How to Flatten an Image in Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is commonly known as a vector-based program used to create drawings and graphics, but it can handle some basic image manipulation too. For example, flattening an image in Adobe Illustrator can reduce file size. 

However, it’s important to know that when you flatten an image, you’ll merge all layers together, which means that you can’t edit the layers individually once an image is flattened. Another thing you should know is that the quantity of pixels in an image file is decreased when you flatten an image.

My name is Aly, and I have been a graphic designer for over five years now, I am a daily Adobe Illustrator user. 

In this article, I will show you how to flatten an image in Adobe Illustrator. 

Method 1: Flatten Transparency

Flattening an image also means flattening transparency in Adobe Illustrator and there’s a quick tool you can use to flatten transparency. 

Step 1: Use the Selection Tool (keyboard shortcut V) to click and drag over the objects/images you wish to flatten. If you want to select all, you can hit the Ctrl + A keyboard shortcut (Command if you are a Mac user). All the items that are visible on your canvas will be automatically selected when you do this.

Step 2: Go to the overhead menu Object > Flatten Transparency. 

A Flatten Transparency menu box will now appear. You can change some of the settings, but I usually leave it as it is. 

Here’s a quick overview of the settings

The Raster/Vector Balance value determines how much of your vector data will be retained. The quality of the visuals increases with the number of vectors used, but the file size also increases. 

The Line Art and Text Resolution and the Gradient and Mesh Resolution settings will be used to rasterize all gradients, lines, and words to the specified resolution. Both should always be in 300 PPI for printing.

If you want to maintain the file’s layout, you may also select Convert All Text to Outline and Convert All Strokes to Outline. But once you check these options, you can’t edit text and strokes.

The function of Alpha Transparency is to keep the flattened objects’ overall opacity. With this choice, overprints and blending modes will be lost. If you’re exporting to SWF or SVG, I suggest you pick this option.

Spot colors and overprints for non-transparent items will be preserved by Oversprints and Spot Colors. Use this option when printing if the file has spot colors and overprinted items.

Once you are done, go ahead and click OK to apply your adjustments. You can also click Save Preset to save and use it whenever you need it. This is a good option in case you know you want to revisit a preset that you created. 

Method 2: Flatten an Image Using the Layers Panel

This method is great if you have multiple layers and want to combine them all to flatten. 

Step 1: Open the Layers panel from the overhead menu Window > Layers

Step 2: Choose Flatten Artwork from the drop-down menu by clicking the hidden menu (hamburger icon) in the Layers panel. 

You’ll see that all your layers are merged into a single layer. 

Technically, you can also use this method to combine layers even though Illustrator has a merge option where you can choose and put your images into the same layer.

If you want to merge layers instead of flattening the whole image, you can hold the Shift key to choose multiple layers, and then choose Merge Selected instead of Flatten Artwork.

You will notice that just the layers you chose have been combined at this point, and you may still use this technique to alter the content of each layer inside the new layer.

Final Thoughts

Both methods are easy to flatten your image. I prefer to use the layers option if I am working with layers just because it lets me pick which layers I would like to be flattened, which is a great option if you don’t need them all to be flattened. 

Any questions about how to flatten an image in Adobe Illustrator? Leave a comment and let me know.

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