutorials/explaining-illustrator-8-0-eps-files/). To save your file from AI CS2 or higher simply go to File > Save As and select ‘EPS’ from the first drop down menu. This will open a second dialogue box where you can enter the file version (AI8).
If you’re in CS it’s a teeny bit more complicated: Go to ‘File > Export’ in order to downsave your file.
Special note for applications!!!: If you’re just getting started on iStock and are applying to be an illustrator, please note that the upload requirements are slightly different. Instead of saving a separate un-ZIPped JPEG preview and your vector, you will be asked to submit ONLY your vector in a ZIPped folder. You will also need to submit a small 250 pixel RGB JPEG preview of your file. There’s no need to submit anything else (alternate file formats, high res JPEGs, reference, etc). Just your ZIPped EPS and your small JPEG.
Once you’ve been approved to contribute you’ll be asked for our usual file formats as explained above. Good luck! 🙂
6. Reopen the file
This part is critical, and so often overlooked! The thing is, some odd things can happen to your AI file when you save it down to an EPS. These include shapes busting open, objects rasterizing, layers disappearing, etc. So it’s important that you actually reopen the file. Too many times I’ve heard people insist there are no open shapes in their file, when in fact they were running open shapes select plugins on the original AI file. This won’t catch any problems!
Once you’ve reopened the file, take a quick look at your layers to make sure they look OK. Next you’ll want to check for open shapes and rasterized objects. This can be a PITA to do by hand, so we’ll enlist our trusty plugin, the (http://rj-graffix.com/software/plugins.html#SelectMenu) Open Shapes Select plugin. Download this and follow the install instructions. If you’re working on a PC with CS4 please note the plugin isn’t ready yet. Never fear: You can get something similar here (http://maps.aridocean.com/scripts_en.php).
Once you’ve installed the plugin, quit and restart AI, then open your EPS file. Go to Select > Object > Open Shapes to find any open shapes in your file, then Select > Object > Raster Art to make sure none of your fills have rasterized. Done and done.
7. Create your JPEG preview
There are a number of ways to generate a preview for your vector file. Some people like to do it right out of AI: this is fine, but, make sure you reopen the JPEG afterwards to make sure everything looks the way it should!
Personally, I prefer to open it into Photoshop. When I open the file in PS, I’ll specify the pixel size in the dialogue box as well as the color space (RGB). Remember, your file must be a minimum 1900 x 2800 pixels in size. It can be larger if you want (ie, 1900 x 3500 px, 3000 x 2000 px, etc).
If my illustration is an object isolated on white, I like to add a small white margin around it to offer it some ‘breathing room’. The ‘loupe’ (rollover preview) feature on iStock is dark grey, which makes photos and fully composed vectors look fantastic. On the downside if you’re not adding a margin to your isolated objects they can tend to look cramped. But don’t add too much: Designers don’t like having to crop out unnecessary negative space in a file. Stick to 10% of margin or less.
8. Prep your optional files
When uploading to iStock you are given the option to provide additional file formats if you choose. These can be placed into a folder and ZIPped. I like to include my original working AI file for customers who would rather open a more recent version of a file. You may also wish to include alternate color versions, FH, Corel, SWF, PDF, TIFF, PNGs, etc. The sky’s the limit but don’t go overboard. Customers don’t need 20+ JPEGs of the same illustration saved in slightly different sizes! This only makes your file larger to download which is a killer for those with slow or unreliable internet connections.
Also, iStock will not accept your file if you’ve included things like HTML links or personalized text notes. iStock isn’t your personal portfolio, it’s a business and we expect your ZIP folders to include only what the customer has paid for. You also can’t submit your reference file in this ZIP (see Step 8 of this list). Remember, whatever you put into your submission is available for license by the customer. The last thing you want to do is include that blurry reference shot of yourself in a weird pose that you traced to make your silhouette!
At this point you should have almost all you need: An AI8 EPS, an RGB JPEG, and any other files you wish to submit (saved in a ZIP folder). One last important step: Reference.
9. Prep any reference you’ve used
It’s important that you’re taking the time to gather ALL the reference you’ve used to create your file, and saving it as a separate RGB JPEG. Reference materials can include your sketches, 3D renders, photography, textures you’ve autotraced, etc. If you couldn’t have drawn your final file without referring to another image your file will be declined. It’s also a no-brainer but bears repeating: You CANNOT trace anything you didn’t create yourself, or that you don’t have permission to trace. iStock’s very strict on derivative artworks so be careful.
You will be asked to upload your reference file in Step 4 of the upload process. Look for the ‘upload’ button field around the ‘Model/Property’ release area. Don’t just assume it will stick there either. If you make a mistake on your keywords or image categories and end up getting an error message during your upload, odds are the release will be deleted. Always double check that it’s still attached BEFORE you finish your upload.
Whew! This list looks really long, but trust me, it becomes second nature the more you go through it. Happy uploading!
* * * * * *MAKE TUTORIAL ON HOW TO CLOSE SHAPES* * * * * * * **It can be tough when you’re starting out as a vector contributor on microstock sites. There are so many little things to watch out for! One tiny mistake could mean you need to submit your file all over again… Even worse, if you’re still in the application phase of becoming a contributor you may be forced to wait a set number of days before you can send in your application samples again.

I often hear from frustrated contributors who’ve overlooked a small detail in their file and received the dreaded rejection email. So I’ve decided to put together a short list of things you should always be checking… BEFORE you submit your file. Enjoy!

1. Take a break before uploading

I can’t stress this enough. It’s so easy to get tunnel vision from staring at the same bezier points for hours on end. And once you’re done your vector, all you want to do is GET IT ONLINE! But uploading immediately after finishing is a bad, bad idea. You may be missing something that a fresh set of eyes could pick up immediately.

My rule of thumb is wait 24 hours before submitting. Read a book, pour a nice cup of coffee, have a bubble bath. Take a nap! If you get the urge to upload the file beforehand, why not start a new illustration instead? That way you’ll have yet another file to upload the day after.

Once you’ve refreshed, then it’s time to take a new look at your file. It might look as amazing as you remember it, but if it doesn’t, aren’t you glad you now have a fresh perspective? It’ll make it much easier to fix your file.

Prep-01

2. Zoom in

Don’t ever trust your monitor’s 100% view. Customers love to pull apart bits and pieces of vectors for use in their designs so it’s important that you review all the details in your files very carefully. Even if your file did pass inspection with some boo-boos at close zoom, how will your customer feel when they’re unhappy with the file? And how will you feel if Support gives the customer a refund and you lose your royalty?

Some things you will want to look for:

• Are all the objects in your file on their correct layers?

• Do the curves look nice, smooth and clean?

• Are there any extra shapes that aren’t needed?

• Do my shadows and highlights align with the objects they are shading?

• Are any shapes peeking out behind objects when they shouldn’t be?

3. Cleanup

Your file won’t be rejected if you’ve forgotten to name your layers. But proper file cleanup is something you really should get into the habit of: The more you do it, the easier it gets. Honest. There are some good tips for file cleanup here. You should also make sure that your file will be easy to navigate for customers: Make sure shapes are grouped properly, and that everything is nicely organized. This brings us to our next point, which is…

Prep-02

4. Delete anything you’re not using

Illustrator’s pretty infamous for adding all sorts of doodads, bells and whistles that most of us will never need. The later your AI version (CS, CS2, CS3 and CS4), the more you’ll notice your file’s size starts to get bogged down. Don’t worry, it’s super easy to get rid of all the excess stuff.

First off let’s get rid of any unused swatches, brushes and symbols. It’s easy: Open each palette and on the top right hand side of the palette window hit the drop down. Scroll down to ‘Select All Unused’. This will select all the stuff in the palette that isn’t in your document. SImply drag these to the trash can icon. Voila, nice and clean! This is also very helpful for customers because some vector files will pull ALL document swatches into a design program, meaning they could end up with hundreds of colors that weren’t actually in the file.

This deleting also includes extra stuff within your file. Some people love to use clipping masks to help trim their artwork to the same dimensions of the artboard. We don’t recommend it (they tend to baffle customers), but if you do use them, make sure you’re not masking out a ton of unnecessary data!

Prep-03

5. Save the correct vector file format

For iStock, you will need to save an AI8 EPS file from your working AI document. (More on the AI8 EPS file can be found here). To save your file from AI CS2 or higher simply go to File > Save As and select ‘EPS’ from the first drop down menu. This will open a second dialogue box where you can enter the file version (AI8).

If you’re in CS it’s a teeny bit more complicated: Go to ‘File > Export’ in order to downsave your file.

Special note for applications!!!: If you’re just getting started on iStock and are applying to be an illustrator, please note that the upload requirements are slightly different. Instead of saving a separate un-ZIPped JPEG preview and your vector, you will be asked to submit ONLY your vector in a ZIPped folder. You will also need to submit a small 250 pixel RGB JPEG preview of your file. There’s no need to submit anything else (alternate file formats, high res JPEGs, reference, etc). Just your ZIPped EPS and your small JPEG.

Once you’ve been approved to contribute you’ll be asked for our usual file formats as explained above. Good luck! 🙂

Here’s the required AI8 EPS file opened in Text Edit:

Prep-05

And here’s the wrong AI8 file. Note the number ‘3.1’ in the top line:

Prep-04

6. Reopen the file

This part is critical, and so often overlooked! The thing is, some odd things can happen to your AI file when you save it down to an EPS. These include shapes busting open, objects rasterizing, layers disappearing, etc. So it’s important that you actually reopen the file. Too many times I’ve heard people insist there are no open shapes in their file, when in fact they were running open shapes select plugins on the original AI file. This won’t catch any problems!

Once you’ve reopened the file, take a quick look at your layers to make sure they look OK. Next you’ll want to check for open shapes and rasterized objects. This can be a PITA to do by hand, so we’ll enlist our trusty plugin, the  Open Shapes Select plugin. Download this and follow the install instructions. If you’re working on a PC with CS4 please note the plugin isn’t ready yet. Never fear: You can get something similar here.

Once you’ve installed the plugin, quit and restart AI, then open your EPS file. Go to Select > Object > Open Shapes to find any open shapes in your file, then Select > Object > Raster Art to make sure none of your fills have rasterized. Done and done.

7. Create your JPEG preview

There are a number of ways to generate a preview for your vector file. Some people like to do it right out of AI: this is fine, but, make sure you reopen the JPEG afterwards to make sure everything looks the way it should!

Personally, I prefer to open it into Photoshop. When I open the file in PS, I’ll specify the pixel size in the dialogue box as well as the color space (RGB). Remember, your file must be a minimum 1900 x 2800 pixels in size. It can be larger if you want (ie, 1900 x 3500 px, 3000 x 2000 px, etc).

If my illustration is an object isolated on white, I like to add a small white margin around it to offer it some ‘breathing room’. The ‘loupe’ (rollover preview) feature on iStock is dark grey, which makes photos and fully composed vectors look fantastic. On the downside if you’re not adding a margin to your isolated objects they can tend to look cramped. But don’t add too much: Designers don’t like having to crop out unnecessary negative space in a file. Stick to 10% of margin or less.

06

8. Prep your optional files

When uploading to iStock you are given the option to provide additional file formats if you choose. These can be placed into a folder and ZIPped. I like to include my original working AI file for customers who would rather open a more recent version of a file. You may also wish to include alternate color versions, FH, Corel, SWF, PDF, TIFF, PNGs, etc. The sky’s the limit but don’t go overboard. Customers don’t need 20+ JPEGs of the same illustration saved in slightly different sizes! This only makes your file larger to download which is a killer for those with slow or unreliable internet connections.

Also, iStock will not accept your file if you’ve included things like HTML links or personalized text notes. iStock isn’t your personal portfolio, it’s a business and we expect your ZIP folders to include only what the customer has paid for. You also can’t submit your reference file in this ZIP (see Step 8 of this list). Remember, whatever you put into your submission is available for license by the customer. The last thing you want to do is include that blurry reference shot of yourself in a weird pose that you traced to make your silhouette!

At this point you should have almost all you need: An AI8 EPS, an RGB JPEG, and any other files you wish to submit (saved in a ZIP folder). One last important step: Reference.

Prep-07

9. Gather any reference you’ve used

It’s important that you’re taking the time to gather ALL the reference you’ve used to create your file, and saving it as a separate RGB JPEG. Reference materials can include your sketches, 3D renders, photography, textures you’ve autotraced, etc. If you couldn’t have drawn your final file without referring to another image your file will be declined. It’s also a no-brainer but bears repeating: You CANNOT trace anything you didn’t create yourself, or that you don’t have permission to trace. iStock’s very strict on derivative artworks so be careful.

You will be asked to upload your reference file in Step 4 of the upload process. Look for the ‘upload’ button field around the ‘Model/Property’ release area. Don’t just assume it will stick there either. If you make a mistake on your keywords or image categories and end up getting an error message during your upload, odds are the release will be deleted. Always double check that it’s still attached BEFORE you finish your upload.

Whew, This list looks really long, but trust me, it becomes second nature the more you go through it. Happy uploading!

7 thoughts on “How to Prepare Your Vectors for iStockphoto

  1. ro says:

    Thanks for this!

    im starting as a vector contributor on this kind ok microstock sites you help me a lot.

  2. iMaia says:

    That is what im searching for since i opened my account on iStock!!… I got rejected 3rd time! I promise, next time they will accept all 3 at once 🙂
    God bless u girl!! 🙂

  3. Claudia says:

    Dear Jennifer,

    i am working with AI CS4 and looking to save my work as EPS file, AI 8 compatible…no success so far though…selecting the “EPS” option from Save As dialogue box does not open a second dialogue box from where i could choose the AI8 version…AI8 does not appear as an option in any of the Save as, or Export which do not open second dialogue boxes…any suggestions/ideas?
    thank you very much for taking time to reply…

    • bortonia says:

      Hi Claudia, that’s very strange! Are you working with a trial version or student version of CS4? What should happen is when you go to File > Save As, choose ‘Illustrator EPS (eps)’ from the little Format drop down at the bottom of the window. This should bring up the second dialogue box for ‘EPS Options’ where you can choose ‘Illustrator 8 EPS’ from the version drop-down.

      I’m using the Design Standard version of CS4. If you are using another version please let me know and I’ll see if I can figure things out for you! 🙂

      If you’re on iStock, feel free to send me a sitemail (my member name is ‘bortonia’), or try posting for help in our Illustration forum here, http://www.istockphoto.com/forum_threads.php?forumid=65&page=1

  4. This is good information! I wish I had a tutorial like this for photo application. I got rejected for having too similar content. bah!

  5. PeHaa says:

    Thanks a lot! 🙂

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